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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 5, 2012

Winner of 13 NYPA awards
The Enterprise “demonstrates outstanding community leadership”

The Altamont Enterprise placed third this year among single flag — that is, independently owned — newspapers in the New York Press Association’s annual awards contest. We took home 13 awards, seven of them for first place, including the award for Community Leadership.

The contest — with 2,437 entries from 158 newspapers for writing published in 2011 — was judged by the Washington Newspaper Publishers’ Association, and the awards were presented this past weekend at the press association’s convention, held in Saratoga Springs.

The Community Leadership Award was for the paper’s months-long coverage of Tropical Storm Irene and its aftermath.

“We expect a newspaper to cover major disasters and the way readers are touched,” wrote the judges. “The Enterprise demonstrated outstanding community leadership with ongoing and in-depth coverage at the human, health, and government accountability levels. Many worthy community service projects were nominated in this category. The Enterprise deserves the prize. Keep up the good work.”

This is the only press association award that carries a cash prize. The Enterprise is donating the $500 prize to Schoharie Recovery Inc., based in the Schoharie Reformed Church, which runs the Loaves & Fishes Café where volunteers serve donated food to residents who are rebuilding. “It’s like manna from heaven,” said Janis Basset who helps run the eatery. She went on in November to tell us about the donated food. “It just comes in,” she said.

Schoharie Recovery also supplies residents with household goods and building supplies and funnels volunteers to projects. Skilled workers are now guiding volunteers in cleaned-up houses to do such tasks as installing drywall and electrical wiring or plumbing.

Every staff member at The Enterprise contributed to the coverage of Irene — with the writing, photography, and artwork that was visible but also with the behind-the scenes work of selling and designing ads, running the business, laying out the pages, and distributing the paper.

When Tropical Storm Irene walloped our coverage area, The Enterprise was without electrical power and many of our staff members had flooded and damaged homes. But when we got a call from a pastor in rural Gallupville, pleading for us to send a reporter because no one knew what the hamlet was going through, we were there to cover it. We investigated and wrote about the flood damage in all six of the towns we cover.

We covered the death and destruction, in pictures and words, and we also covered the heroic rescues and community contributions. From our very first issue, on Sept. 1, we got out vital information that residents needed to know — from the availability of federal funds to details on the local relief efforts.

We followed up the next week, and in the weeks and months after, on more relief efforts and government programs. We editorialized on problems with the federal flood insurance program, and offered concrete solutions. We also editorialized on the grassroots heroes — like volunteer firefighters — who had come to the rescue when government had not.

We devoted our annual fall home-and-garden section to rebuilding after the storm, and filled its pages with practical and needed information on how to combat mold, how farmers could get help, how to salvage damaged cellar equipment, news that vegetable gardens could have been contaminated by flood waters, specifics on applying for aid, what local building inspectors were encountering — and more.

Meanwhile, we continued to cover the way local governments were faring in getting federal aid to repair roads and bridges, and wrote about how the soil and water conservation district was successfully rebuilding streams that had ravaged property. Our geology columnist, Michael Nardacci, wrote a fascinating and comprehensive piece, in the wake of Irene, on catastrophism.

We never forgot the human side of the story, and devoted our holiday special section to stories on the families who were rebuilding and the volunteers who were helping them. The cover for that section, drawn by Forest Byrd, took third place for Special Section Covers.

The picture, titled, “Yes, Schoharie, There is a Santa Claus,” depicted Santa before a Christmas hearth, unpacking needed supplies for rebuilding. The Enterprise publisher, Jim Gardner, served as a model for Santa Claus.

“This cover immediately stood out,” the judges wrote. “This is the answer to a black-and-white cover that instantly relays the subject matter and warms the heart — capturing the essence of the holidays.”

The Enterprise coverage of Irene and its aftermath also won first place for Best News or Feature Series. “Simply superb coverage,” the judges wrote. “Stories were relevant and well written and the photography was superior.”

