By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Column: A year’s worth of contest entries
Martin Cahn 2021
Martin L. Cahn

On Tuesday, we’ll be bringing you the first part of our annual Year in Review feature where we’ll look back at some of the biggest stories of 2021. We’re planning three parts, with stories from January to April on Tuesday, May to August next Friday, and September to October on Jan. 4, 2022.

Earlier this month, I did something that also comes with the end of the year: preparing entries for the S.C. Press Association’s annual news contest. If all goes well despite the pandemic, we should learn what entries won either first, second or third places in their respective categories on March 12, 2022, at the association’s annual meeting.

Some of what I entered into the contest will likely show up in our year-end review starting Tuesday. There are news entries, opinion entries and even photography entries. The contest period -- what editions we’re allowed to pull from -- is from Nov. 16, 2020, to Nov. 15 of this year.

One of the very first “stories of the year” I can promise you we’ll be featuring Tuesday is the tragic double-murder of Steven and Nancy Hales way back in January. Several stories from our coverage made their way into the contest.

These include a story about the Hales themselves in a category reserved for front-page obituaries. Coverage of the murders -- including updates posted to Facebook -- is part of a Breaking News Reporting entry. Finally, most of the stories about the murders are included in Reporting in Depth.

Another Reporting in Depth entry was a lengthy article detailing law enforcement responses to Camden motels following the murder of a man at the Mona Lisa Motel in July.

For our Series of Articles entry we went back to December 2020 and our two-part look back at the Carl’s Fireworks explosion 50 years ago and its impact on the surviving family members.

We submitted two New Feature writing entries: The opening of the new Revolutionary War Visitors Center and the celebration of the Kershaw Citizens of Kershaw County’s four Living Legends.

In Lifestyle Feature Writing, we entered our coverage of a big Juneteenth celebration in Boykin Park, and in Profile Featuring Writing or Story, an article about Laya Deleon Hayes, a young actress on CBS’ The Equalizer with ties to Camden.

We also entered various stories in the Health, Crime and Government beat reporting categories.

On the opinion side, we’ve usually done pretty well, especially in terms of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and open government matters. As such, we entered a column I wrote in September about how the word “may,” and not the word “must,” is the heart of the S.C. FOIA in the Editorial or Column in Support of FOI and Open Government Issues category.

For editorial writing, we submitted three editorials: one on a Kershaw County Council executive session vote, another about how words matter in the wake of a controversy involving State Rep. Vic Dabney, and the third on the state needing to let local officials make local decisions.

I’ve also tried entering columns into the contest, so for that category, I submitted three as well: the first about waiting for stories to be told the right way; the second, a retrospective about a young man I knew who died earlier this year; and the last on how citizen comment is up to as much scrutiny as comments made by elected officials.

Then there are two photographs, one for Spot News Photography and the second in Feature Photo. The first is from September taken during a breaking news story of a man being arrested in front of the Mona Lisa Motel following a two and a half hour stand-off. The second, Feature Photo, one is of sculptor Maria J. Kirby-Smith receiving a bouquet of flowers from a colonial reenactor during the unveiling of her statue of Baron de Kalb in October.

Finally, there’s one category the Chronicle-Independent has won three times in the relatively recent past: General Excellence, meaning we were named the best two- to three-times a week newspaper in South Carolina in 2006, 2010 and 2011.

After not entering the news contest at all last year due to the pandemic, we’re going to try again this year. Each newspaper has to submit two complete editions. We chose Dec. 11, 2020, and Sept. 10, 2021.

The Dec. 2020 issue was fairly, well, general in nature, including COVID-19 related stories, and Kershaw County School District news. The Sept. 2021 issue included our 9/11 20th anniversary coverage.

Former C-I writer Jim Tatum used to tell me that news contests are a “crap shoot.” He’s not wrong; you never know what the judges -- who are always from from other states -- are going to think.

Wish us luck!

(Martin L. Cahn is editor of the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. Email him at Follow him on Facebook at