The Island News was awarded The South Carolina Press Association’s President’s Cup For Excellence for 2022. Mike McCombs/The Island News

The Island News shines at SC Press Awards

Newspaper wins 24 awards, wins coveted President’s Cup

From staff reports

For the fourth year running, The Island News had its finest year ever in the South Carolina Press Association’s (SCPA) yearly newspaper awards.

The newspaper won a total of 24 awards, besting its previous high of 20, set last year, and for the first time claimed the President’s Cup, given to the top performing publication in each circulation group. 

Among the newspaper’s 24 awards were 10 first-place nods, another new high for the publication.

The awards were handed out at the SCPA’s annual Awards Luncheon on Thursday in Columbia.

“Once again, I’m especially proud of the small group of hard-working and talented people that have made this possible. We are blessed,” Editor-In-Chief Mike McCombs said. “Our goal, given our resources, is to continue to be the best local newspaper we can be for our community.” 

Editor Mike McCombs

In most categories, The Island News competed in the division for weekly newspapers with circulations higher than 6,500. The contest was judged by the Georgia Press Association.

Tony Kukulich, now with the The Post And Courier, led the way with eight awards, including four first-place honors. Longtime photo journalist Bob Sofaly added seven awards to his collection, including his first two writing/reporting awards, one a first-place nod. Sofaly has won 25 awards for The Island News since 2012.

McCombs won five awards, including two first-place awards, while Sports Editor Justin Jarrett and video journalist Delayna Earley each won two first-place awards.

Publisher Jeff Evans won a first-place award, while Hope Falls and Cherimie Weatherford each brought home one award. 

Kukulich, McCombs and Sofaly won first place in the Breaking News category for their reporting on former Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling’s near drowning after a spring boating accident in the Beaufort River.

“Multiple eyewitness accounts of the events surrounding this accident gave me the feeling as a reader as if I were there,” the judges wrote. “The drama built as each person was interviewed.”

Kukulich and McCombs together won second in the same category, as well, for their March coverage of a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet crash on Halfmoon Island.

Kukulich won three other first-place awards, including first in the Reporting In Depth category for his story about how a Beaufort Police investigation of threatening phone calls helped solve a double-homicide in Texas.

“Well written and researched,” the judges wrote. “Prose was clear, concise and thorough. Masterful job providing suspense as the story unfolds.”

He won first in Business Beat Reporting and Feature Photo thanks to his photo from the Bed Races at the Beaufort Water Festival. He also won second-place awards for Reporting In Depth and Lifestyle Feature Writing and a third-place award for Government Beat Reporting.

In addition to his first-place win in Breaking News, Sofaly brought home second-place awards for General News Photo, Feature Photo and Sports Photo; and third-place awards for Short Story, Spot News Photo and Feature Photo. 

To his awards in Breaking News, McCombs added a first-place in Short Story with his piece on Harriet Tubman Day – “Good coverage of local news,” the judges said. He added second- and third-place awards in Spot Sports Story.

Jarrett won first-place in Sports Feature Story for “Good And Disrespectful,” his piece on record-setting Beaufort High School running back Kacy Fields, and for Sports Column Writing for All Weeklies.

“(The) writer focused on a subject and explored it,” the judges said of the column-writing entry. “(The writer) showed insight into schools’ classification success and struggles.”

Earley won The Island News’ first two awards for videos, both first-place nods. The judges loved both.

In her Feature Video entry, she followed a girl who dresses up as the Headless Horseman near Halloween and rides down a rural St. Helena Island road for the locals that gather to catch a glimpse.

“It’s an unconventional piece that demonstrates to a T what the video medium can successfully convey that traditional print media cannot,” the judges wrote. “The lack of narration really helps establish a good opening, and the kid’s wraparound really takes it to the next level. An excellent clip that does more in less than two minutes than some 2,000-word articles.”

A local gymnastics school was the subject of her sports video – “A quick look at how a sport can address the whole child and their growth,” said the judges.

Evans’s photo of three protester dressed as “Handmaids” at a campaign rally for a state representative and Gov. Henry McMaster won first for General News Photo.

The Island News Publisher Jeff Evans captured this shot of the “Handmaid” protesters at a Republican rally in November in downtown Beaufort. The photo won first place in General News Photo for Weeklies over 6,500 circulation.

“There’s a lot of symbolism packed into this one photo,” the judges wrote. “I’m glad the photographer saw this and documented it.”

And Weatherford repeated her second-place award from 2021 in the Column writing category.

“For the last four years, The Island News has received an increasing number of awards from the S.C. Press Association. This has been hugely gratifying for our tiny band of misfit toys assembling our local newspaper on a weekly basis. It’s wonderful to be recognized by your peers in a wider world,” Evans said. “To say we were proud would be a huge understatement. Our goal has always been to give Beaufort the best local newspaper possible. We’re forever grateful the people of Beaufort have embraced The Island News and these awards help confirm we’re on the right path.”

Evans wins 2 for Lowcountry Weekly

Lowcountry Weekly Editor and The Island News co-publisher Margaret Evans again won two first-place awards for her publication.

Evans won first in the Open Division Contest (all newspapers, daily and weekly, across the state) for Humor Column Writing – “Funny, relatable writing,” the judges wrote. “Great entertainment.”

In the Weekly Over 6,500 category, Evans won first in the Arts & Entertainment Writing category for an August column about how Robert Smalls’ story inspired an award-winning novel that birthed a critically-acclaimed theatrical production.

“You have a beautiful way of storytelling!” the judges wrote. “All your entries were wonderful, but this one stood out. A great story and wonderfully told. Well done.”

“I don’t really think of myself as a humor columnist – more like a serious columnist who’s occasionally funny – so taking First Place for Humor Column Writing was weirdly delightful,” Margaret Evans said. “This was my first First Place in Arts & Entertainment writing, as well, and I was thrilled. But nothing was more exciting than hearing The Island News called as the winner of the President’s Cup for Excellence. Our little team works so hard, day in and day out, and we were up against big city weeklies in Charleston, Greenville, Columbia, etc., not to mention plenty of great small-town papers. Journalists aren’t the most popular people these days, so being recognized by our peers is deeply gratifying. And we got a trophy!”

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