Advocate-Messenger earns six awards at annual press association banquet

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Advocate-Messenger was given six awards for its reporting at the annual Kentucky Press Association General Excellence Awards banquet, held Friday in Lexington.

The newspaper earned a first-place award in the “best ongoing coverage” category for its reporting on the years-long court battle with the City of Danville over open-meetings violations.

The story began in 2012, when Danville City Commission took action behind closed doors concerning its plan to purchase the Boyle County Industrial Storage Company (BISCO) building, which serves as the city garage.

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The Advocate-Messenger filed an open-meetings complaint, then an appeal to the Office of the Attorney General, alleging the city had violated the Open Meetings act by authorizing the hiring of a bidding agent and setting a maximum bid price on the building during closed session.

Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act states that “no final action may be taken at a closed session.”

The attorney general ruled in the paper’s favor, but the city sued to prevent that ruling from taking effect. The case rose through the courts over the next few years, ultimately winding up before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in the newspaper’s favor in September, affirming the rulings of the appellate and local circuit courts that Danville had violated the Open Meetings Act.

The Advocate-Messenger’s coverage of the court case and the final resolution beat out submissions from The Messenger and The State-Journal to earn the top award for ongoing coverage in the Daily Class 2 division.

“Thorough coverage of a battle to fight against the lack of transparency found in so many small southern towns,” the judges wrote. “Bravo.”

The Advocate-Messenger’s Bobbie Curd also won a first-place award in the “best enterprise” story category for her in-depth feature story “Aiden’s Dad,” about the uphill battle faced by Syrian native Mahmoud Al Saloum to be with his American wife, Junction City resident Tori Morris, and their son, Aiden.

Morris met Saloum in Ghana while working for a nonprofit focused on children’s literacy in the African nation. They married in 2014, and Morris moved back to the U.S. to have their first child. But the process for Saloum to join her was complicated by his Syrian ancestry and bureaucracy, and further slowed in early 2017 because of a “travel ban” ordered by President Donald Trump.

The story Curd won the award for ended there, but in April, Saloum was cleared to travel to the U.S. He was reunited with Morris and got to see his son in-person for the first time.

Ben Kleppinger/
With the Milky Way as a backdrop, a laser pointer guided by Rob Pendygraft highlights stars that make up the constellation Scorpius during a night hike at the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge in Boyle County in August. This photo won a third-place award from the Kentucky Press Association for “best feature picture” in the Daily Class 2 division.

Other awards earned by the newspaper staff include:

• second place, best breaking news picture — Ben Kleppinger;

• third place, best column — Ben Kleppinger;

• third place, best feature picture — Ben Kleppinger; and

• third place, best sports picture — Matt Overing.

Ben Kleppinger/
This photo of Stanford police arresting a man who had fled from police on horseback down U.S. 27 won second place in the “best breaking news picture” category of the Daily Class 2 division of the Kentucky Press Association’s 2017 General Excellence awards.