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The winners 

Most people may think this is the hottest time in college hoops, the coolest days for baseball or the calm before the primary election storm. But journalists know differently. To us, it is the outwardly disdained (but secretly anticipated) days of prize announcements. So indulge us, please, a moment to tell you how we're doing.

The writers, photographers, designers and editors at the Independent won three first-place prizes, two second-places and three thirds in the recently announced North Carolina Press Association awards for work done in 2005. They were in the areas that mean the most to us: investigative reporting, arts criticism and photography. And a prize for telling you the best places to go drinking was like a round on the house. Here are some of the judges' comments.

First place, Investigative Reporting: Jennifer Strom, "Growth Rules!"

"Clearly the pick of the submissions in this category. The writing was clear, crisp and concise; the editing was outstanding; and the topic was incredible: a review board with virtually unlimited veto power over a wide assortment of state rules and regulations and made up of citizen appointees with clearly demonstrated conflicts of interest and apparently accountable to no one but the legislators who appointed them and the 'sprawl lobbyists' who try to influence them...."

First place, Use of Photographs: Independent Staff

"I loved the photos ..."

First, second and third place, Criticism: Byron Woods, Godfrey Cheshire and David Fellerath (respectively)

"It's not fair to all the other fine little newspapers and critics in North Carolina that one publication, the Independent Weekly, should have such a strong stable of excellent critics who know how to write, entertain and educate."

Second place, Photo Illustration: York Wilson, "Smash Hits"

"Sinister feel... well done."

Third place, Sports Photography: Jon Gardiner, "Home Field Advantage"

"A nice effort of a sports photo story..."

Third place, Special Section: The Independent staff, "Annual Manual: A Drinking Guide to the Triangle"

"What's not to like about this section?..."

And those aren't the only kudos we've had recently. Our news and politics blog, Dent , was nominated in two categories in the Koufax Awards: Best Blog (pro/sponsor class) and Best State/Local Blog. To find links on how to vote, visit Dent .

As Kirk Ross, the mastermind behind Dent and our still-evolving Web site, wrote on the blog, "We may not change the world, but at least we're trying to make a dent."

More by Richard Hart

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