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Style Weekly Wins 17 Virginia Press Awards

During a tumultuous year that saw the publication sold twice and the free weekly print edition shuttered.

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It’s pretty easy to make a case that last year was the most challenging in the 40-year history of Style Weekly publishing free community journalism in Richmond.

But we’re proud to report that, even while the publication was sold twice and lost three of our busiest months, Style still managed to win 17 Virginia Press Awards in the specialty division, announced online this week.

Most of these awards went to Scott Elmquist, our full-time photographer. The publication also won first and second place awards in arts feature writing, as well as a second place award for leisure and home writing, and a third place award for column and commentary writing.

Of the first place prizes, Elmquist won six, including general news photo and slideshow gallery for “Murder vigil: In the aftermath of gun violence,” picture story or essay for “High school student murdered,” personality or portrait photo for “Homeless warrior,” sports news photo for “BMX Gold Cup qualifier” and pictorial photo for “Removal day.” On the above image from the vigil, the judge wrote: “Clean, simple and powerful moment. Hands down, the best in the category.” Elmquist also nabbed three second place awards and four third place awards; several for sports images from a local BMX race. Here is a link to Elmquist's picks for his own photos of the year from 2021, including several of the award winners.

Freelancer Davy Jones also won a first place award for his cover story, "Family Record," about the history of a lost Nat King Cole song. The judge wrote: “Great story. Well organized and descriptive. Let’s the subjects tell the tale. I felt like I knew everyone.”

Second place winners included freelance writer Wyatt Gordon, who won in the leisure and lifestyle category for the story, “Brothers on Bikes,” and Editor Brent Baldwin, who won in arts feature writing for his cover story, “Power to the People,” about the documentary, “How the Monuments Came Down.” The only judge’s comment came for Baldwin's award: “Writer’s voice was strong, but so were the subjects. Easy to follow along, thoughtful.”

Among the third place winners, Carol A.O. Wolf won for column or commentary writing for her backpage opinion pieces regarding Richmond Public Schools and the casino issue.

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

To recap the crazy year: Style started 2021 as a print alt. weekly with a full-time staff that included one editor, one photographer, one art director and one sales manager, plus a part-time copyeditor – or the smallest staff in the paper’s history. Like everyone else, the publication was also still dealing with COVID and its crippling effects on advertising and the local cultural scene – which helped produce the lowest page counts per issue in the publication’s history.

In late May, Style was sold to Alden Global Capital hedge fund in New York when it purchased Tribune Publishing. After being offered buyouts along with many of Tribune’s editorial employees, the veteran staff at Style instead chose to keep publishing local news, never missing an issue.

After a nerve-wracking summer, Alden closed the paper without much warning. The following week, for the first time since the early 1980s, a new Style Weekly issue was not distributed for free to the Richmond community. Our closure lasted from Sept. 8 to mid-December, although it’s important to note that Style's website never went down or ceased publishing content. By the year's end, Style Weekly was purchased by the nonprofit VPM, Virginia's home for public media, as an online-only, arts, culture and food publication.

Given such a tumultuous year and the precarious state of locally owned-and-produced journalism, we applaud and thank our staff as well as the award winners and freelance writers for continuing to do great work under difficult circumstances. We're also thankful to our new owners for supporting our work in the contest.

And congrats to all the other winners in our specialty division: Newcomer Ashburn Magazine out of Loudoun County, which is “mailed to over 13,000 high-income households” according to its site, won many of the writing awards. Richmond Magazine also dominated with its many design, illustration and layout awards, winning the sweepstakes award for the category.