As the 2020 election approached, writer Chelsea Edgar got what seemed like a simple assignment: to cover the protests in Johnson that had been unfolding every week since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.
Once she started reporting, Edgar realized that the situation was more complicated and interesting than it first seemed. The protests had spawned an effort to fly a Black Lives Matter flag in the city, which was met with resistance. As Edgar interviewed people from both sides, she realized they were all tied together by a complex web of relationships.
To tell the story, she had to understand how everyone was intertwined. It took time. Edgar spent three weeks working on “‘Torn Apart’: Fault Lines on Trump, Racism and Justice Divide Johnson’s City”, which appeared in the November 11, 2020 issue.
On Sunday, the piece won first place in the Coverage of Protests and Rallies category at the New England Better Newspaper Competition; Seven days competes with other major weeklies in the region. Edgar was on hand to receive the award in Boston at the New England Newspaper & Press Association annual convention. She won four first-place awards, but was proudest of this one.
“It was a really tough story to write,” Edgar said of the article afterwards. It was a commendable effort according to the contest judge, who noted that the piece “excels in bringing in a multitude of voices and perspectives that reveal the many nuances of community division. Well-crafted, empathetic and unbiased writing” .
Edgar also received the most prestigious individual award: Reporter of the Year.
In fact, she was one of six Seven days staff members will receive several first-place awards: Burlington reporter Courtney Lamdin picked up three for stories about the Queen City. Colin Flanders shared a byline on one of Lamdin’s stories and won two more awards, one for crime and forensic reporting, another for an obituary about a couple who died of COVID-19. Kevin McCallum earned two points for his coverage of the environment and climate change. Derek Brouwer won two for his investigative/corporate work and scientific and technical reporting. And senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger swept again all four video categories.
In total, Seven days won 23 first places, including the Overall Excellence Award. Find the complete list on the opposite page.
Our colleagues across the state also performed well. the Addison County Independentthe mountain time in Killington, the Communal room in Brattleboro, VTDigger.org and the Stowe-based Vermont Community News Group all took first place. On Friday night, Vermont Community News Group publisher Gregory Popa was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.
We all applauded them.
Our democracy depends on a healthy local news ecosystem. This is especially clear now, as authoritarian regimes threaten journalists abroad and greedy business owners and changing business models jeopardize media at home. We Vermonters are blessed with curious, driven, and dedicated reporters—supported by readers, listeners, viewers, subscribers, and advertisers—who take the time to understand and explain what’s going on. in our communities. We cannot take anything for granted.
Paula Routly is on vacation.