NORTH KINGSTOWN—Readers of the Standard Times have known for years that their local newspaper has the best local sports coverage in all of Rhode Island.
But how does it rank on a New England and national level?
Pretty good, apparently.
Standard Times editor Paul J. Spetrini and sports reporter Eric Rueb were recently honored with a handful of regional and national awards for their coverage of the death of Exeter-West Greenwich football and softball coach Mike Messier last winter.
Spetrini, whose column “Win marks the end of difficult journey” was published in the June 17, 2010 issue of the Standard Times, chronicled the Division II Championship victory of the EWG softball team and not only received a second- place award in the annual New England Newspaper and Press Association’s (NENPA) Better Newspaper Contest last month, but also captured second place in the Suburban Newspapers of America (SNA) 2010 Editorial Contest, the results of which were unveiled over the weekend.
“Very nice expose on the Scarlet Knights softball team and their season dedicated to their long-time coach who passed,” NENPA judges stated in their comments of the award. “Tugged at heartstrings. Very well written.”
The two awards are the first of any kind for Spetrini, a 2007 graduate of Rhode Island College. He has been with the Standard Times since July 2006 and, after more than four years of covering sports for the paper, became the paper’s editor in October, 2010.
Rueb, meanwhile, continues a long and illustrious run of award victories in recent years with his third-place showing the NENPA contest.
His story, “Community mourns iconic coach”, published in the March 4, 2010 issue of the Standard Times, focused on Exeter-West Greenwich’s immediate reaction to news of Messier’s death and the outpouring of support the community showed during a particularly gut-wrenching memorial service.
“Eric Rueb writers more than a funeral story,” NENPA judges said last month. “He paints a picture. The line at the funeral home said enough. It spoke volumes. His story conveyed without hitting readers over the head.”
Rueb’s third-place showing in the "Weekly Class 1 General News" category was his fourth award in three years, with his previous achievements occurring in the 2008 and 2009 Rhode Island Press Association Editorial contests where he took home wins in the feature writing, column writing and photography categories.
Rueb, who graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2003, came to Southern Rhode Island Newspapers in early 2007.
Both writers are entered in the 2010 Rhode Island Press Association contest. Finalists will be announced in early April.
The NENPA represents over 75 daily and 432 weekly member newspapers, as well as 45 members who publish bi-weekly or monthly.
Its annual awards contest, the Better Newspaper Contest, has “grown to be among the biggest and most respected contests of its kind in the country,” according to its website and draws “more than 6,000 entries in some 60 plus categories.”
SNA, meanwhile, is described as a “broad network of daily and weekly suburban and community newspapers published by some of the leading newspaper publishing companies in North America” and represents over “2,000 newspapers with more than 22 million in circulation”.
Members include some of the biggest newspaper companies in North America, such as GateHouse Media, Journal Register Company, NY Times Regional Newspaper Group and the Sun-Times New Group.
“We're proud of Paul and Eric and extremely pleased to see their journalistic talent recognized regionally and nationally with these awards,” Southern Rhode Island Newspapers publisher Nanci Batson said. “Story after story, they wrote from their hearts about the mutual admiration and dedication between Mike Messier, his teams and their communities. Eric and Paul reminded us what a positive difference one person can make in this world and showed us the gaping hole they leave when they're gone.
We cheered and teared as Paul chronicled a team that played the season of their lives in memory of their coach and won the championship for him. These stories touched our readers hearts and raised the standard for local sports reporting. We hope you'll continue to follow Eric and Paul and our entire sports staff as they continue to deliver the best local sports coverage in Rhode Island.”