Weekly Citizen named Newspaper of the Year by Louisiana Press Association

Staff Reports
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The Gonzales Weekly Citizen, The Advocate (Baton Rouge), the Daily Comet (Thibodaux), The St. Tammany Farmer (Covington), and The Catholic Commentator (Baton Rouge) earned Newspaper of the Year honors in their respective divisions in the Louisiana Press Association Better Newspaper Competition for 2020.

LPA members competed with one another for bragging rights and distinction in a variety of categories, for work produced during 2019. The Loyola Maroon earned Newspaper of the Year in the Collegiate Division.

The Weekly Citizen staff also took first place for Best Money Making Idea. Sports Editor Kyle Reviere won first and second place in Division 4 for Best Sports Column. Former editor Greg Fischer took first place in Division 4 for Best Feature Story.

The designation for the Newspaper of the Year is based on the number of points earned in the Better Newspaper Competition for 2020, with awards being given in individual contests for first, second, and third places. The editorial contests range from news story writing to graphic design while the advertising entries were judged based on design, creativity, and effectiveness. The Nebraska Press Association judged the competition this year.

Thirty-nine LPA member publications, along with college, and university student newspapers submitted 1,138 entries.

In the Freedom of Information Competition The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate was the winner, writing about New Orleans Police officer Chantelle Davis who had been promoted to sergeant in December of 2018. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) touted her as an exemplar of departmental efforts to develop woman leaders on the force. However in November of 2017 she had been stopped for speeding in Jefferson Parish and argued with the State Police trooper who cited her.

The police department began a probe of the incident and of Davis’ boss, Nicholas Gernon, who promoted her. To help the public understand what happened, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate asked State Police for body camera footage of the encounter.

In March, 2019 the newspaper was successful in securing the footage from Louisiana State Police, in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in Louisiana.

State Police had withheld the footage despite numerous requests. The police report, which had been disclosed revealed the off-duty NOPD officer was “dismissive, arrogant, and disrespectful” to the state trooper. State Police’s stated reason for withholding the footage was that it was embarrassing to Davis and would violate her right to privacy. The newspaper successfully argued that there was no significant right to privacy, given that a police officer was involved and that the interaction occurred on a public street, in full view of any passer-by. After reviewing the footage, Baton Rouge Judge William Morvant agreed with The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate and ordered State Police to turn over the body camera footage with minimal redactions.