Natchitoches Times earns three La. Press Association Better Newspaper awards

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The Advocate (Baton Rouge), the Daily Comet (Thibodaux), The Livingston Parish News (Denham Springs), and The St. Charles Herald-Guide (Boutte) earned Newspaper of the Year honors in their respective divisions at the Mississippi Press Association/ Louisiana Press Association Joint Convention in New Orleans, LA.

The designation for the Newspaper of the Year is based on the number of points earned in the Better Newspaper Competition for 2017, with awards being given in individual contests for first, second, and third places. The editorial contests range from news story writing to graphic design while the advertising entries were judged based on design, creativity, and effectiveness. The Arkansas Press Association judged the competition this year. Fifty newspapers, publications, and college, and university student newspapers submitted 1,391 entries.

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When a family accused a university law professor of helping the politically connected head of the area’s Council on Aging plunder a woman’s estate through sky-high administrative fees, The Advocate of Baton Rouge pressed to find out more. As the scandal picked up steam, Southern University reacted by announcing an investigation into the actions of Dorothy Jackson, who as director of the university’s Elder Law Clinic, was tasked with using students to provide free legal services to senior citizens.

Jackson was also a board member of the Council on Aging, making her a colleague of the agency’s director. Tasha Clark-Amar. Before the woman died, Jackson acted as the attorney on the will at the law clinic, naming the Council on Aging director, Clark-Amar, to oversee the trust. Clark-Amar was to be paid $120,000, well over a third of the trust’s value. The Advocate, enlisting the help of Baton Rouge TV station WBRZ, fought a legal battle with Southern after the university refused to release the report into the investigation. Just as the court hearing began, Southern relented and released the report, which documented how Jackson and Clark-Amar had worked together on the will.

The judge also awarded the Advocate and WBRZ $13,000 in legal fees and court costs. For fighting for the public’s right to know about a case of abuse by people in a position of public trust, The Advocate (Baton Rouge) earns this year’s Louisiana Press Association Freedom of Information Award.