Express staff earns journalism awards

LOCK HAVEN –Three members of The Express editorial staff received Keystone Press Awards for their work in 2018.

The awards are from the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association and the Pennsylvania Associated Press Media Editors (PAPME) representing daily, weekly and specialty newspapers and other print and online media in Pennsylvania.

The awards were presented during the annual Pennsylvania Press Conference in May.

Express photographer and graphic designer Sarah Smeltz took two top prizes for a photograph, “Dancing in the Rain,” which captured a young couple dancing on Main Street during the LH Jams Festival in downtown Lock Haven last summer.

It wasn’t raining when the couple began dancing, but as the rain clouds burst, they continued to dance in the heavy rain. Smeltz was on the spot and came away with the romantic, award-winning photo.

Smeltz’s photo took first place in the Feature Photo Division in the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association contest and in the Best Feature Photo Division of the Pennsylania Associated Press Media Editors contest.

Express Managing Editor Lana Muthler and Reporter Laura Jameson received a second place award for Best General News Reporting in the PAPME contest.

Muthler and Jameson were recognized for their extensive daily news coverage of a two-week murder trial of Lloyd Groves, who ultimately was convicted of killing Kathy Heckel in a local cold case dating back to 1991.

The two sat in the courthouse from the time jury selection began through Groves’ conviction and sentencing to 10-20 years in state prison for third-degree murder.

The trial saw the large courtroom in the Clinton County Courthouse filled each day as many remembered the day Heckel disappeared in July 1991.

Groves wasn’t arrested until Jan. 20, 2015, even though he remained a prime suspect since her disappearance.

Groves remained in the Clinton County Correctional Facility without bail until his trial began in November 2018. It had been delayed numerous times, once when Groves underwent open heart surgery after a heart attack.

With their extensive news stories, Muthler and Jameson put Express readers right beside them in the courthouse as they sat through hours of testimony from dozens of witnesses, producing detailed daily stories and photos, some containing new information not presented before.

“These awards are the reflection of hard work … period,” said Bob Rolley, Express publisher. “Our entire staff can take credit, too, as the work requires a team effort to produce information and value for our readers and advertisers.”

The Express has won many similar awards in the past as it competes against newspapers more than twice its size.

The Keystone Press Awards “reinforce excellence by individuals in the news media profession by recognizing journalism that consistently provides relevance, integrity and initiative in serving readers, and faithfully fulfills the press’ 1st Amendment rights and responsibilities,” the PNA says. Further, the Keystone Press Awards “stimulate journalists to improve their craft and ultimately improve their community.”