The Virginia Mercury took nine first-place awards and one of its journalists earned a top individual honor in the 2020 Virginia Press Association competition.
Mercury reporter Ned Oliver was named the year’s outstanding journalist for his work covering how the COVID-19 pandemic affected Virginia’s most vulnerable people. That included stories about prisoners, workers who lost jobs or were forced to come back as safety protocols were in flux, those who struggled with Virginia’s problem-plagued administration of unemployment benefits and renters who faced eviction, among other stories.
“In a year when nearly every journalist was writing about COVID-19, the judge said that Oliver’s work stands out. His reporting held officials accountable, and he kept an eye on the pandemic’s impact on those who could not speak for themselves,” the VPA said in a news release.
“Oliver’s portfolio shows his journalistic range, with a story that reveals the state’s slow processing of unemployment insurance claims and others examining the ripple effects of George Floyd’s [murder] on Richmond,” the judge wrote. “His stories are grounded by both documents and well-chosen vignettes, woven together with clarity and force.”
Oliver also won first place awards for photography and public safety writing in the online category. Mercury reporter Sarah Vogelsong received first-place awards in investigative reporting and business writing. Vogelsong also won a best-in-show award for reporting on state officials’ response to COVID-19 in Virginia’s meat processing facilities. Graham Moomaw won two first-place honors for government writing and feature writing. Mercury columnist Roger Chesley also took first-place honors for column writing.