By D.X.D. Hall. February 27, 2020. RALEIGH, NC — Blowing Rock News editor and publisher David Rogers got plenty of “cardio” Thursday night at the North Carolina Press Association (NCPA) annual awards ceremony honoring journalists across the state. On behalf of Blowing Rock’s digital-only news publication, Rogers was up and down the stage steps to pick up a total of 13 awards — six 1st places, six 2nd places, and one 3rd place — including two of the evening’s top honors.
COVER IMAGE: David Rogers (right), Editor and Publisher of Blowing Rock News, receives the 2nd Place Award for “General Excellence” in Division O from the North Carolina Press Association. All photographic images by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News, except where noted.
All together, five reporters and photographers were recognized as contributors to Blowing Rock News in 2019. In addition to Rogers, those contributors included Bill Barbour, Hannah Beaver, Craig Weston, and Josh Jarman.
Rogers received the Henry Lee Weathers Freedom of Information Award for his editorial series in the spring of 2019, that ultimately led to the forced recusal of Commissioner Sue Sweeting from a public hearing focused on the Rainey Lodge conditional use permit (CUP) application. The Freedom of Information Award is not given every year, but honors journalists or newspapers for exceptional work in advancing or upholding the cause of open government and freedom of the press. The Blowing Rock News editorial series was instrumental in pointing out Sweeting’s violation of North Carolina state laws restricting ex parte communications of a municipal board in quasi-judicial public hearings.
The Henry Lee Weathers Award recognizes journalists or newspapers that have done exceptional work in advancing or promoting government transparency/
At the May 2019 meeting of Town Council, Sweeting publicly refused to admit her wrongdoing, even criticizing the decades-old CUP process when attorney Chelsea Garrett confronted her with the evidence. In not voluntarily recusing herself, the other Board members had little choice, given the evidence, but to forcibly recuse Sweeting. According to various longtime Blowing Rock government watchers, it may be the first time that a Blowing Rock board has involuntarily recused a colleague.
Another significant award picked up Thursday night by Blowing Rock News was 2nd place for “Overall Excellence” in the Division O (online) category. First place was awarded to Carolina Public Press, the much larger staffed, statewide digital newspaper that operates as a non-profit organization.
Statewide, more than 4,400 stories, editorials and photographs were nominated in the NCPA’s various award categories. The judging was independently conducted by members of the Washington and West Virginia press associations.
The complete list of Blowing Rock News awards included:
- SPECIAL AWARD CATEGORY: David Rogers, The Henry Lee Weathers Freedom of Information Award
- SPECIAL AWARD CATEGORY: 2nd Place, Overall Excellence, Division O
- 1st Place, David Rogers, Sports Feature Photography (“Mountaineers jump past Tar Heels, 34-31”)
- 1st Place, David Rogers and Bill Barbour, Sports Coverage (“App State basketball”)
- 1st Place, David Rogers, Sports News Reporting (“Duke prayers answered, Virginia cruises”)
- 1st Place, David Rogers and Hannah Beaver, Use of Photographs
- 1st Place, David Rogers and Josh Jarman, Community Coverage
- 2nd Place, Craig Weston, Sports Photography (“App State survives Charlotte”)
- 2nd Place, David Rogers, Business Writing (“Keeping ahead, one enterprise at a time”)
- 2nd Place, David Rogers, Sports Feature Photography (“Slam Dunk”)
- 2nd Place, David Rogers, Profile Feature (“Blowing Rock ONE on ONE with…Jim Ruff, Photographer”)
- 2nd Place, David Rogers, Religion & Faith Reporting (“MEN’S CONNECTION: Taking the next step toward God”)
- 3rd Place, David Rogers, Sports Photography
Other special awards handed out by the NCPA Thursday evening:
- Henry Lee Weathers Freedom of Information Award
- Non-Daily Newspaper: Allen Turner, News Reporter
- Daily Newspaper: Greg Barnes, Paul Woolverton, Fayetteville Observer
- Online Newspaper: David Rogers, Blowing Rock News
- NC State Representative Stephen M. Ross (Alamance County) — Hu The William C. Lassiter Award for significant contributions by members of the public (non-press members) in support of open government and proponents of the First Amendment (“freedom of the press”)
Hugh Morton “Photographer of the Year” (sponsored by Mountain Times Publications)
- Michael Paul, State Port Pilot in the Community Newspaper Division
- Andrew Dye, Winston-Salem Journal, in the Daily Newspaper Division
- Media and the Law Award
- Best Series: Josh Shaffer, Raleigh News & Observer
- Best Daily Article: Scott Sexton, Winston-Salem Journal
- Best Community Article: Renee Spencer, The State Port Pilot
- Best Online Article: Melissa Boughton, NC Policy Watch
- Mark Binker Public Notice Award
- Wesley Young, Winston-Salem Journal
- Michael Praats, Local Voice Media
- Public Service Award
- Non-Daily Newspaper: Staff, Alamance News
- Daily Newspaper: Ames Alexander, Gavin Off, David Raynor, Charlotte Observer
- Online Newspaper: Staff, Carolina Public Press