The Vineyard Gazette won 12 awards in the annual New England Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest this year, including six first place awards that recognized the 163-year-old weekly newspaper for excellence in journalism across the spectrum from advertising to editorial.

“Love of place is stamped indelibly on every page of this old-fashioned broadest of broadsheets,” the judges wrote in comments that accompanied the paper’s first place award for general excellence. “Achievements of local people, observations on nature, generous dollops of history and nostalgia are served up along with the more mundane news of governing bodies. The writing quality is excellent and occasionally literary, as befits an Island that is home to well-known writers.”

In other awards, first-place honors in environmental reporting went to Gazette senior writer Mike Seccombe and editor Julia Wells for the series of stories and editorials on removal of native plants from the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation properties. “The Vineyard Gazette’s Sheriff’s Meadow series focuses on a sad breach of trust, the raping of conservation land and violations of the Endangered Species Act. Excellent, original series on the importance of protecting endangered plant life . . . underscoring the importance of dealing with the present violation and ensuring that it cannot happen again,” judges wrote.

First place in the feature writing category went to Gazette reporter Sam Bungey for his story about a wild turkey that terrorized a Chilmark neighborhood.

“I read it to my husband in the car this afternoon on the way to the auto mechanic and laughed out loud,” the judge wrote. “This is the type of story people will remember for years. I am making a copy of the clip before I send it back — it is that kind of story.”

First place honors also went to the Gazette for its editorial and commentary page. “An excellent editorial page in a category with many strong contenders. The mixture of history, remembrances, commentary and letters to the editor gives readers a real sense of their community,” judges wrote.

The Gazette was recognized for excellence in advertising, capturing first place honors for best local black and white ad for the Cornapalooza ad last year. “Love the witty and charming illustrations. Really expresses what it’s advertising,” judges wrote. The Gazette also won first place for best sponsorship page, and third place in the same category. The newspaper won second place in the advertising supplement category for its 2008 wedding planner. “Starts with a beautiful cover and leads into everything you need to plan a wedding. Great job,” judges wrote.

The Gazette won three photography awards: second place in the pictorial category went to photographer Sam Low, while photographers Mark Lovewell and Jaxon White captured third and second place respectively in the spot news category.

The Gazette won second place in the convergence category, which judges newspapers on stories that involve both the print edition and the Web site. The newspaper won for its coverage of the Independence Day fire on Main street Vineyard Haven last summer.

The Gazette was among four finalists this year for the George A. Speers Newspaper of the Year. The winner was the Inquirer and Mirror, a weekly newspaper published on Nantucket.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times, the Gazette’s competitor which is published in Vineyard Haven, won seven awards.

The awards were announced at the newspaper association’s annual convention in Boston last weekend. More than 300 weekly and small daily newspapers submitted more than 3,000 entries for judging.