The pictures were taken by staff photographer Michael Koff as well as by reporters Saranac Hale Spencer and Zach Simeone, and editor Melissa Hale-Spencer. The stories were written by Koff, Hale Spencer, Simeone, Hale-Spencer, Anne Hayden, and Jo E. Prout.

People repeatedly told us that this was news they couldn’t find anywhere else, and it was there when they most needed it.

Spot news

Saranac Hale Spencer took two first-place awards for spot news — one for writing and the other for photography.

Hale Spencer was with The Enterprise for five years after graduating with a degree in philosophy from Cornell University. She left The Enterprise a month ago to write for The Legal Intelligencer, the country’s oldest daily law journal, based in Philadelphia, where she is covering federal district court.

On Aug. 10 — a Wednesday, our production day — a sport utility vehicle crashed through the portico of St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville and killed three women who had been standing in front of the building.

Under deadline pressure, Hale Spencer, gathered the facts of the accident, took photos of the debris, and found someone who knew the three out-of-town women to explain why they were at the church.

As the newsroom was getting frantic calls from residents of Voorheesville, with assertions ranging from “three high school seniors were killed” to “members of the church were mowed down while at a service,” Hale Spencer carefully gathered accurate facts to inform the community.

What followed in the next day’s paper was a full account of the accident. Without sensationalizing, and without vilifying the driver, Hale Spencer provided a fair and thorough account of what had happened.

“Spot news at some of its finest,” wrote the judges. “An emotional story for a small town was done the right way.”

On June 9, when the police scanner in our news office spoke of a possibly fatal crash in our town, Hale Spencer was on the scene in minutes. She arrived before police had set up barricades, and rescue workers allowed her a close look at a delicate and life-saving operation.

Our front-page picture showed the face of the 19-year-old driver, just visible behind the broken windshield as firefighters — their faces contorted with concentration — cut away the metal so the top of his car can be lifted off.

The inside picture, with the roof of the car now gone, showed the driver’s hand still on the steering wheel as a rescue worker prepared to extricate him. The strain of the operation showed on the face of firefighter William Hoogkamp in the picture.

The driver, Mitchell Joyce, was airlifted to Albany Medical Center and survived.

“This,” the judges wrote, “is spot news photography at its finest — the concentration of the firefighters’ faces, the exhaustion in the body language of the guy walking away — the driver’s hand still on the wheel — talk about capturing the action!”

News Story

The newspaper’s editor, Melissa Hale-Spencer, who has been at The Enterprise for a quarter of a century, won first place for News Story for her Oct. 27 story, “Crossgates boards up houses, raising concerns for residents,” about Pyramid Cos. boarding up houses it owns in a neighborhood next to its mall.

The neighborhood consists of several quiet dead-end streets off of the town’s busiest thoroughfare and few had been aware of its plight. Hale-Spencer, in writing the story, captured not only the views of the residents who felt both frustrated and helpless but also had background on how Pyramid came to own the properties, as she had covered the mall’s failed expansion plans 13 years before.

She talked to town and mall officials and checked tax rolls to write a fair and thorough story, complete with photographs and a map.

“Great reporting and great writing,” the judges wrote. This is an amazing story. Hale-Spencer’s institutional knowledge of the issue and the community is invaluable to the newspaper and its readers. Well done.”

Editorial Cartoon

For the fifth year in a row, Forest Byrd has been recognized by the press association for his artwork. Every week, his drawings illuminate our editorials, forming the centerpiece for the page he designs.

Byrd, who grew up in California, was an art major at California State University, Long Beach. He uses his artistic talents in three dimensions as well, also working as a carpenter.

This year, Byrd won first place for his May 26 cartoon accompanying the editorial “It’s time to stop shredding the U.S. Postal Service,” written when two of our local post offices, in Clarksville and Guilderland Center, were threatened with closure.

Byrd’s illustration shows a letter with the U.S. Postal Service’s eagle being shredded. The canceled stamp says “billions”

“Image is clear, timely and impactful,” write the judges. “This is instantly recognizable, and provokes a reaction, just what editorial cartoons are supposed to do. Well done.”


