The staff at the Rio Rancho Observer had a good Saturday night, racking up eight awards from the New Mexico Press Association during its annual convention at the Sheraton Albuquerque Airport Hotel.

The staff won multiple awards in breaking news categories. It was a sweep of first and second place in the Breaking News category (print only) with editor Tracy Goldizen taking first place for “SWAT activated in Rio Rancho.” Judges’ comments were, “Good shoe-leather reporting digging up not only information on the prior arrest of the subject, but gathering comments from a source questioning the police’s narrative and casting the situation in a different light.”

Gary Herron, sports editor and staff writer, placed second in the category for “Teen woke dad to fatally shoot him.”

Tracy Goldizen - Rio Rancho Observer Editor

Tracy Goldizen

Goldizen also placed first in the Breaking News – Digital category for “UPDATE: 23-year-old killed in altercation with police.” Comments read, “Nice follow-through and updates.”  The digital category includes online, social media posts and text alerts as part of the coverage.

She claimed other individual awards, including first place in the Editorials category for “Calls for book ban step on First Amendment;” and first place in the Explanation of New Operations or Newspaper for “There’s more to reporting than the rumor mill.”

Judges’ comments on the editorial stated, “Defending the First Amendment is Job One for a community newspaper. While the topic chosen to write about in this case — the idea of a book ban at a public library — seems like an obvious target for a newspaper to tackle, doing so in a clear, succinct manner sticking only to the facts of the case gives the argument more weight.”

In the explanation category, comments were, “Some good information on requiring confirmation of social media reports before the paper can report it. It’s amazing how people just don’t get that.”

Observer Sports Editor Gary Herron

Herron also picked up second place for Best Sports Coverage, with judging criteria listed as depth of local news coverage, style, layout and readability.

The staff, including Goldizen, Herron, and staff writers Michaela Helean and Kevin Hendricks,  picked up two group awards: second for Best News Coverage and second for Best Website, Comments were only available from the website category, reading “The ‘Top Stories’ section provides a strong entry point into the best (or most visual) five stories of the day.”

The judging criteria for Best News Coverage included depth of news coverage in the community, style, layout and readability. Criteria in the website category included design, advertising, functionality, content, speed and ease of navigation and impact on the local market.

The Observer competes in the Weekly Class I division, which includes newspapers that publish three times a week or less with a circulation of at least 6,000.

The Arizona Newspaper Association served as judges for the 2023 NMPA contest.