The Press Democrat won eight awards in the annual Better Newspapers Contest sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The newspaper was awarded second place in the general excellence category and also won five first place awards. The top winners were lifestyle coverage and arts and entertainment coverage, feature photo and sports photo, and local news coverage for stories on the diminished capacity of state Sen. Pat Wiggins,D-Santa Rosa, to carry out her duties.

The newspaper also won second place awards for an editorial by writer Jim Sweeney raising questions about Sonoma County government retirees with pensions over $100,00 and for a feature story by sports columnist Bob Padecky on Healdsburg runner Sarah Sumpter's struggle with anoxeria.

The awards were given in the judging for newspapers with a daily circulation of 25,000 to 75,000, for the period from April 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009. They were announced Friday in Monterey at the annual meeting of the publishers' organization.

Also in Sonoma County, the Petaluma Argus-Courier won a first place for general excellence in judging for weeklies with a circulation of 4,300 to 11,000. It also won first-place awards for editorial pages, local news coverage and page layout and design, and second place for lifestyle coverage, front page, editorial cartoon and website.

Both The Press Democrat and Argus-Courier are owned by the New York Times Co.

Three other Sonoma County weeklies also received awards: The Sonoma Index-Tribune, the Sonoma West Times and News in Sebastopol and the Healdsburg Tribune.

-- Press Democrat

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