Following a longstanding tradition of prize-winning editorial writing at The Enterprise, Hale-Spencer took first place for three editorials in 2011.

The Feb. 3 editorial outlined problems at the Westerlo dump, and distinguishes between residents swapping unused goods and workers selling scrap metal for personal profit. “Excellent exposition of a tricky topic makes a clear distinction between two behaviors, calls for a course of action,” wrote the judges. “Good editorial leadership.”

The Aug. 18 editorial on hydraulic fracturing urged local action. “Well researched and very cogent analysis of a local, current issue,” the judges wrote. “Makes a great case for a course of action, that small towns should start looking into creative ways such as zoning law or road law to protect their residents from fracking, as the state wouldn’t.”

The Nov. 17 editorial urged the town to protect its citizens in the neighborhood near Crossgates Mall where homes were being boarded up by Pyramid Cos. “Great exposition of a local and timely issue in which a large company was playing a role in neighborhood decay and not being held accountable for it,” wrote the judges. “Very good.”

The judges concluded, “Your paper really stands out in the crowd!”

Elections and Politics

The Enterprise won a second-place award for its coverage of Elections and Politics, based on stories in the May 26 and Nov. 10 editions.

On May 26, Anne Hayden’s front-page story, “Enemies within: GOP chair colludes with Dem super?” examined allegations of “backroom deals” between Guilderland’s Democratic supervisor and the Republican Party chairman. In the same issue, Saranac Hale Spencer wrote about the possibility of a lawsuit in Albany County’s controversial redistricting.

The Nov. 10 edition carried photographs and in-depth election stories, following months of candidate interviews and analysis.

Hilltown reporter Zach Simeone, who studied both theater and journalism at the University at Albany and has been an Enterprise reporter for four years, led the paper with coverage of the upset in county elections. He also covered the town elections in Westerlo and Rensselaerville

Melissa Hale-Spencer covered the Berne and Knox elections. Saranac Hale Spencer covered the New Scotland elections, and Anne Hayden covered the Guilderland elections.

“Coverage is thorough,” wrote the judges, “and the story that stands out for its clear framing of issues that mattered to voters is the New Scotland election story.”

Best Column

Jo E. Prout, a Notre Dame anthropology major who has reported for The Enterprise for 16 years, once again was recognized for her columns. She draws from the rich fabric of her life as a wife and mother active in many community projects and programs, to enlighten readers with her insights.

This year, she won third place along with the judges’ admiration, for her three columns.

For our July 7 graduation edition, Prout wrote “Get off your high horse and on with your next project — your life.” She advised graduates, “Here’s an idea for each of you: Take responsibility for yourself and for whatever needs to be done.”

In her Nov. 17 column for our holiday issue, she wrote “Please, I implore you, resist trendiness: Old-fashioned holidays hold the bacon.”

And, on Nov. 3, she wrote a striking commentary, “Violence, ignored, hurts everyone,” that delineates the problems in combating domestic violence.

“Ms. Prout succeeds in addressing a good variety of topics from holiday traditions to graduation to domestic violence,” the judges wrote. “In all three instances, her writing takes on a personal tone…This is most striking in her third column, dealing with domestic violence and what a concerned observer should do. The reader is quickly put into Ms. Prout’s shoes as she first ignores, and then actively attempts to help a ‘friend’ who it appears may be being abused by her husband. Prout does a wonderful job taking the reader through the steps of secondhand observation…beginning with rationalization and passing of the buck and moving to the futility of trying to help someone who may not even know they need help.”

Art Photo

Michael Koff took third place this year for Art Photo — a difficult feat for a black-and-white print in a category dominated by color.

Koff says he has taken pictures since he was a little kid. “I’ve always loved it,” he said. “I like capturing moments.”

Koff earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Siena College and then, in order to pursue his passion for photography, he earned a second bachelor’s degree, in art with a concentration in photography, from the University at Albany.

Koff has worked for The Enterprise since 2007 as a general-assignment photographer, capturing the substance of small-town life.

