The Press Democrat won 10 awards in the California Newspaper Publishers Association's annual Better Newspapers Contest — seven of them first-place awards, including the top overall award for general excellence.
Competing in the category of newspapers with 35,000 to 150,000 circulation, the paper won first-place awards for artistic photo; coverage of business, financial and economic news; feature photo; lifestyle coverage; news photo; and special sports section.
The newspaper placed second for arts and entertainment coverage; page layout and design; and coverage of the environment.
The general excellence award, based on two complete issues from September, was the newspaper's first since 2001, and third since 1980. In awarding the honor, judges said the paper was "beautifully designed and enterprising in its coverage."
The judges credited the paper for its attention to each section.
"The opinion pages are ambitious with excellent, firm editorials. Column choices showed attention to political diversity, each section shows an excellent variety of subject matter and good local/wire balance. Sonoma Living is beautifully organized. Layouts are attractive and the use of art, typography and overall design is sophisticated," the judges said.
Press Democrat Publisher Bruce Kyse called the general-excellence award, as well as the other awards, "a testament to the skill, dedication and hard work of our staff" at a time of great uncertainty for the newspaper.
"In 2012, we had three owners, two of whom didn't want us," Kyse said, referring to former owners the New York Times Co. and Florida-based Halifax Media Group.
"As you can expect, there was a lot of distraction and emotion around all that last year, and I think credit needs to be given to the newsroom, in fact all employees at the newspaper, for keeping the focus on the mission and not allowing everything going on to affect the quality of the paper."
The Press Democrat is now owned by Sonoma Media Investments, a group of local investors.