Andrea Brennan is seen pictured here in the photo that won first place in the Ma Murray Community News Media Awards. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

The Free Press wins two Ma Murray Community News Media Awards

Jennifer Cronin, Bonny McLardy and Phil McLachlan were all recognized for their outstanding work

Three former and current employees of The Free Press received two awards at this year’s Ma Murray Community News Media Awards. Taking place on Saturday April 25, 2020, this year’s virtual event distinguished The Free Press’s former publisher Jennifer Cronin and current production manager, Bonny McLardy, for their passionate work on a Canada Remembers the 75th D-Day Anniversary spread. Former editor, Phil McLachlan, was also celebrated for his photojournalistic zeal regarding a photo titled For the Sake of Tradition.

Hosted by the BC and Yukon Community Newspaper Association, the annual Ma Murray Community News Media Awards celebrate the community newspaper industry in British Columbia and the Yukon. The ceremony issues a number of awards in various categories, each selected by an expert panel of judges and distributed to employees of the association’s 95 member newspapers. Awards applaud success in reporting, community contribution, photography, and advertising.

Cronin and McLardy’s winning piece was a poignant 20 page spread dedicated to commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day, issued on June 6, 2019. Contending against newspapers with circulations under 25,000 readers, the duo was awarded this year’s Special Section Award for a unique run of press section exhibiting an innovative theme, quality of content and advertising, originality, and an appealing layout.

The two were asked by former group publisher, Eric Lawson, to put together a D-Day anniversary feature on behalf of both the East and West Kootenays. With Cronin conceptualizing, coordinating, and compiling information, McLardy worked layout magic in a way that allowed for the piece to showcase the utmost importance of Canadian veterans.

After a month of hard work, they created a visually appealing and exceptionally moving dedication to the 75th D-Day anniversary. Spread out among the pages was a clean amalgamation of interviews, advertisements, and photos sourced from Legion branches throughout the Kootenays. One of the most impactful and emotional sections of their spread stands in the centre, where spread out over four pages is a photo of the cemetery where Canadian veterans who lost their lives on D-Day are buried, along with each of their names.

“We wanted to ensure that the importance and focus of the piece remained on the remembrance of D-Day, while shining a light on the veterans and their contribution to our safety, life, and what they’ve given to us,” said Cronin.

Ultimately, Cronin’s one and only goal with the piece was to honour the selfless dedication and strength of World War Two veterans. Her passion came from having a father who was not only a World War Two veteran, but also a member of the Legion for 50 years. Coupling this with her previous stint as the Fernie Legion’s president, Cronin’s respect for service shone through every page.

“The quality of the product is because of the love I have for veterans, and how I recognize the importance of what they did for us. It was all about them, and it should always be about them. I wanted that to be the focus and inspiration for the piece. It wasn’t just about my father, but for every single veteran,” said Cronin. “I’ve always been very connected with them, what they’ve done for us, and the significance they’ve played in our lives. So to be given the honour to put that publication together, and then to be recognized for it, was outstanding.”

Though Cronin and McLardy were honoured to receive the Special Section Award for their hard work, they were equally humbled to simply have had the opportunity to create the piece.

“It was pretty special having received the award. I was very excited for The Free Press, for Bonny, for myself, and for Phil. I got tears in my eyes, and couldn’t believe it,” said Cronin. “I felt that it had the quality, but most of all, I felt that the message that it sent was strong. It was very polished and well put together, and I know that we both take an awful lot of pride in the finished product. I can also never overstate Bonny’s contribution to this, she works magic with her layout.”

Also honoured at the awards ceremony was McLachlan, who was recognized for his photographic prowess surrounding a photo of Andrea Brennan, priest of Christ Church Anglican and minister of Knox United Church. Awarded the Portrait/ Personality Photo Award, his portrait was celebrated for revealing significant character through composition, environment, and lighting. Judged on a number of factors including impact on reader, originality, forethought, and technical ability, his photo undoubtedly made a lasting impression on the judges.

The photo was submitted for nomination by Cronin and The Free Press’ current editor, Paige Mueller and the entire Free Press team is exceedingly proud of these achievements.

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