Last month, The Southern Newspaper Publishers Association presented Dink NeSmith with a Carmage Walls Commentary Award during SNPA’s News Industry Summit in Sarasota, Fla. NeSmith placed second in the under 50,000 newspaper circulation category for a series of six columns published in The Press Sentinel in January through this past April.
Judges said NeSmith, chairman and owner of The Press-Sentinel, demonstrated a fantastic ability to turn a great phrase that drives home a point. Vivid lines like, "I know of no one who would lick their lips to eat hog meat that, in its previous life, had wallowed in beryllium, mercury, lead or arsenic-tainted mud or slurped Penholloway Creek water that was downstream of a coal-ash dump" captured judges’ imaginations, as they read about the important local issue of coal ash disposal. Judges said, "Editorials on environmental topics can easily turn into something that reads like a government report, but NeSmith avoided that pitfall and got results."
The judges noted that the high quality of entries in this year's contest made choosing winners particularly difficult. They said the communities served by all of the writers who submitted entries are fortunate to have passionate advocates writing for their local newspapers. John Hackworth, editor of the Charlotte Sun in Port Charlotte, Fla., took first-place honors in the under 50,000 circulation category for his column about a Charlotte Correctional Institution inmate that was beaten to death. The column also earned Hackworth a Pulitzer Prize earlier this year.
“Coming in second to a Pulitzer Prize winner is an honor in itself,” NeSmith said. "However, the prize that I really want is to keep toxic coal ash out of Wayne County. Our Coastal Georgia environment is too fragile to withstand such an enormous amount of pollution risk. If it takes years to accomplish that goal, we are willing to do all we can and then some.”
The prize is named for the late Benjamin Carmage Walls whose newspaper career spanned seven decades. Walls primarily owned community newspapers and advocated strong, courageous and positive editorial page leadership. The SNPA commentary honor comes with a $500 prize, which NeSmith is donating for the two-to-one match of the legal defense fund with the Center for a Sustainable Coast.
Those contributions are earmarked to fight Republic Services’ plan to haul in a projected 10,000 tons of toxic coal ash—daily—into the Broadhurst Environmental Landfill.
SNPA is an association, founded in 1903, including more than 500 print and digital newspapers in the Southeastern United States.