Ned Oliver, a seasoned Richmond-area reporter who covers criminal justice, poverty, and other issues for Virginia Mercury, has been named Outstanding Journalist of the Year by the Virginia Press Association.
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 judge remarked that Oliver offered the online news organization’s readers a look inside the state’s overcrowded jails and prisons, where the disease ran rampant in late summer.
One article singled out by the judge included phone interviews with inmates who offered chilling first-hand details such as: “It’s a horrible sight in here …. We’re left to fend for ourselves. We stand over them when they’re quivering and shaking. We pick them up when they fall.”
Other notable Covid-19-related articles mentioned by the judge included one that examined confusing workplace safety rules amid the pandemic, especially within Virginia’s numerous poultry processing plants, as well as a story that focused on citizens who faced eviction after losing their jobs.
“Despite being dominated by COVID-related stories, 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.”
Summing up her decision, the judge added: “For his versatility, persistence and skillful writing, Ned Oliver warrants being named this year’s Outstanding Journalist for Virginia.”
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/