Gulf Coast Media’s newspaper group won seven awards this year in the Alabama Press Association’s first round of the annual Better Newspaper Contest - including six first place awards. The group includes The Baldwin Times, The Onlooker, The Islander and The Courier.
For the third year in a row, The Baldwin Times won first place in the Best Editorial category. This year’s entry, “What will you decide to do?”, was the result of a year of reporting on political happenings in Fairhope and asked the residents what actions they were going to take based on the stories.
Gulf Coast Media Publisher Parks Rogers, who brought back editorials to the Baldwin Times, said he was pleased by the continued award wins for the editorials.
“Editorials were something we wanted to add to The Baldwin Times as an addition for our readers and the community, so it’s gratifying that we continue to win awards year after year for this facet of our news coverage,” Rogers said. “We take strong stances on issues that affect Baldwin County and will continue to do so, whether or not we win awards.”
Islander Editor Crystal Cole won first place in the Best Spot News category for her coverage of the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade accident, her second first place win of her career.
Cole was onsite at the parade to take photos for The Islander, but ended up running two miles in sandals to get to the scene of the accident to report on the story.
“This award is overshadowed by the sadness that occurred that day,” Cole said. “That day was chaotic, and I was just glad to provide news to a scared community. It’s always nice when work you’re proud of is acknowledged, but I’m more proud to continue to serve these communities and to be a journalist.”
Features Editor Allison Marlow won second place in the Best News Photo category for her “Walk to School Day” photo printed in The Courier.
“I was in the right place at the right time, and happened to get a great photo,” Marlow said. “It’s just part of the encompassing coverage we try to bring to communities across the county.”
Managing Editor Cliff McCollum won four first place awards this year, including two wins in categories he won last year - Best News Feature Story and Best Humorous Column.
McCollum won first place in Best News Feature Story this year for his coverage of former Elberta Police Chief Stan DeVane’s horseback riding accident that cut short his career. He won Best Humorous Column for his “Call center crazies” column about odd calls in to 911 centers.
McCollum also won first place in two categories in which he had previously won awards.
He won Best Editorial Column or Commentary for “Alabama can be better,” written about Alabama’s recent Senate race; he previously won that category in 2013.
He also won for Best In-Depth News Coverage for his series of stories on the alleged assault on Fairhope’s former HR director by Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson. McCollum previously won the category in 2016.
McCollum said he was truly humbled by the wins.
“All of our team members hope to provide the communities we cover with the best news and information we can find,” McCollum said. “While we don’t do this for the awards, it’s certainly nice to be recognized by our peers and colleagues for the work that we do.”
The Virginia Press Association served as judges for this year’s competition.
Further awards will be announced at the Alabama Press Association convention in July in Orange Beach.