The Bowen Island Undercurrent has been named British Columbia's best community newspaper in its circulation category.
That first-place finish was just one of eight awards that the paper's staff picked up at the weekend's British Columbia Yukon Community Newspaper Association and Canadian Community Newspaper Association's annual newspaper competitions.
The Undercurrent also came second as the best all-round newspaper in Canada in its circulation category and Slow Lane columnist Marcus Hondro won the coveted best columnist award, open to all community newspaper columnists across the country.
The BCYNA judge said "Stories in [the Undercurrent] are well written, informative and relevant to the small, specialized community. The range of content and amount of information given for the size of publication is very impressive, as is the quality of photography, design and layout. The easy-to-read, organization and good variation of content make it one of the best and well-rounded community newspapers I've seen in years."
Ironically, the North Thompson Times, which came second to the Undercurrent in the provincial competition, won top honours at the national level, with the Undercurrent coming in second.
The Undercurrent's front page also came in second in the CCNA competition.
Marcus Hondro was competing with writers from across Canada for the George Cadogan Memorial Outstanding Columnist Award. He was thrilled that he was presented the award by the emcee for the night, Arthur Black, the former CBC radio host (and Saltspring Islander) who is a past recipient of the award.
The judge of this category wrote, "In addition to the CCNA's established criteria (originality, structure, multiple subjects and courageous stands on community issues), I looked for columns - and columnists - displaying distinct voices, a commitment to local culture and issues, strong story-telling skills, intelligence and humour. Of the original 57 entries in this category, I found 16 that fit both sets of criteria. This final group contained wonderful stories and sharp explorations of issues facing communities from Nanaimo and Nunavut, to Happy Valley Goose Bay and St. Stephen, NB. In the end, however, after ranking the best work and giving extra points for originality and voice, I awarded the top spot to Marcus Hondro of the Bowen Island Undercurrent, who managed to turn a column on local baseball into a piece about sports, family, politics, philosophy, metaphysics and, above all, Bowen Island."
Editor Martha Perkins came second in the CCNA's best feature category for papers with a circulation up to 3,999. The judge says, "Martha Perkins takes a story about the anniversary of a small, independent school on Bowen Island and pulls out of it colourful scene establishment (placing us on a wharf with a sleepy Grade 9 student waiting for a water taxi to take to school) and a multitude of perspectives whose placement in the story help the reader understand exactly why this place is so much more than just a school. Quality of writing was top notch, story flowed effortlessly."
Her series on affordable housing also came in second in Canada for papers up to 3,999. The judge said, "The Gulf Islands Driftwood and the Bowen Island Undercurrent provided their readers with comprehensive and well-researched stories on the problems and solutions to affordable housing. Best of all, every story in their respective series was character-driven - the key to great feature writing. The Driftwood just edged out the Undercurrent. The deciding factor was the Driftwood provided a better package, including sidebars packed with stats. Nevertheless, a great job by Driftwood reporter Sean McIntyre and Undercurrent editor Martha Perkins."
Perkins came third in the environmental feature category for her profile of Eddie's Pit. The judge said, "There is more to environmental reporting than identifying the big issues, the science behind them and then trying to make it accessible to the reader. Sometimes it's about what one person can do to make the world a better place - and this story about one man does that. It's readable, it's fun and it's refreshing. "
Editor Martha Perkins won third place in the BCYCNA's Ma Murray awards for Outdoor Recreation Writing. "Martha Perkins took a unique approach to the story that a national park might be created on Bowen Island by focusing on the concerns of the Island's dog owners. It's a serious issue in the community and her angle allowed her to cover it with some humour and to showcase some of the Island's residents, canine and otherwise.