May 25—The staff of the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star won a combined 48 awards as part of the South Carolina Press Association's 2020 News Awards Contest.
The winning photos and stories range from lifestyle feature writing to local crime coverage to in-depth reporting about hundreds of confidential case files discovered in an Aiken County landfill.
Both newspapers also were awarded first place in the General Excellence category in each of their respective divisions.
"Our greatest reward is making a difference in the lives of the residents in communities we cover, but recognition from our peers is a close second," said Rhonda Overbey, publisher of the Aiken Standard and The Star.
The Aiken Standard was awarded first place for general excellence in the small dailies division, and the North Augusta Star was awarded first place for general excellence in the small weeklies division.
"It's an incredible honor to receive the first place award for general excellence for daily newspapers in South Carolina in our circulation category," Overbey said.
Staff also won awards for three annual special publications: "Discover Aiken 2020-2021," "Your 2020 Guide to Summer Fun in Aiken County" and "2020 Election: Aiken County Voters Guide."
The Aiken Standard's page design team, led by Presentation Editor Karen Klock, won six individual awards between designers Lauren A. Haley and Will Erwin.
Reporter Bill Bengtson won first place in news feature writing for The Star with his story "Dispatchers share from decades of service under pressure." Bengtson also placed third in lifestyle feature writing in the daily division for his story "Memories from the front: WWII veteran recalls Battle of the Bulge" and second in the short story category for his story "Mountain dulcimer group provides neighborhood soundtrack in Aiken."
Sports reporter Kyle Dawson won third place in profile feature writing for his Sunday Best story "Eddie Buck: Aiken's unforgettable coaching patriarch." Dawson also placed third in sports column writing and placed second in spot sports story for his story "A special Senior Night: Wagener-Salley team manager scores opening TD."
Reporter Colin Demarest, who covers the Savannah River Site and the City of Aiken, received third place for government beat reporting.
Reporter Dede Biles won second place in lifestyle feature writing for her story about Bob the dog at McGhee's Mile in Aiken.
Reporter Landon Stamper won third place in the obituary category for his story about the late Hink Salley.
Executive Editor John Boyette received third place in column writing.
Staff members who won awards for headline writing were News Editor Holly Kemp, Night Editor Robert Blankenship, Bengtson and Dawson.
Staff won 11 photography awards. Bengtson, Demarest, Stamper, Artie Walker Jr., Matthew Enfinger and Lindsey Hodges each won photo awards.
Michel'le Jackson, who recently departed from the paper to move across the country, won a third place award for her video series titled "The Race Talk."
The winners come from 3,270 entries in the 2020 News Awards Contest.
"These results show that despite the challenges of COVID-19, S.C. newspaper journalists worked tirelessly over the past year to produce incredibly impactful journalism," according to the SCPA's website.
In the Associated Press Sports Editors contest, Dawson recently won first place in the Game Story division for his story on Dustin Johnson's win at the 2020 Masters Tournament. Entries were judged on reader interest as well as quality of writing and thoroughness of reporting.
"I know our readers will join me in congratulating the individual efforts from reporters on our news staff. We are fortunate to have them in Aiken," Overbey said.
Aiken's newsroom staff will have to opportunity to celebrate at the S.C. Press Association's Annual Meeting & Awards Presentation to be held Oct. 23 in Myrtle Beach.