Inside NoVa/Prince William was awarded the Virginia Press Association’s top honor, the 2020 VPA Journalistic Integrity and Community Service Award, ­during the association’s virtual 2020 News and Advertising Best in Show Awards presentation on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

The award was presented to the weekly newspaper in recognition of its exceptional COVID-19 coverage in 2020 – a time when the Northern Virginia and Prince William County communities were among the earliest and hardest hit. The region accounted for more than 60 percent of the state’s cases and deaths.

Despite reduced advertising revenue, the newspaper expanded its coverage to tell stories about people within their community. Staff also provided daily updates, breaking news, featured heroes, held three virtual town halls and pushed for government transparency concerning outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

The contest judge observed that the newspaper used innovative layout techniques to highlight their pandemic coverage, including an eye-grabbing weekly rail down the left side of Page 1 that featured important information.

The judge commended the work of Emily Sides and Jared Foretek at the paper, noting that Sides offered deeply personalized coverage of the pandemic while conveying meaningful, statistical information without overwhelming readers with numbers. Of Foretek, he remarked that the reporter’s ability to write “great features” and take “outstanding accompanying photos” helped provide a sense of normalcy in a community struggling to get through the pandemic.

“I found the quality of this publication to be uniformly excellent – great visuals, great photography, great layout, solid writing. It employs multiple platforms effectively to maximize message effectiveness,” the judge wrote. “It is, frankly, the best weekly newspaper I have seen in a long time – perhaps ever.”

The judge also applauded Inside NoVa/Prince William Publisher Bruce Potter for assembling a staff that “gets it,” and for producing a publication and website “of which his community can be justifiably proud.”

The Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association judged the entries. For more information about the contest results, visit https://www.vpa.net/contest-winners-gallery/2020-vpa-news-advertising-contest-winners-gallery/