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Branford wide receiver CJ Pepper’s diving catch against Chiefland last fall was the best sports photograph in the Florida Press Association’s annual newspaper contest.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Suwannee Democrat is one of the best newspapers in the state, according to the state press association.

The Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press staff received three accolades at last week’s Florida Media Conference, including third place in general excellence for its division in the Florida Press Association’s Better Weekly Newspaper Contest as part of the conference Friday at The Vinoy in St. Petersburg.

General excellence looks at all components of the paper with judges evaluating everything from the news coverage to the editorial page, from the photography to the general appearance and makeup/style of the paper, from the promotion of community interest to the advertising excellence.

According to the judges, the Democrat earned its award for “an easy to read entry” as well as the amount of “community interest stories” and for voicing the paper’s opinion on its editorial page.

The other two awards came for sports coverage.

Capturing first place was Democrat editor Jamie Wachter for Best Sports Photo for an acrobatic catch by Branford wide receiver CJ Pepper against Chiefland last fall.

“Moment captured. Game story told,” were the judge’s comments on the winning entry.

The North Florida Group also finished second in Best Sports Section for papers produced last August. In addition to coverage of area teams — Suwannee High, Branford, Hamilton County and Lafayette — those sections also contained the Democrat’s preseason all-area football team — the Electrifying 11 — as well as special CNHI preview pages for the college football season featuring the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference. Both pages were produced by Democrat staff.

The judges were impressed with the local coverage in the section as well as the design and use of photographs.

“It is an honor just to be recognized among the great newspapers serving their communities throughout the state,” Wachter said of the awards. “It is a total team effort to provide the coverage that the community needs and deserves. That’s what makes the general excellence award so rewarding, it truly honors the entire newspaper staff.”

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