Lagniappe won four awards in the 2017 Alabama Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, which were announced last Friday.

Editor and co-publisher Ashley Trice’s “Hidden Agenda” column took first place in the Best Editorial Column or Commentary category for Division C newspapers — the state’s largest weeklies. Rob Holbert took second place in that category as well for “Damn the Torpedoes.”

Baldwin County reporter Jane Nicholes was awarded first place in the Best Feature Story Coverage category for her story “Baldwin County Cancer Clusters.” Reporter Jason Johnson’s coverage of the proposed Mobile County soccer complex placed third in the Best In-Depth News Coverage category.

Fifteen categories remain to be announced at the annual APA Summer Convention in Orange Beach July 8. Those include categories such as General Excellence, FOI – First Amendment Award and Public Service.

This is Lagniappe’s first year competing in the APA contest.

Making USA Today
The “Nation’s Newspaper” and others may have unintentionally made Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s case for him in the recent kerfuffle between hizzoner and local television stations regarding their use of the word “decriminalize” to describe Stimpson’s attempt to change city regulations to give police officers more discretion in handling certain types of crimes.

One of those crimes in particular caught lots of media attention, and that was marijuana possession. The mayor’s proposal would allow officers to ticket offenders caught with a small amount of pot, rather than hauling them to jail, a process Stimpson says takes cops off the streets to process a very minor offense.

This led all three local TV stations to either broadcast or post stories online claiming Stimpson was attempting to “decriminalize” marijuana in Mobile. The mayor says he had nothing of the sort in mind and that penalties would remain the same. Only the matter requiring mandatory arrest would change.

Stimpson’s political campaign blasted WKRG-TV in particular for an insistence on sticking with the term “decriminalization” and said the term was misleading.

But the term gained more steam as other media outlets followed the TV stations’ leads. Last week USA Today carried a small item in its state-by-state roundup declaring Mobile was seeking to “decriminalize” marijuana.

“Mayor Sandy Stimpson is proposing to decriminalize several minor offenses, including possession of marijuana for personal use,” it read.

Likewise, iHeart Radio now carries a report from WKSJ saying the mayor’s proposed ordinance would decriminalize pot possession. And conservative website Yellowhammer also published a story claiming decriminalization is in the works, as did Alabama Public Radio.

The mayor can take solace in the fact that www.marijuana.com at least got things right.

WKRG departures
Reporter/producer Cassie Fambro Byrd has announced her departure from WKRG-TV, becoming one of the latest in a string of employees to leave since Nexstar Broadcasting Group acquired the station in a merger with Media General.  

Fambro says she will start reporting in early June at Spectrum News in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fambro had been at the station for 18 months.