• Today Online

Today Magazine wins 12 more SPJ awards

Updated: Jul 8

• 24 Awards in 4 Years for Today Publishing


Special to Today Magazine

See below for a full list of award-winners and awards by category


Today Magazine has received 12 more awards this year from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) — seven first-place, three second-place and two third-place prizes.


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Today Magazine and Connecticut Magazine tied for the most first-place awards in the state SPJ's Magazine division. The Connecticut SPJ Chapter presents awards annually via its Excellence in Journalism contest.


Connecticut Magazine, with 21 awards, is the only state publication in the Magazine division to take home more awards than Today Magazine in 2022. This year’s contest honors journalism excellence during the 2021 calendar year.


Today Magazine editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert won seven awards overall — four first-place, one second-place and two third-place honors. All told, he has received 18 SPJ awards in his career.


Contributing writer Katherine Napier won three first-place awards with Today Magazine this year. A Canton High School alum, Napier graduated in May from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where she served as co-editor of the student newspaper.


Nishant Gopalachar, another Today contributing writer, likewise won a first-place award. He is in the Class of 2022 at Avon High School.


Today Magazine editor Bruce Deckert won a first-place SPJ award for this cover layout — photo by Rick Warters

“I’m so psyched that two of our student contributors have won first-place awards,” says Deckert, who also serves as Today’s publisher. “This is the second straight year that a high school student has won an award with Today Magazine in the professional SPJ contest — this is a high honor for a professional journalist, and even more so for a young writer.”


In last year’s contest, Deckert received six awards but no first-place honor. Among Today Magazine’s nine awards last year, the only first-place went to contributing writer Noelle Blake, another Avon High School student in the Class of 2022. She also won a second-place award.


So Avon High students have won first-place awards with Today Magazine in back-to-back years. It is unknown whether Blake and Gopalachar are the youngest award-winners ever in the SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism contest. The Connecticut SPJ doesn’t keep track of the ages of contestants or award recipients, according to an SPJ representative.


"Awards can of course cut both ways," Deckert observes. "They can be a great encouragement, like the reward of receiving an A on an assignment in school — on the other hand, awards can result in overconfidence and complacency. I hope I'm able to appreciate the upside of these awards and avoid the downside like the plague, and I hope the same for all our award-winners."


Counting these 12 awards in 2022, Today Publishing has won 24 awards in four years since debuting in October 2018. The media outlet produces Today Magazine (monthly publication) and Today Online (24/7 news site) and covers the five core towns of Connecticut’s Farmington Valley — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury.


“I’m glad to provide a media platform where young writers can grow and thrive,” says Deckert. “I also appreciate the cogent contributions from many talented adult writers who help us report the underreported upside of the Valley community.”


Today Magazine’s other second-place award-winners this year are Odalys Bekanich, a Farmington-based realtor and former New Britain police officer, and Samantha Lewis, a Granby native and graduate research fellow at McLean Game Refuge.

“I’m so psyched that two of our student contributors have won first-place awards ... this is a high honor for a professional journalist, and even more so for a young writer” — Today editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert

Four more Today Magazine contributing writers won first-place awards — Naviah Barrow, Lisa G. Samia, Sarah Thompson and Terri Wilson — and this is where Today’s award haul encompasses a riddle: Today Magazine won seven first-place awards, but Today writers collected 11 first-place awards overall.


How can this be true? Here's how: One of Today's first-place awards is in the Reporting Series category. The award-winning Today series is a compilation of stories by six different writers — the four in the previous paragraph plus Napier and Deckert. So while Today Magazine received seven first-place awards, Today won 11 first-place writing prizes overall, including this team-effort Reporting Series award.


Barrow is a 2020 graduate of Granby Memorial High School while Samia, Thompson and Wilson are Avon residents.


Wilson, a Simsbury High graduate, is the longtime president of the Avon Historical Society. Thompson is the founder of ShopBlackCT.com and the senior director for marketing and communications at The Village for Families & Children. Samia was a National Park Arts Foundation artist-in-residence at Manassas National Battlefield Park in 2021 and at Gettysburg National Military Park in 2020 — she has written several books on Civil War themes and lectured at the Civil War Round Table Congress.


Deckert has worked in the media realm for 25-plus years, including 17 years as an editor for ESPN.com and ESPN Digital Media and three years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Connecticut.


“My career has come full circle — from local community-based journalism to the Worldwide Leader In Sports and back to community journalism,” Deckert observes.


Founded in 1909, the Society of Professional Journalists is widely considered the nation's preeminent journalism organization. The Connecticut SPJ Chapter was established in 1966.


