The Gazette-Virginian staffers captured three awards, bringing home two second place awards and a third place award, in the 2019 News and Advertising Contest.

The Virginia Press Association’s April 4 banquet in Roanoke was canceled due to COVID-19, but still wanting to celebrate the “excellent winning work” from the 2019 contest, the VPA designated Thursday as VPA Awards Day.

Gazette-Virginian Editor Ashley Hodge, who was a staff writer in 2019, walked away with a second place award and a third place award in public safety writing.

Gazette-Virginian Graphic Designer Charles Wilborn also brought home second place honors for front-page design and presentation.

The Gazette-Virginian competed against a number of other publications in the W3 category — the largest division of non-dailies with circulations of 7,000 or more.

“The end of 2019 was a time of change for The Gazette-Virginian as former editor Paula Bryant stepped down as well as sports editor Joe Chandler and staff writer Doug Ford. While their work is truly missed, The Gazette-Virginian staff continues to strive to bring an outstanding editorial and design staff focused on covering local news and information that people want to know,” said Hodge.

Last year, Chandler and Wilborn brought home 10 awards including four first place, three second place and three third place awards.

In announcing last year’s awards, Bryant said, “In recent years, the area’s largest newspaper has been privileged to package news, sports and advertising in an award-winning manner that hasn’t gone unnoticed. I’m so proud of what our staff is doing and has accomplished, and we look forward to continuing to provide our readers the best local news in print and on the web.”

Now with new staff members Miranda Baines, staff writer, Jonathan Kirkland, sports writer, Candace Baskervill, advertising representative, and Jack Fulton, ad composition, “we continue to strive to bring that level of work.”

Hodge won awards for two series of stories including a set of stories revolving around the late Emma Compton Layne, who went missing in 2017 and whose body was found later that year.

She has continued to follow the story as the family continues to seek justice for their late sister. In 2019, Hodge captured stories about the medical examiner’s office releasing information about Layne’s cause of death, a rally held by her sisters asking for justice, what it felt like when her family reached the two-year anniversary of their sister’s death and another about a billboard the family put up asking, “Who murdered Emma Compton Layne?”

The other set of stories recognized started with a breaking news story of an accident involving a logging truck and a car that resulted in the logging truck striking a house where Robert and Lisa Hatcher and their children lived.

In the days following the accident, Hodge reached out to the Hatcher family and spotlighted the help they had received from the community, and spoke with Pastor Ohhwan Freedman Kim of Keysville, husband of Mary and father of their three children, who were all injured in the wreck, to see how they were recovering.

The entire list of winners of the 2019 Virginia Press Association competitions in writing, photography, art work, news presentation and multimedia are available online on the VPA’s website, www.vpa.net.

VPA officials said they plan to announce major awards such as the Sweepstakes winners, Best in Show, Outstanding Young Journalist, Outstanding Salesperson, Mims Award and others in the fall at an in-person or virtual event.