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Citizen picks up 12 Associated Press awards

CONYERS -- The Rockdale Citizen and Newton Citizen newspapers received a combined 12 awards in the Georgia Associated Press Association newspaper contest. The awards are given annually to recognize outstanding journalism over the previous year.

The Rockdale Citizen won seven awards in the class AA category for newspapers with a circulation of 10,000 to 15,000, and the Newton Citizen won five awards in the class A category for newspapers with a circulation of less than 10,000.

"I am extremely proud of the staffs at both newspapers for their dedication and professionalism," said publisher Alice Queen. "The newspaper business, like many others, is undergoing tremendous change right now. Despite this, our journalists remain committed to their work and to keeping their communities informed, which is more important now than ever before."

Queen won first place for editorial writing for the commentary, "Legal Limbo not Good on the Resume," concerning Conyers mayoral candidate Kathy Harvey.

News editor Jay Jones won three awards: third place in deadline reporting for the story "Blaze Breaks Out," on the fire at John Miles Chevrolet; second place in feature writing on the story of Jerry Moon's antiques store, "Storied Antiques;" and third place in beat reporting for a series of stories examining the sale of a house to Rockdale County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt from Garvin Haynes, a local Democratic Party official who sits on three county authorities or boards.

Citizen photographer Erin Evans also won three awards for her work at the Rockdale Citizen: third place for feature photograph "Nice on the Ice;" third place for sports action photo "Slide;" and third place for sports feature photo "For Coach Blount."

"I think the awards say, 'You're doing a good job, and keep it up,'" said Evans, a 2001 Heritage High School graduate. "I love this job, and it's the best I've ever had. I'm excited about the next pictures I take, and I'm always learning something new."

Staff reporter Crystal Tatum at the Newton Citizen won first place for her picture story, "Not So Basic Training," that covered the Georgia Army National Guard 48th Brigade's training at Camp Shelby, Miss., in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan.

Tatum has been recognized for her writing in previous years, but this award is her first peer recognition for photography.

"I'm honored to have my photography recognized by the Georgia Associated Press Association," Tatum said. "The trip to Camp Shelby was a rewarding experience for me, both professionally and personally. I hope our readers gained a better understanding and appreciation of what National Guard soldiers endure in preparation to serve our country overseas."

Staff reporter Michelle Floyd won two awards: third place for public service "Coming Clean," a story on efforts to teach elementary school students to wash their hands during the flu season; and third place for beat reporting on "School System to Announce Job Cuts," on the response of Newton County Schools after the state of Georgia cut education funding.

"I have enjoyed covering education in Newton and Rockdale counties for the past three years," said Floyd, a 2003 graduate of Eastside High School. "I love to go into the schools to talk to the students, and I try to keep the communities informed about what is going on in the school systems."

Evans also won second place for her work at the Newton Citizen for sports action photo, "Safe."

Queen won an award for editorial writing in the Newton Citizen -- second place for "More Study Needed on Drag Strip," concerning the proposed construction of a motorsports complex in Social Circle.

Newton news editor Barbara Knowles said she is proud of the accomplishments of her staff.

"If anyone had told me five years ago we would be producing a quality, all-local front page every day with the small staff that we now have, I wouldn't have believed it," said Knowles. "It is because of the talent, dedication and integrity of our reporters and photographer that the Newton Citizen stands head and shoulders above other publications. These awards are a small tribute to a staff that produces a winning product every day."