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James H. Smith, executive editor of the Record-Jou ...
March 30, 2003
James H. Smith, executive editor of the Record-Journal, has won the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Passion for Journalism writing award. Smith took first place for a series of columns that included the newspaper's response to criticism about including harsh information in a former police chief's obituary.
"Some readers are after us for writing the truth," wrote Smith. "I am always dumbfounded when people can't bear the truth. A newspaper deserves criticism when it errs. When we get it right, I don't completely understand the condemnations."
Other columns that earned Smith the national award were about a Southington school superintendent who ousted a Record-Journal reporter from his office, the newspaper's decision to report a state senator's divorce and a dispute between the newspaper and the Meriden Police Department over the way the paper reported on the suicide of Meriden's fire chief.
"This is great recognition for him and for the Record-Journal," said Publisher Eliot White. "The Record-Journal and its staff have won a number of awards over the years, but none has surpassed this." The writing award was open to all newspapers and wire services in the United States and Canada. ASNE judges praised Smith as "an impressive example of a classic small-town editor facing numerous challenges from powers unappreciative of the role of journalism in their community. Smith met those challenges head on and with courage, while finding the time to explain to readers his thinking."
The finalists for the award were columnists Don Wycliff of The Chicago Tribune and James Strang of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Smith's columns will appear in the book "Best Newspaper Writing 2003." He and the winners of the other categories in ASNE's annual Distinguished Writing Awards competition will receive their awards at the group's annual convention in New Orleans in April. It includes a $2,500 stipend.
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