The National Newspaper Association is the largest newspaper association in the United States, with more than 2,500 member newspapers. Each year NNA sponsors its Better Newspaper Contest, which honors the best journalism from its members through a nationwide competition. The 2007 contest drew more than 2,600 entries, and The Independent Weekly took home a number of honors; our 1st place award in the Freedom of Information category is especially gratifying.

That particular award honors Independent Senior Editor Leslie Turk for her relentless reporting on the UL Lafayette horse farm. The Independent Weekly also won in the same category from the Louisiana Press Association, and it's a tremendous accomplishment: At both the state and national level, competing against weekly and daily papers from across the state and country, contest judges deemed our horse farm coverage as vital work that protected citizens' access to government records.

It sounds like hyperbole, but it's true: This is why we do what we do. No one gets into journalism (and stays in journalism) to get rich or famous. We do this because we hope we can make a difference in our community. And it's awards like this, along with your phone calls, comments, e-mails and letters, that serve to remind us of our mission.

The NNA Freedom of Information honor was just the start of our NNA awards. Here are the rest of our winners, in ascending order:

â?¢ We received Honorable Mention in the Headline Writing category, and staff writer Nathan Stubbs also received Honorable Mention in the Best Sports Feature Story or Series, non-daily division, for his "Fever Pitch" cover story on LSU supporter Dandy Don.

â?¢ "Snake Oil" cartoonist Greg Peters took 2nd place honors in the Best Original Editorial Cartoon, non-daily division.

â?¢ Staff writer Mary Tutwiler earned 1st place for Best Agricultural Story for her June 7, 2006 cover story on ethanol ("Pump it Up"), non-daily division.

â?¢ Turk won 1st Place in the Best Business Story, non-daily division category for "Couret Controversy," part of her coverage of the failed Couret Place traditional neighborhood development in north Lafayette.

â?¢ The entire Independent Weekly staff was honored with the 1st Place prize in the Best Special News, Sports or Feature Section or Edition, non-daily division, for "One Year Later," our Aug. 23, 2006 issue on the one-year-anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

â?¢ The Independent Weekly's production and advertising departments earned their props, too, winning a total of seven awards. They almost swept the Best Single Ad idea category, earning 1st, 3rd and Honorable Mention in that category. They also earned a 1st Place award in the Best Series Ad category.

It's been quite a year for us, as we also recently won 47 awards from the Louisiana Press Association, including 1st place wins in prestigious categories such as Community Service, Best Investigative Reporting, Best Feature Story, Best News Coverage, Best Lifestyle Coverage, Best Continuing Coverage of a Governmental Issue, Individual Feature Writing, Individual Feature Photo-Black & White and Color, Best Feature Photo and Best News Photo. In our first year of eligibility, we also won two awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, including a 1st place win for our hurricane coverage. And apparently our run might not be finished just yet. We've also placed in NNA's General Excellence category, where we face competition from the likes of The San Francisco Bay Guardian; the winner of that category will be announced in an awards ceremony in Virginia on Sept. 28.

And we're still not satisfied. We have a number of new editorial initiatives and additions coming your way. Our Aug. 22 issue will contain the debut issue of Acadiana Business, our new business publication founded on the same commitment to quality that drives The Independent Weekly. In a few weeks, The Independent debuts a new column focusing exclusively on politics in Acadiana and across the state. And beginning next week, I'll be penning a weekly editor's column in this spot.

The whole Independent Weekly staff thanks you for your support, and we look forward to your continued feedback on how we can best serve Acadiana.

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