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From left, Jamie Shell and Jeff Eason receive their 2013 NCPA Editorial Contest awards during
the Mountain Times Publications’ Employee of the Quarter celebration last Thursday.
Photo by Sam Calhoun

Originally published: 2014-04-03 09:23:30
Last modified: 2014-04-03 09:24:15

Jeff Eason, Jamie Shell win NC Press Association awards

The Mountain Times has received a 2013 North Carolina Press Association Editorial Award in the "Best Niche Publication" category for its annual Autumn Times publication. 

Two other members of the Mountain Times Publications family won 2013 NCPA editorial awards. Both Jamie Shell of The Avery Journal-Times and Jeff Eason of The Blowing Rocket were honored by the North Carolina Press Association for their newspaper writing skills. 

Shell won second place in the sports columns category for his column "Call to the Pen" and Eason won second place in the profile feature category for his story "Hiking Blind" about Trevor Thomas, who hiked the Mountains-to-Sea Trail with his guide dog, Tennille, last year.

"I always want to first give God the glory," Shell said. "He has blessed me richly, and anything I do is worthless without his influence.

"It's truly an honor and a thrill any time one's efforts are recognized, especially by your peer group. I'm truly humbled and blessed to work with a great team at The Avery Journal-Times and fortunate to have strong working relationships among sports coaches and personnel in Avery County and elsewhere. 

"This award might have my name listed as recipient, but it is only possible with the help of countless others who make what myself and other writers do possible."

The NCPA award was Shell's fourth since joining The Avery Journal-Times. 

"My favorite stories to write are the ones about colorful characters or people accomplishing things out of the ordinary," Eason said. "Interviewing Trevor Thomas, a hiker passing through Blowing Rock on his attempt to be the first blind person to hike the entire Mountains-to-Sea Trail, was definitely a way of doing both." 

"I try to keep my ear to the ground for stories that are outside the 'press release' realm, and I depend on a large network of friends and colleagues for tips. Carol Rifkin of Asheville and I had done some National Public Radio work together a few years back and she emailed me to tell me that Thomas was hiking the trail and would soon be passing through Blowing Rock," he said. 

"As luck would have it, a powerful spring thunderstorm forced Thomas off of the trail for a day and I was able to interview him at my leisure at his hotel room in Blowing Rock. I felt truly honored to be able to share his story with the readers of The Blowing Rocket." 

Thomas successfully accomplished his bid to be the first blind hiker to complete the Mountains-to-Sea Trail when he arrived at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk in the summer of 2013. 

The NCPA award was Eason's fourth. He previously won three awards for stories and columns published in The Mountain Times.