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Newspaper honored during annual Georgia Press Association banquet

The McDuffie Mirror brought home a handful of awards - including three first place honors - in the 2009 Georgia Press Association's Better Newspaper Contest.

The awards were handed out Friday, June 5, during the GPA's annual banquet held at Jekyll Island.

Staff Writer Billy W. Hobbs earned the first place plaque in the Hard News Writing Category for similarly-sized newspapers.

Mr. Hobbs and McDuffie Mirror Publisher Jason B. Smith were honored with a first place award for their investigative efforts into the tenure of former Warrenton Pastor Otis Ray Hope. The Rev. Hope left the pulpit of First Baptist Church in Warrenton last year, and plead guilty to tax evasion and bank fraud conspiracy charges just last week.

"Billy's talent is finding the story within a story," said Mr. Smith. "He works hard to go beyond just skimming the surface for his articles. But most of all, he really tries to put a human face on stories that may normally be very drab."

Mr. Smith also won an individual first place award - the Otis A. Brumby Trophy - for his serious columns, and a third place award in Sports Feature Photography for his photo of Thomson High School pitcher Stephen Krepps.

It was the second consecutive year that Mr. Smith won first place for serious columns, and the second year The Mirror won first place for investigative reporting.

Mr. Smith said he was most proud of the newspaper's third place honor in community service, which was awarded for The Mirror's efforts to educate voters last year. The newspaper - in cooperation with WTHO-FM - staged a series of town hall meetings, which were broadcast live over the radio and internet, as part of the effort.

"I was so thrilled with the success of those activities last year, and it was great to hear the feedback from our readers, listeners and participants," Mr. Smith said.

Earlier this year, The Mirror also received a second place award in the GPA's Advertising Contest for a Stokes-Hodges ad in the Motor Vehicle - Color category.

Web posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009

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