Reporters take home eight awards for breaking news, editorials, education, features, investigations, news, photo


FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Press Association and the New Mexico Associated Press Managing Editors awarded The Daily Times with a first-place General Excellence award in its circulation category during the 2017 Better Newspaper Contest awards ceremony in Bernalillo on Saturday. 

“We were pleased and honored to accept this year’s E. H. Shaffer Award for General Excellence in the 2016-2017 contest year,” Editor John R. Moses said Monday. “That was an unexpected but welcome turn of events.”

Moses said there are many excellent newspapers in the association’s Class II contest field and he and his staff feel honored by the award.

Moses, who was hired in May, noted the contributions of former editor Chris Roberts, who retired from The Daily Times in the spring and edited most of the contest entries when they originally hit print.

Sammy M. Lopez, president and publisher of The Daily Times, said he was grateful to the customers and readers for their support of the newspaper. 

“We try to produce the best possible paper every issue, every day of the year,” Lopez said. 

The Daily Times took General Excellence in the Class II category for daily newspapers with a circulation of up to 10,999, while the Santa Fe New Mexican took the General Excellence award for daily newspapers with a circulation of more than 11,000.

Socorro’s El Defensor Chieftain and the Taos News took the General Excellence awards in the small and large weekly categories, respectively.

Several members of The Daily Times’ news staff won awards in the small daily newspaper category for coverage between July 2016 and June 2017.

Government and general news reporter Hannah Grover took first place for breaking news for her coverage of an August 2016 flood that killed one person and displaced several families in Shiprock.

Moses took first place in editorial writing for his June 2017 editorial regarding the “water supply nightmare” at Harvest Gold subdivision.

News photographer Jon Austria took second place for general news photography for coverage of the funeral of Master Sgt. David Montoya.

Josh Kellogg, who currently covers crime and social issues but has covered education in the past year, won second place for education reporting for his coverage of the shuttering of New Mexico Virtual Academy.

Navajo Nation reporter Noel Lyn Smith took second place in feature writing for her coverage of the Tribal Wills Project, which helped locals distribute shares of trust land titles to heirs at the Upper Fruitland Chapter house in March.

James Fenton, the former business editor for The Daily Times, took first place in news writing for coverage of “the severe and lingering effects of the downturn in the local energy sector.” Fenton also took second place in breaking news for his coverage of an investigation into Steve Henke, former field manager of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington field office.

Steve Garrison, former crime and courts reporter for the Daily Times, took second place in investigative reporting for his coverage of a retired Farmington police detective’s claim that Farmington Police Department has failed to adequately investigate crimes against children.

The 2017 Better Newspaper Contest was jointly hosted by the New Mexico Press Association and the New Mexico Associated Press Managing Editors. The Arizona Newspaper Association judged the contest, according to an AP report. The New Mexico Associated Press Member of the Year, an AP award for outstanding cooperation, went to The Eastern New Mexico News.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or

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