The Rappahannock News was recognized with 22 awards, including a top Best in Show honor and seven first-place awards, in the Virginia Press Association’s 2020 competition for excellence in journalism and advertising.

At a virtual presentation last Thursday morning, the press association announced the winners of this year’s “Sweepstakes,” awarded based on the total of points assigned to each individual winning entry. The Rappahannock News won both the overall and news Sweepstakes categories for all papers in its circulation category throughout Virginia.

Judges in the annual contest recognized a variety of work — from in-depth reporting series to photographs and advertisements — produced during 2020. The paper’s coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Rappahannock County won first place awards for general news writing and business/financial writing. “Protecting Paradise,” a series about environmental issues in the county, won Best in Show and first place awards for informational graphics. A series of stories about housing (“Home Sweet Home”) won a first place honor for in-depth or investigative reporting.

Much of the honored work was produced in partnership with Foothills Forum, a local nonprofit which supports nonpartisan research and reporting about Rappahannock County matters. Collaborations with Foothills have now received Best in Show awards for five consecutive years.

Rappahannock News sister paper InsideNoVa/Prince William received the Virginia Press Association’s top journalism award. The paper was named the winner of the VPA’s Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service for its coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on Northern Virginia.

Best in Show

Graphics, Illustration and Art: Laura Stanton and Sara Schonhardt for “Protecting Paradise” informational graphics.

First Place

General News Writing: COVID-19 in Rappahannock County by John McCaslin, Sara Schonhardt, Randy Rieland, Rachel Needham

In-depth or Investigative Reporting: “Home Sweet Home” by Sara Schonhardt, Laura Stanton, Bud Meyer, Andy Alexander, Dennis Brack, Luke Christopher

Business and Financial Writing: Rappahannock businesses and workers cope with COVID by Sara Schonhardt


Junior rider Olivia Devening of Castleton and her striking blue eyed Cremello pony Maximus train at Sandy Hook Stables in Massies Corner, where they've caught the attention of renowned French saddler Devoucoux.

Personality or Portrait Photo: Junior rider Olivia Devening by John McCaslin

Informational Graphics: “Protecting Paradise” by Laura Stanton, Sara Schonhardt

Page Design: Rappahannock News page design by Dennis Brack

Special Sections or Special Editions: Rappahannock Snapshot, 2020-2021 by Dennis Brack, Laura Stanton, Luke Christopher, Sara Schonhardt, Andy Alexander, Bud Meyer

Second Place

Public Safety Writing: A collection of stories byJohn McCaslin

In-depth or Investigative Reporting: “Protecting Paradise” by Randy Rieland, Tim Carrington, Sara Schonhardt, Laura Stanton, Bud Meyer, Andy Alexander

Feature Series or Continuing Story: Sperryville Turns 200 by Daphne Hutchinson

Slick Publications (standalone section with a slick cover): The Guide to Rappahannock by Dennis Brack, Audra Dickey, Luke Christopher, John McCaslin, Jay Ford, Tom Spargur

Back to school bus 2020

Rappahannock elementary students return to class in August.

General News Photo: Back to school looks a little different this year by Luke Christopher


Addy Hausler of Castleton digs into an apple crate at Thornton River Orchard, which has found success selling directly to consumers. Overall, orchards occupied 1,378 acres in 1992, but by 2017 covered just 211 acres in the county.

Feature Photo: Dipping in by Luke Christopher

apples1 (page 1) -8-story.jpg

It is said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and what better time to practice that proverb than during a pandemic. Apparently that’s the thinking of locals and visitors alike, who to the delight of apple farmers like Bryant Lee, of Lee's Orchard in Massies Corner, are gobbling up Granny Smiths and Ginger Golds in record numbers. Better yet for Lee, a third-generation orchard operator and former four-term Rappahannock County supervisor, there’s plentiful apples to pick this season.

Personality or Portrait Photo: Apple farmer Bryant Lee by John McCaslin

Informational Graphics: A Typical School Day in Atypical Times by Laura Stanton, Randy Rieland

Education/Churches/Organizations advertisements: “Businesses of Rappahannock: What you need, close to home” by Theresa Wood, Jay Ford, Audra Dickey, Dennis Brack

Third Place

Multimedia Report: “Protecting Paradise” by Dennis Brack, Laura Stanton, Luke Christopher, Sara Schonhardt, Randy Rieland, Tim Carrington

In-depth or Investigative Reporting: “Budget Balancing Act” by Tim Carrington, Laura Stanton, Andy Alexander, Bud Meyer

Front Page Design: Rappahannock News front pages by Dennis Brack, Laura Stanton, Luke Christopher

General Make-Up: Rappahannock News design by Dennis Brack

laughing cat

“What do you get when you cross a fence post with a kitty?” we asked Manley, a laughing, convivial, pole-sitting barn cat if ever one existed at Crossmolina Farm near Massies Corner. “A polecat.”

Personality or Portrait Photo: “Laughing Cat” by  Theresa Wood

Details on all the winners statewide are available on the VPA’s website:

Supporting our local news coverage

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