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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2009

Hale-Spencer wins international award for editorial writing

Continuing what has become an Altamont Enterprise tradition, Melissa Hale-Spencer, the newspaper’s editor, has been named to the Golden Dozen again this year.

The award was announced Saturday by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors at its annual conference, held this year on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

ISWNE was founded in 1954 to encourage and promote high standards of editorial writing, to facilitate the exchange of ideas, and to foster freedom of the press in all nations. Each year, it holds a competition for non-daily opinion and editorial writing. The top entry is given the Golden Quill, and 11 others are chosen to make up the rest of the Golden Dozen.

This year’s award marked Hale-Spencer’s fifth recognition by ISWNE; last year she was given the Golden Quill.

Her award-winning editorial this year, “Does New Scotland want a big-box mall?” ran in the March 6, 2008 edition soon after Enterprise reporter Saranac Hale Spencer broke the story that Sphere Development had plans for a large retail center in New Scotland.

“This is a thorough and thoughtful look at the issues surrounding the development of agricultural land and the policies in the community of New Scotland,” wrote the contest judge, Kim Kierans. “While it is focused on a particular area, this editorial echoes the debate going on in many rural communities throughout North America and the need to involve community in the discussion ‘to develop a new comprehensive land-use plan.’”

Kierans, a former print reporter and radio news reporter, editor, and producer, is currently director of the journalism program in the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Golden Quill this year was awarded to David Martin, who writes for The Pitch in Kansas City, Mo., for his editorial, “Deutsche Bags,” exposing the negligence of the German Deutsche Bank for not maintaining foreclosed properties in Kansas City.

The other winners were from Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nevada, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Arizona in the United States, and Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and the Yukon in Canada.

Hale-Spencer was first named to the Golden Dozen for her 1998 editorial, “Celebrating a life,” which, the judge wrote, helped to lift the stigma against suicide.

She was named to the Golden Dozen a second time for her 2001 editorial, “Workers can’t wait,” which detailed the plight of a local spray painter as a means of exploring President George W. Bush‘s repeal of ergonomic regulations.

Her third Golden Dozen winner was the 2004 editorial, “Letter to Jordan,” written to the three young sons of Shokriea and Ali Yaghi, who had joined their father in Jordan as their mother, an American citizen, fought for her husband’s return.

Her Golden Quill award last year was for her 2007 editorial, “We, the people, are responsible for what our government does,” which, the judge said, “pointed out the problems of an individual and called government officials to account for their handling of that problem.”

Hale-Spencer, 56, graduated in 1971 from Guilderland High School, where she was a Journal editor. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wellesley College, she got her first reporting job in 1975 on her parents’ Adirondack weekly, The Lake Placid News. She has worked at The Enterprise for over 20 years.

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