His winning photo this year, “A Mother’s Day stroll,” is of a Canada goose walking in front of three little goslings right down Koff’s street — West Bentwood Court in Guilderland.

“Sent on an assignment for a Mother’s Day photo and returns with a Mother Goose!” wrote the judges. “Creative, darling and in the moment.”

Best Series

Anne Hayden received an honorable mention for Best News or Feature Series.

A Siena graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing, Hayden has covered Guilderland for The Enterprise since 2009. She covers town government, crime, zoning and environmental issues as well as writing a wide range of feature stories. A distance runner, she knows how to pace herself for the long haul.

In her series, Hayden followed Warren Redlich’s quixotic political career as, in 2010, he ran for New York governor on the Libertarian line. His campaign message was to reduce the layers of government and stop wasting money.

That November, the Guilderland town councilman declared he wouldn’t run for public office again after a fake flyer — made to look like a police warning that Redlich was a sex offender — was circulated across the state. Redlich was never arrested for any sex crime.

“The mailer was very painful for my family,” Redlich said.

In May, Redlich, an attorney barred from representing clients in Guilderland Town Court by the Committee on Professional Standards, filed a lawsuit against the committee, claiming his First Amendment rights and the Sixth Amendment rights of his clients, were violated.

In February 2010, District Judge Gary L. Sharpe chided Redlich for his suit, which he said wasted the court’s time and resources.

Redlich responded that the complaints came largely from Albany county Democrats. “The way politics work is that you attack your opponents economically to get them out of politics…and they have been successful,” Redlich told Hayden.

Redlich moved to Florida short of completing his four-year term, as one of two Republican members of the formerly all-Democratic Guilderland town board.

“Very complete,” said the judges. “I love how your paper ties everything together with its editorial content.”

General Excellence

The Enterprise got an honorable mention for General Excellence, which considers all aspects of the paper. The judging was based on the editions from April 28 and Aug. 11 and 18.

The Aug. 11 edition led with the Saranac Hale Spencer’s story on the three walkers killed in Voorheesville when an SUV crashed into the church. The other front-page stories were by Anne Hayden — one on how the New York State Independent System Operator keeps pace with the demands of a heat wave, and the other a breaking-news story on a gas-line rupture.

The back page, always the start of the Enterprise sports section, was devoted to a Guilderland family, David and Tammy Corey and their son, David, who climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks.

Sportswriter Jordan J. Michael began the story by noting that climbing the 46 peaks is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 3.7 times.

Michael covers varsity teams from three high schools as well as developing news stories and writing features on sports. A New England College graduate with a degree in political science, Michael has been the Enterprise sportswriter for three years.

The Aug. 18 issue led with Melissa Hale-Spencer’s story on Guilderland’s mistakes in scoring Regents exams. It also included a story by Hayden on Guilderland and Watervliet considering water consolidation to save money, and a story by Saranac Hale Spencer on whether towns can use zoning to prevent hydraulic fracturing.

Both August editions were filled with wonderful pictures and stories about the annual Altamont Fair.

The April 28 edition led with a story by Zach Simeone about a single mother who had been evicted from her trailer-park home. After The Enterprise broke the story, a reader found a home for her. The issue also included a Home and Garden section, again filled with staff stories and pictures.

In all three issues, as is typical each week, our editorial pages were lively and informative, as the community, through letters, has a dialogue with itself.

Also appearing on those pages is our weekly “Old Men of the Mountain” columnist, John R. Williams, who rivets readers with his homespun wit and wisdom.

Guilderland historian Alice Begley also had a column, on John P. Veeder investigating Navy fraud for the Lincoln administration, and Frank L. Palmeri, who writes slice-of-life commentaries, wrote about how his daughter’s latest move put him in the old-man role.

As always, our pages carried news from our community correspondents — ranging from libraries to senior groups.

“The paper had the strongest photography out of all the entrants…” the judges wrote. “Strong writing, excellent editorials and community news make this a great community paper. Kudos for strong ad design as well.”

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