Smithfield Times publisher wins VPA’s Mims Award for editorial leadership

Published 5:18 pm Friday, April 29, 2022

Smithfield Times Publisher Steve Stewart won the Virginia Press Association’s 2021 D. Lathan Mims Award for Editorial Leadership.

Presented for work published during the 2021 calendar year, the award is named for the late D. Lathan Mims, a former editor and general manager of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg and a former president of the Virginia Press Association.

The award was presented April during the association’s virtual 2021 News and Advertising Best in Show presentation.

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The judge commented that Stewart’s bio paints a picture of an entrepreneur whose writing reveals a deep passion to understand the communities that his newspapers serve, and a desire to promote greater understanding among the people who live in them.

“The evidence for that lies in his columns, which are, quite simply, a joy to read. The more I read of Stewart’s writing, the more I thought that he was a man out of time — that he would actually have fit in more comfortably with the America of the late 19th century, Mark Twain’s time, where the pace was slower, and people took the time get to know, talk with and listen to their neighbors,” the judge wrote. “That’s what Stewart does with his columns — he talks with his neighbors — it’s a conversation, and it is clear in his writing that he cares about them, their communities and their well-being.”

The judge added, “Stewart tackles the tough topics including equity, inclusion, race relations, academic freedom, parents’ rights without straying from a reasoned tone, and doesn’t stop asking people to listen and appealing to what President Abraham Lincoln memorably called their ‘better angels.’”

The award was established to memorialize Mims’ conviction that newspapers and their editors should be active, caring parts of the communities they serve. He believed that a newspaper should support those things which would make a community a better place in which to live and oppose those things which detract from the quality of life.

Entries are judged on skill in writing, clarity of position, fairness in handling of the issues, appropriate use of pertinent facts, and vision of the community’s needs, both present and future.

“Good commentary writing is made possible by an interesting community, its people and institutions,” Stewart said of Isle of Wight and Surry. “I am humbled to join a distinguished list of prior Mims Award winners, including Times Publisher Emeritus John Edwards, whose columns and editorials have long set a high bar in Virginia.”

Edwards has won the award a record seven times since it was established in 1986.

Stewart succeeded Edwards as owner and publisher of The Smithfield Times in 2019.