SME Building

Pictured is the front of the Smith Mountain Eagle building.

The Smith Mountain Eagle won nine Virginia Press Association (VPA) Awards, which were virtually presented last week on the VPA website.

Six of the awards were in news and photography categories, and three were advertising related. (See accompanying article about the 2020 Outstanding Young Sales Professional Award that went to Account Executive Tommie Jo Walker, who also won first and second place in two ad categories.)

This is the second year that the newspaper has placed in the contest, and triple the number of awards were received. Last year, two newspaper writers won three awards: one first place and two third place.

“I’m so proud of the Smith Mountain Eagle team for the great job they do,” said Editor and General Manager Chad Adams. “We work hard to make the Eagle a great newspaper and are grateful to be recognized by the Virginia Press Association for the second year in a row.”

Winners of the 2020 VPA News & Advertising Contest were announced in stages from Monday, April 26, to Thursday, April 29, as a weeklong celebration.

The following writers received awards in the news and photography categories.

William Seidel

William Seidel received two first place awards in Smith Mountain Eagle’s circulation group: One under “Feature Story Writing Portfolio” and the other for the Government Writing category.

The feature story portfolio contained articles on Franklin County Public Schools fifth grade teacher Anthony Swann, who went from a rough childhood to winning county teacher of the year (he later became the state teacher of the year); Vinton resident Will Satterwhite, who was featured on national television in the “Jeopardy!” 2020 Teachers Tournament; and musician Jon Weems of Hardy, who could no longer use his fingers due to an accident but still manages to write and play music.

“I thought the Teacher of the Year story was the strongest of the stories in this year’s entries,” the judge commented on the feature story portfolio. “I really enjoyed what the subject shared with the writer. All stories were well-written and interesting.”

The government writing articles submitted were two articles on the Confederate statue controversy in Franklin County and an article on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors shutting down a “No Shutdown Resolution.”

“I’m truly humbled and grateful to know that I was awarded first place in both the feature and government categories,” Seidel said. “I couldn’t believe it when my editor gave me the news. I still haven’t fully taken it in yet. God is good.”

Seidel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications at Emory & Henry College in 2019. At Emory & Henry College, he served as a sports editor, news writer and sports writer for Whitetopper Newspaper; a station producer and basketball commentator for WEHC Radio; and a co-host, news anchor and cameraman for EHCTV.

He also worked as a freelance writer for the Bristol Herald Courier in 2019 and served as an intern for 93.9 WMEV in Marion, Virginia.

He was hired to work as a reporter for Smith Mountain Eagle in March 2020.


C.E. Adams

C.E. Adams won both second and third place in the Breaking News category for two fire photos. In second place was a photo in the March 18, 2020, issue of the newspaper of firefighters putting out a structure fire on Hardy Road in the area of Nineveh Lane, and in third place was a photo in the April 15, 2020, issue of the newspaper of a firefighter fading into smoke caused by a brush fire on Altice Road near Watson Road.

“I can smell the brush burning,” the judge commented on the brush fire photo. “I wonder how that firefighter made out.”

Adams joined Womack Publishing Company in June 2018 to be the editor of the Times Virginian and later split his duties as editor of the Smith Mountain Eagle starting in May 2019.

He was born in the Richmond, Virginia, area but grew up in Danville, Virginia, and graduated from George Washington High School, where he worked on the school’s award-wining magazine.

He graduated from Averett University in Danville, Virginia, with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and two minors: English and religion. He led the college newspaper and magazine, founded a writing group, tutored English, interned at a local magazine, and won Averett’s annual journalism award for seniors as well as other awards for his writing and photography.

He also earned a Master of Professional Studies in Publishing at George Washington University, where he maintained a 4.0 GPA.

He’s worked as a public relations and marketing specialist, newspaper copy editor, bookseller, freelance editor and general manager, among other jobs, before working at the Times Virginian and Smith Mountain Eagle.

He’s also founded a book publishing company, founded a writing group for Danville and Pittsylvania County, and has had his writings published in numerous newspapers and magazines.


Sherese Gore

Sherese Gore received two third place awards. One award was in the “Feature Series or Continuing Story” category for her coverage of Black Lives Matters protests in the area. The other award was in the General News Photo category for a photo in the June 10 issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle showing C.J. Alston embracing Officer Josh Mason of the Rocky Mount Police Department at a Black Lives Matter protest.

“The Smith Mountain Eagle offers a conscientious effort by writer Sherese Gore to localize national stories about race, white privilege, Confederate statues and cultural clashes,” the judge commented.

Gore serves as a freelance correspondent for the Smith Mountain Eagle and started writing for the company around January 2018.

She is from the area, having graduated from Franklin County High School. 

She earned a degree in political science at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg before attending Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

At VCU, she wrote for the college’s Capital News Service, focusing on legislative issues. She served under the leadership of Professor Jeff South, who has 20 years of experience as a newspaper editor and reporter.

Read more stories in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at to view articles in the print and/or e-edition version.

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