The Voice takes one of three top Press Association awards

Media Attorney Jay Bender, left, and Executive Director of the S.C. Press Association Bill Rogers present the Jay Bender Award for Assertive Journalism to The Voice Publisher Barbara Ball.

COLUMBIA – The 7th annual Jay Bender Award for Assertive Journalism was presented to The Voice’s publisher, Barbara Ball, and reporter Michael Smith at the South Carolina Press Association’s annual meeting in Columbia on April 6. This is the second year in a row that the newspaper has received the honor.

The award recognizes one daily and one non-daily journalist in the state who stands up to authority in the public’s interest. As one of the top honors presented by the SCPA each year, it includes a prize of $250 and is named for media attorney Jay Bender, whose 30-year career has been dedicated to preserving open government and First Amendment freedoms.

“Very often you hear football coaches say that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” Bender said in a telephone interview. “And it’s not the size of the paper, it’s the size of the fight in the paper. Barbara and Michael demonstrate what journalism is about in protecting the community from chicanery, fraud and misconduct. They do a great job.”

The judges’ comments, which were read during the presentation, made note of Ball and Smith’s thorough reporting.

“They exhibited great persistence in exposing a problem that likely occurs statewide with secrecy in the expenditure of accommodations tax money,” the judges wrote. “Ball and Smith reported on issues from every angle. This newspaper does a good job of holding public officials accountable.”

“This top award shows that small newspapers can make a big difference in their reporting on community issues,” said Bill Rogers, executive director of the SCPA. “Mrs. Ball and Mr. Smith both have a strong history of investigative reporting and this award is a fitting tribute.  Well done.”

The Voice also received a number of other awards at the annual meeting. The 2018 Fall Sports Preview won first place for all weekly newspapers in the Sports Section/Magazine category, with the judges commenting, “Wow! Epitome of what a fall sports preview should be.” The 2018 Holiday Entertaining Guide received second place (to The Post and Courier) in the Entertainment Section category, an open category that included daily newspapers. Reporter Michael Smith received second place in the Sports Enterprise Reporting category, second place for Reporting-in-Depth and third place for Series of Articles. Ball’s additional awards included second place for Profile Feature Writing and third place for Reporting-in-Depth.