The Vineyard Gazette won 12 awards in the annual New England better newspaper competition sponsored by the small newspaper press association this year, including seven first place awards that recognized the weekly paper for excellence in journalism. The awards were for photography, writing, advertising, illustration and special section work.

Photographers Peter Simon and Sam Low tied for first place in the pictorial photo category: Mr. Simon for a photograph of two fishermen on the beach that appeared on the cover of a special section last year, and Mr. Low for a scenic shot taken in Menemsha. Mr. Simon also won second place in the general news category.

Gazette reporter Mark Alan Lovewell won first place in the history reporting category for a story he wrote about restoring his 18-foot catboat, the Cat’s Meow. And first place honors went to the Gazette for headline writing.

On the advertising side, a campaign for the Beetlebung Group won first place for best advertising campaign, while an ad designed by Gazette graphic designer Morgan Lucero took first for the best sponsorship page. Another ad for Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard took first place for best black and white local ad. The Gazette took second place for an advertising campaign by CB Stark Jewelers.

Second place honors went to Jules Feiffer in the illustration category for his drawing that was published on the front page just before the November 2009 presidential election. And the newspaper took second place for a summer arts and entertainment section from last year.

Gazette assistant editor Cooper Davis won third place in arts reporting for a story he wrote about the Camp Jabberwocky How’s Your News project.

The newspaper competition was sponsored by the New England Newspaper and Press Association, formed last year by the business merger of the New England Press Association and New England Newspaper Association. The awards were announced at the annual convention held at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston last weekend.

The prestigious newspaper of the year award will be decided in the fall

The Martha’s Vineyard Times, a weekly paper published in Vineyard Haven that competes with the Gazette, won five awards this year: three in photography and two in writing.