Virginia newspapers, TV and radio stations earn VFBF Journalism Awards

newspaperThe Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg claimed Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s 2016 Ishee-Quann Award for Media Excellence, which recognizes the best of all entries in the organization’s annual Journalism Awards competition.

The award is named in part for Jeff Ishee, the near-legendary radio farm reporter who works in farm news for Harrisonburg’s WSVA radio, hosts the PBS Virginia Farming television program, and operates On the Farm, a daily, web-based farm news service.

The late Homer Quann was WSVA’s farm news director for several decades and was known as the most dedicated agricultural reporter in Virginia. He constantly reminded listeners that the station’s call letters stood for “Serving Virginia Agriculture.”

The Fredericksburg paper also captured the Members’ Choice Award, which honors media nominated by Farm Bureau members. Winners in this category are selected using the same judging criteria as in other categories.

Winner in the daily newspaper category was Vic Bradshaw, a reporter for the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg. Honorable mention went to Jake Zuckerman and James Pinsky of The Northern Virginia Daily, based in Strasburg.

In the weekly newspaper category, the Kilmarnock-based Rappahannock Record took top honors. Honorable mention was given to the Tidewater Review in West Point.

For the sixth consecutive year the news team at WHSV TV 3 in Harrisonburg claimed VFBF’s annual award in the television category.

Frank Wilt of WSVA captured the top honor in the radio category.

Award winners were honored Nov. 29 during the VFBF Annual Convention in Hot Springs.

“We continue to be impressed by the amount of coverage modern media gives to agriculture,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “These reporters are dedicated to covering many of the same issues of concern to our Farm Bureau members, and they often present them in ways to which the average reader or viewer can relate.

“We are pleased that our media representatives are making agriculture coverage a priority.”

The Free Lance-Star “produced a carefully crafted and richly detailed weeklong series that took readers onto the region’s farms,” the judges wrote. The newsroom “obviously went to great effort to go beyond the surface headlines of seasonal produce and farmers’ markets to deliver valuable agricultural content.”

The newspaper covers myriad local, state and national agriculture topics on a regular basis, including issues, trends and innovations. They reported on the decline of farmland, the need for farmers to plan for business transitions, female farmers, 4-H programs and more.

“Their sweeping features start with compelling leads that draw readers into the story,” the judges pointed out. “They take agricultural topics and humanize them to make a connection between farmers and non-farmers.”

The Daily News-Record reporter wrote a diverse selection of stories that illustrated an effort to cover agriculture year-round. “There was good storytelling and a strong effort to translate agricultural stories for a general audience,” the judges wrote.

The Rappahannock Record “consistently covered local and state farm news while showing the interaction between Northern Neck agriculture and other aspects of life in the region,” the judges wrote. They added that the paper’s “Fact or Fiction” column “does a good job of tackling questions that may be confusing to consumers, such as Meatless Mondays or commercial chicken production.”

WHSV covered national and international agricultural issues and linked them to agriculture in the Shenandoah Valley. The judges said they were “especially impressed with their take on Brexit and how they brought it back to the farm.”

The news team there “went beyond the typical weather woes or seasonal fluff,” the judges noted.

WSVA’s Wilt conducts regular interviews with farmers and others in the agribusiness industry. His program, Spotlight on Valley Agriculture, “shows dedication to providing a look at the local ag community,” the judges said.

His entry included interviews with a young farmer, a dairyman, a female cattle farmer turned wildflower grower and the CEO of the Virginia Horse Center. The show’s vignettes “give just the right amount of information about farmers to educate and entertain listeners,” the judges wrote.

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