Eastern Wake News Managing Editor Johnny Whitfield returned from the N.C. Press Association’s 2015 awards banquet, held Feb. 25 in Chapel Hill, with a pair of awards.
He won second place in the community division for newspapers with a circulation greater than 10,000 for a series of three editorials he wrote during the annual contest year and also for a video about a surprise marriage proposal at Zebulon’s Wakelon Elementary School.
The judges for the editorial category commented that in Whitfield’s pieces, the “opinions were decisive and to the point. Excellent writing.”
His submission included a Feb. 22 editorial “Missteps about in school change,” on the process of restructuring East Wake High School from its four, small-school format to the unified school it is today; and the April 26 editorial “A missed opportunity,” about the Town of Zebulon withholding the names of finalists during its process of hiring a new town manager.
The other entry was from Oct. 12, 2014, “A matter of maturity,” about a student-led prayer circle after an East Wake football game, remembering a Rolesville player who had died earlier in the week.
Thad Ogburn, News & Observer metro editor, said Whitfield’s connection to the communities he covers shows in his writing.
“He lives in the community and knows the community. I think people know Johnny and trust Johnny and that just makes his editorials all that more powerful,” Ogburn said. “He does have a good style – he conveys a lot of information, but does it in an easy-to-access manner. I do think that those are the ones that are more successful.”
Whitfield’s winning video, “Surprise marriage proposal a success,” provided viewers with a breakdown of how Josh Broome proposed to Wakelon Elementary ESL teacher Hope Nelson on Sept. 25.
Video contest judges said it was “good creativity in making this more than just a picture and a cutline. The interview with the principal as well as the groom-to-be were very nicely done.”
Ogburn agreed, saying Whitfield identified a great video opportunity and executed it well. He considered it a perfect example of living up to the company’s recent effort to produce strong video.
“It was a really good story, anyway, but it lent itself so (well) to video,” Ogburn said. “I dare say anyone who saw that video couldn’t wait to tell someone else to go watch it, and that’s the kind of video we are looking for – the kind with that potential to go viral.”