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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Lake Report wins big: ‘It’s humbling and an honour to be recognized by your peers’

The Lake Report has been honoured with five first-place provincial awards in recognition of the newspaper's journalism, advertising and community service in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In the paper's first year participating in the Ontario Community Newspapers Association's annual Better Newspaper Competition, The Lake Report also won second place in one category, five thirds and three honourable mentions.

The paper's 14 awards were more than any other newspaper in the province.

In the overall General Excellence category (6,500 to 12,499 circulation), The Lake Report placed third among 19 entrants.

A panel of three judges, two from British Columbia and one from Nova Scotia, said the paper was "a pleasure to read," with "a strong opinion section," and diverse, interesting stories – exclaiming "and there are a lot of them!"

Niagara-on-the-Lake native Richard Harley, founder and editor-in-chief of The Lake Report, said, "It's humbling and an honour to be recognized and singled out by your peers in the media industry."

In an era when media organizations face major financial challenges, The Lake Report is produced by a team of just two full-time journalists, one part-timer "and an army of community correspondents and freelance contributors," Harley noted.

"But we are really proud of what we have accomplished in the past four years and are indebted to the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake who let us into their lives every week to tell their stories."

The newspaper's Pandemic Heroes campaign was a major winner, described by judge Tim Shoults of Kamloops, B.C., as "totally unique, compelling and visually arresting."

The 15-week project included a full-page in each edition from February through May 2021 honouring the hard work of individuals and groups in NOTL during the COVID pandemic. It was recognized with two firsts and one second-place finish.

The June 3, 2021, four-page special section wrapping up Pandemic Heroes, highlighted the whole four-month campaign and how the community pulled together during COVID. It earned top marks for Best Feature Pages and Best In-House Promotion.

That special section featured a front-page with a photo mosaic created by Harley. It was composed of hundreds of other tiny photos assembled to depict the Queen Street clock tower.

The entire four-month project also took second-place honours for Community Service.

Our "simple, powerful" July 1 cover was "one of the best community newspaper front pages I've ever seen," said judge Richard Dal Monte, of Coquitlam, B.C.

The Canada Day edition depicted a Canadian flag at half-mast and included powerful words from Niagara Regional Native Centre executive director Karl Dockstader about anti-Indigenous racism.

Produced not long after the discovery of the remains on the sites of former residential schools, the design featured 1,140 tiny stars, representing the number of Indigenous children known to have been lost to the residential school system as of that date.

The page was conceived and designed by Harley and managing editor Kevin MacLean, with research and reporting by Evan Saunders.

Harley also took top prize in the Best News Photo category, for a Page 1 image taken at the height of the pandemic when the Canada-U.S. border was closed.

It depicted snowbird Cassandra Vinckers and her dog Fancy preparing to board a helicopter at Niagara District Airport for a quick hop over to Buffalo from where they would drive to Florida.

Harley, who was named in seven award categories all told, was third in the judging for the Photographer of the Year award.

"Harvest time," a behind-the-scenes look at the annual fall grape harvest, won Best Rural Story (circulation up to 9,999) for writer Jill Troyer and photographer Don Reynolds. It focused on the fall 2020 harvest at Chateau des Charmes winery in NOTL.

The Lake Report's third-place awards included one for Jessica Maxwell for Most Creative Grip and Grin Photo. Her innovative image depicted artist Filomena Pisano and her artwork being sold to support women's programs.

As well, a story by Troyer with pictures by Harley was third in Best Photo Layout. The feature, "Top Chefs' Asparagus Tips," was a three-page spread about cooking with asparagus and included ideas from six top chefs at NOTL restaurants.

Harley and MacLean also finished third in the Best Headline Writing vote.

The Lake Report also received honorable mentions for:

Best Creative Ad, for Marion Minhorst's "Rent My Husband" handyman spot.

Best Feature or News Series (circulation under 9,999), to Elizabeth Masson, Evan Saunders and Harley for a series of four stories on the historic Rand Estate.

Online Breaking News Coverage by Harley, for early coverage of a multi-million dollar fire on Townline Road on Feb. 9, 2021. Late on a freezing cold night, with all access roads closed, Harley trekked through farm fields to get close enough to photograph the scene.

The awards competition attracted entries from community publications of all sizes across the entire province.

Two other NOTL publications received awards.

The NOTL Local's Mike Balsom won second place for Best News story (circulation under 9,999) and Jane Andres earned an honourable mention for Columnist of the Year. The Niagara Advance was first in the 2,000 to 6,499 General Excellence category.