The Vineyard Gazette won the George A. Speers Newspaper of the Year award for 2004 last weekend at the annual New England Press Association winter convention in Boston. The coveted honor was given to five newspapers in five separate circulation categories this year, including two weeklies, one alternative weekly and two small dailies.

The Gazette has won the award seven times since 1990.

"The saying goes that everyone has a story worth telling, and the Vineyard Gazette proves it, whether the paper is reporting about prison beatings or a dispute over operation of a late-night doughnut shop," wrote the judges who gave the award to the Gazette.


In addition to the Speers award, the Gazette won six individual awards for excellence in journalism - three for editorial work and three for advertising.

Chris Burrell won third place in business and economic reporting for a story he did about the back-door doughnut controversy in Oak Bluffs last summer. Jessie Royce Hill won a first place award in the ethnic and racial reporting category for a story about adoption on the Island. Mandy Locke won third place in the general news category for a story about changing neighborhoods in Edgartown.

The Gazette advertising team was also recognized for its work. The newspaper won second place for general excellence in advertising, third place for local black and white advertising and third place for its business and service directory.

"A wonderful paper to read. Pages are neatly designed, eye-appealing and have a good variety of topics to keep you interested. The ads aren't cluttered. They have a professional touch that is soothing," the judges wrote.

"The Gazette is deeply honored to be named the best community newspaper in New England, and we congratulate all of our staff for their hard work and dedication to the craft of journalism," Gazette editor Julia Wells said. "Any good newspaper reflects the community it serves, and so this award is also shared by the Vineyard public and all the Gazette readers near and far, who are our most valuable asset," she added.

The Inquirer and Mirror, the Gazette's counterpart on Nantucket, which competed in a different circulation category, also won the George Speers Newspaper of the Year award.

The Martha's Vineyard Times, a weekly newspaper with free distribution, won eight awards, seven for editorial work and one for advertising.

The New England Press Association was founded in 1950 as a way for community newspapers to band together to share information and ideas and promote growth and excellence in community journalism.

The late George A. Speers was an English professor who developed the journalism program at Northeastern University. He was the first executive director of the press association.

The annual Better Newspaper Contest is the largest regional contest of its kind in the country. This year 308 newspapers submitted 6,000 entries, an all-time record for the press association.