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Member Spotlight — Prince George’s Gazette — April 18, 2013

Member Spotlight: Prince George’s Gazette

Location/Website: Laurel, Md.; www.gazette.net/princegeorges

Twitter/Facebook: @gazette_net; Facebook.com/GazetteNet

Publication Schedule: Weekly, published every Thursday.

Focus & History: The Prince George’s Gazette is part of The Washington Post Co.’s Post-Newsweek Media Group, which publishes community newspapers in Maryland and Northern Virginia. The Gazette has other editions in Montgomery and Frederick counties. The Gazette group was founded in Gaithersburg in 1959, and expanded to Prince George’s and Frederick counties in the 1990s.

In the past year, the focus of the Prince George’s Gazette has changed dramatically – and for the better – in the opinion of Editor Vanessa Harrington.

“We’re getting away from a glut of policy and administrative issues and covering more of what affects people’s pocketbooks and homes,” Harrington said. “In the newspaper industry, we sometimes become too easily enchanted with covering a government that never reaches the readers that paper is supposed to serve.”

And The Winner Is…: The Local Media Association (formerly known as Suburban Newspapers of America) announced the Prince George’s Gazette as the 2012 Class D newspaper of the Year (circulation over 37,500).

“We’ve focused on people and what matters to them,” Harrington said. “You can’t focus on everything when you’re a weekly community-based paper, you have to cover what matters most to your readers. We’ve just done a lot of stories that hit close to home.”

Like most editors, Harrington remembers the day when resources stretched further than available stories.

“There was a day when we tried to cover everything, but because we have tighter budgets, we focused on the emotional storylines these days. I read too many stories that bore me out of my mind, because it will never affect me. But if there’s a story about a school getting re-districted, it becomes a fascinating read that resonates with me, my neighborhood and my community.”

What Winning is About: Harrington said her biggest thrill was standing in front of her staff and announcing the award. Yet it was a feeling of relief, not jubilation that Harrington recalled.

“It was almost like giving birth and then getting to hold your baby,” Harrington said. ““There’s so much going on every day, and it always seems you’re trying to do so much, so to be recognized was a great feeling. We’re a community paper, but we had a lot of stories that touched people in 2012.”

Critical Acclaim: The LMA was impressed with the paper’s wide range of substantive news and features, including, “an admirable mix of stories about government, business, education, community organizations and sports.”

LMA judges also noted the “especially compelling” leads and the “crisp, easy-to-read” design. Finally, the judges were particularly smitten about the paper’s “understanding of what’s important – and should be important – to its readers. The paper is meticulously and artfully packed with news about its community.”
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