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LIST OF TODAY MAGAZINE’S AWARDS


Society of Professional Journalists

Connecticut SPJ Chapter • Magazine division


Here’s the rundown of Today Magazine’s 12 awards from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in 2022 — seven first-place, three second-place and two third-place honors. Awards are listed by category, starting with the team award and continuing in alphabetical order by the award-winner’s last name.


Today Magazine editor Bruce Deckert won an SPJ award for this cover layout — photo courtesy of Dana Albrycht

FIRST PLACE — seven awards

• 7 first-place awards for Today Magazine

• 11 first-place writing awards overall — thanks to the team-effort Reporting Series award


Reporting Series — First Place

• Naviah Barrow, Bruce Deckert, Katherine Napier, Lisa G. Samia, Sarah Thompson, Terri Wilson

Dream Teamwork – MLK’s Vision Still Beckons

Via a series of articles, the February 2021 edition of Today Magazine addresses the status of Dr. Martin Luther King’s racial-equity dream here in the Farmington Valley and beyond


• Naviah Barrow — Grateful for Inclusion, Hoping for Growth in Tolerance

• Bruce Deckert — As Valley Leaders Seek Better Racial Equity, MLK’s Vision Still Beckons

Bruce Deckert — White Coats For Black Lives: Med Students Take Stand

• Katherine Napier — Unique Memorial Celebrates MLK’s Work in Valley

• Lisa G. Samia — Weapon of John Wilkes Booth Traces to Valley

• Sarah Thompson — ShopBlackCT Listing Grows Sevenfold

• Terri Wilson — Black Soldier Answered Lincoln’s Civil War Invite


Education — First Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

Simple as ABC: College Prep Program Helps Students Excel


Investigative — First Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

Face to Face with the Greatest Generation


Page 1 Layout — First Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

River’s Reality Enriches Valley

• Photo by Rick Warters


Sports Feature — First Place

• Nishant Gopalachar • Today Magazine

Okwandu Relishes Recollection of UConn Title


COVID News — First Place

• Katherine Napier • Today Magazine

COVID Shutdown: What Worked, What Didn’t

• Editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert contributed to this story


Diversity Coverage — First Place

• Katherine Napier • Today Magazine

Unique Memorial Celebrates MLK’s Work in Valley


SECOND PLACE — three awards


Courts/Crime — Second Place

• Odalys Bekanich • Today Magazine

Cuba to Connecticut: Immigrant’s Journey Leads to Diverse Career Path


Business — Second Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

In The Black: Innovative ShopBlackCT Seeks Better Business Equity


Local Reporting — Second Place

• Samantha Lewis • Today Magazine

Coyotes Calling: Eastern Coyote Research Captures Imagination


THIRD PLACE — two awards


In-Depth — Third Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

From Vietnam to Snow Patrol: Air Force Vet Endures Vietnam War, Caps Career in Alaska


Page 1 Layout — Third Place

• Bruce Deckert • Today Magazine

Fame and the Forrest Gump Effect

• Photo courtesy of Dana Albrycht


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Bruce Deckert — Brief Bio

Bruce William Deckert is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Today Magazine. He has worked in the media realm for 25-plus years, including 17 years as an editor for ESPN.com and ESPN Digital Media, and three years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Connecticut for the Journal Register Company (JRC).


In 1996, Deckert began his post-college journalism career at the Post — not the New York or Washington outfits, but the Wethersfield Post in Connecticut. The Post was part of the former Imprint Newspapers group, then owned by the JRC, that produced distinct weekly papers for four Valley towns and seven other towns in Greater Hartford.


Deckert has been a resident of Simsbury since 1995. Born in Newark, N.J., he was raised in Bloomfield and Plainfield — in New Jersey, not their namesakes in Connecticut. He graduated from Gordon College (Wenham, Mass.) and Plainfield (N.J.) High School.


While in college, Deckert undertook his first professional journalism role via a cooperative education (aka co-op) placement at the Salem Evening News in Massachusetts — now the Salem News — where he was assistant to the city editor. The college co-op model is essentially a full-time paid internship.


His very first journalism experience was in New Jersey in high school — he served as co-editor of the Plainfield High newspaper. Yet neither Deckert nor his high school newspaper associates ever won an SPJ award as students.


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• Related Story from 2021 — 9 more SPJ awards for Today Magazine


Today Magazine covers the heart of Connecticut's Farmington Valley — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury


CT SPJ Awards Announcement + List of Award-Winners

Source — Society of Professional Journalists: Connecticut Chapter

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