Record number of awards show excellence in many ways

Orion Walling, 6 months, reaches for his mother, Rebekah Walling of McGraw, from the arms of his grandmother, Cindy Hayes at an opioid vigil last August that won Managing Editor Todd R. McAdam a prize from the Syracuse Press Club for best photo essay.
Orion Walling, 6 months, reaches for his mother, Rebekah Walling of McGraw, from the arms of his grandmother, Cindy Hayes at an opioid vigil last August that won Managing Editor Todd R. McAdam a prize from the Syracuse Press Club for best photo essay.
Todd R. McAdam/file photo

I could gloat over the 10 awards the Cortland Standard won in contests sponsored by the Syracuse Press Club and the New York Press Association. It’s the most we’ve ever won.

What pleases me more is they demonstrate we’re doing good work in many ways:


Margaret Mellott and Lily Byrne both won second place in the New York Press Association contest for beat reporting — albeit different beats. Margaret won for five health stories; Lily won for a selection of five stories about the arts.

Beat reporting is all about building relationships and developing an understanding of the issues. That takes time, research and perseverance. I’m particularly pleased two reporters barely a year out of college have those traits, and use them regularly.

I’d like to say anybody can write one really good story, but that’s not quite true. Still, winning for beat reporting means writing many good stories, of types: hard news, light features, breaking news and long-term projects.


Five journalists won awards for storytelling — for individual pieces of excellence.

• Margaret’s story detailing the neglect a person faced at a nursing home won in the Syracuse Press Club’s news features category. Margaret got incredible details and addressed them with the nursing home management, and told a riveting story. You could imagine your own relative in that situation.

• Lily won for a critique of the Cortland Repertory Theatre production of “Xanadu.” The Cortland Standard has never won an award for critiques, and Lily and I spent much time discussing how reviews should work — they need to be based on a consistent standard. Like all her reviews, this was nuanced. She explained the great and less-than-great in a way readers could use to decide whether to see the show.

• City Editor Kevin T. Conlon won in the column-writing category for “I was surprised to find out I control the world.” He writes about a drought and it rains. Communities become very quiet when he lives there. We joke that it’s entirely his fault that crime in Cortland is so low. Sometimes, a newspaper just needs to provide a fun read, and Kevin has learned how to do that.

•Sports Editor Paul Cifonelli showed good sports journalism goes beyond the game with an honorable mention for sports features from the New York Press Association for a piece that wasn’t your run-of-the-mill, heart-warming story. It explained a new seeding system sports leagues use. “It looks at it from so many different angles and gives an in-depth breakdown, not only looking at its impact in a current sense but also looking ahead to how coaches from other sports who have yet to be impacted by it view it,” the judge wrote.

•Sports Reporter Matt Czeitner won an honorable mention for action sports photography from an October football game between Moravia and Onondaga. Sometimes good storytelling is about visuals, not words. “Excellent action shot. Good look into the eyes of the ball carrier. I like it,” the judge wrote.


Our monthslong effort to teach you — and public officials — how they must provide documents for public meetings 24 hours before the meeting meant bringing the state Committee on Open Governments to conduct a training session. It won second place in the New York Press Association’s Best Freedom of Information category. I’m particularly pleased because much of the idea — and the reporting — came from Kevin Conlon. Work like this is at the heart of journalists’ First Amendment responsibility: teaching readers, and officials, how good government should work.

Actually, we did far more in the vein of protecting public access to information, because the contest limited the number of entries.

The editorial board won in the Syracuse Press Club editorial category for calling Cortland County’s leaders to task for closing its borders to asylum seekers. The piece was a consensus of the editorial board; some members thought it too harsh, others thought it too gentle. The response from readers was the same.


I’m typically embarassed to write that I won something, but I did win in the Syracuse Press Club for a photo essay on an opioid vigil in Courthouse Park. I’m not a photographer; I just keeping pressing the button.

But if the prize is anything, it’s a lesson, and a promise: We will try new things; we will always try to do better. And when we do that, you win, too.

Todd R. McAdam is managing editor of the Cortland Standard. He can be reached at