Independent Newsmedia wins 14 journalism awards at Arizona Newspapers Association competition

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Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA took home 14 journalism awards including non-daily photographer of the year and non-daily newspaper website of the year at the 2016 Arizona Newspapers Association Better Newspaper Contest.

The 2016 Better Newspaper Contest features the best journalism in Arizona with this year featuring the work of 50 newspapers, seven high schools and a total of 1,631 submissions. The awards ceremony was Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino in Chandler.

The Better Newspapers Contest consists of eight categories that measure the overall quality of the newspapers and 24 categories that honor individuals who contribute to journalism excellence, ANA officials contend.

“We always strive for quality in everything that we do,” said Independent Newsmedia Arizona President Bret McKeand. “Our mission is community service and conscientious journalism and it’s always nice to be recognized for your efforts.”

Independent Newsmedia, which publishes eight community weekly newspapers throughout the Valley of the Sun — including four in the West Valley — the single largest circulation in the West Valley market in Arizona. The company also owns and operates community news websites, the monthly Sun Life Magazine and a commercial printing plant.

In addition, the Independent recently acquired the Daily News-Sun, Glendale Today, Peoria Today and Surprise Today publications adding a daily news product to the organization’s portfolio.

East Valley

Photographer Arianna Grainey of the group’s East Valley office serving, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Queen Creek and Mesa, took home the coveted photographer of the year award.

Ariana Grainey

Arianna Grainey

“I was super excited,” she said Monday morning. “I am not going to repeat what went through my head right at that moment, but I was just really, really surprised.”

Ms. Grainey says she finds value in being a local news photographer.

“It’s pretty cool,” she says.

“When I am out and about in town, actually just last week, I was getting peoples’ names and doing what I do and a guy came up to me and said he liked my photos in the paper. That is pretty exciting and not something you would typically get at a larger newspaper.”

In addition to Photographer of the Year, Ms. Grainey took home two other awards including a first place finish for Best Sports Photograph for “light in motion” and a third place finish in the same category for “will he be safe?”

The categories for these awards fell in the non-daily greater than 10,000 circulation.

The East Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia publishes two weekly newspapers and subsequent websites — the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent and Queen Creek/San Tan Valley Independent. The office also covers Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa.

North Valley

Reporter Melissa Fittro of the group’s North Valley office serving Scottsdale, the Town of Paradise Valley and portions of the city of Phoenix took home first place honors for Best Enterprise Reporting in the story, “Terror in the home: local resources available to help victims of domestic abuse.”

Melissa Fittro

Melissa Fittro

Ms. Fittro says local news reporting is a worthwhile endeavor — and one she finds personal value in.

“It’s very exciting to get to work at a local newspaper where I can share other people’s stories and bring light to local issues going on in our communities,” she said.

“With the help of my publisher, Bret McKeand and editor, Terrance Thornton, we have a great operation going on here at the Independent. It was very cool to be honored for the work we’re doing and get to share it with our loyal readers.

Terrance Thornton

Terrance Thornton

North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton took home second place honors in Best Investigative Reporting in the story, “Records show Scottsdale has paid $14.5 million in out-of-court settlements since 2009.”

The categories for these awards fell in the non-daily greater than 10,000 circulation.

The North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia publishes two weekly newspapers and subsequent websites — the Scottsdale Independent and Town of Paradise Valley Independent.


West Valley

The West Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia took home eight awards including three first place finishes for Best Sports Story, Best Feature Story and Best Daily Newspaper Website —

Reporter Tina Gamez took home first place honors for Best Feature Story while Reporter Chris Caraveo also took first place honors for Best Sports Story for the story, “18 back surgeries can’t keep DV senior off the court.”

West Valley Publisher Charlene Bisson says these awards are illustrative of the commitment her organization has for a conscientious approach to hyper-local journalism.

“Our news team is committed to quality journalism and we are passionate about that mission,” She said. “Reporters like Tina Gamez, Chris Caraveo and Richard Smith embrace that spirit each day at work and in the community.”

“I am beyond thrilled that I earned first place in best sports for non-daily circulations greater than 10,000. I enjoyed getting to tell Noah’s story, and even more so that his mother texted me and said it brought her to tears when reading it,” said Mr. Caraveo of his achievement.

“I took the time to call his doctor in Louisiana, who performed Noah’s first surgery. He was shocked to hear Noah was living a pretty normal life — he hadn’t had contact with them since then — and I reflected that in my online version of the story.”

The West Valley office also took home the first place award for it’s web presence — — in the daily circulation under 25,000 category.

News Editor Richard Smith says he is honored to be included with other top-tier journalists around the state.

“I’m particularly grateful to see both aspects of my reporting recognized by the ANA — covering the city of Surprise and high school sports in the Northwest Valley,” he pointed out. “I’m also thankful for the relationships I’ve developed with the community, students and officials covering both beats.”

The West Valley office took home several more awards including:

  • Reporter Richard Smith took home a third place award for Best Team, Sport or Sports Beat Coverage;
  • Reporter Richard Smith took home second place award for Best Sustained Coverage or Series;
  • The Glendale-Peoria Today took home third place honors for Best Team, Sports or Sports Beat Coverage;
  • Photographer Jacob Stanek took home third place honors for Best News Photograph;
  • The Daily-News Sun took home third place honors for Best News Photograph;
  • Advertising Consultant Erick Maurer took home third place honors for Best Paid AD Series.

The West Valley office of Independent Newsmedia publishes a daily newspaper, nine weekly newspapers, a magazine and subsequent websites — The Daily-News Sun, Sun City Independent, Sun City-West Independent, Peoria Today, Glendale Today, Surprise Today and SunLife Magazine.

The Scottsdale Independent publishes a free daily newsletter. A print edition is mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses each month. If you value our journalistic mission, please consider showing us your support.

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