Ryan Uytdewilligen took home gold at the Ma Murray Awards on Thursday night – handed out by the B.C. & Yukon Community News Media Association.
The former Langley Advance Times reporter (now Aldergrove Star editor) won the arts and culture writing accolade for his weekly music feature, Friday Afternoon Tunes.
Over a span of several months, the project highlighted multiple talented artists and profiled a number of different music genres that were live-streamed every Friday – accompanied with a feature story in print.
“It was great getting to know different local musicians. People were eager to share their talents and we got a lot of great interest and feedback from viewers who looked forward to the entertainment during the early part of the pandemic,” Uytdewilligen explained.
In his acceptance speech, Uytdewilligen thanked publisher Lisa Farquharson and editor Roxanne Hooper for their leadership, and dedicated the award to musician Kellen Saip, who passed away in late 2020. He had participated in the feature and performed a medley of original country-blues songs.
This was Uytdewilligen’s first nomination and first win at the Ma Murrays.
“It was an honour and I looked forward to physically getting to attend the ceremony – which I had heard so much about from co-workers – in the future,” he added.
Reporter Matthew Claxton picked up silver for Best Columnist – an award highlighting his column Painful Truth.
The bi-weekly column has been running for 15 years, which Claxton said began on a whim when a column was abruptly needed for an upcoming issue.
He has been nominated in that particular category several times in the past, but Claxton noted the silver was a step up from where he’s previously placed.
“It was for When This is Over…,” Claxton explained, a Painful Truth installment published in April 2020 that aimed to highlight what readers had to look forward to after COVID-19.
READ MORE: Painful Truth: When this is over…
“It couldn’t come out now. It was a point made for the moment when it was a rough time and no talk of vaccines. Now that there’s actual hope. It’s a little different,” Claxton said.
He felt people responded well to the column, which prompted positive social media feedback from the community – including a published letter from one particularly moved reader.
Claxton previously earned a Ma Murray Award for Recreation Writing; tackling the topic of biking through a series of columns that tied in with the Ride for MS.
“It was called Gearing Up,” Claxton recalled. “I hadn’t ridden a bike in a few years and bought one for the column. It focused on the embarrassment and struggles of getting back into biking.”
Overall, Claxton was pleased with how the evening went.
“It went great. It was free of tech problems. Good papers won, and it’s always nice to see nominated photos and learn new feature ideas,” he said.
READ MORE: B.C. peers shortlist Langley Advance Times for industry accolades
The Langley Advance Times was additionally nominated for the Newspaper Excellence Award and a Special Section Award for Heroes in Education.
The Ma Murray Awards, hosted for almost a century, recognize the achievements of the association’s 93 member newspapers and digital sites in British Columbia and Yukon, which includes a number of Black Press Media outlets.
The ceremony was rescheduled from late-April to June 10 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the awards typically takes place at the River Rock Casino, virtual means allowed for nominees to connect via Zoom.
Hosted by comedian Erica Sigurdson and BCYCNA general manager George Affleck, various sponsors announced the nominations while winners were able to give an acceptance speech.
Margaret “Ma” Murray, for whom the awards are named in honour of, was one of the most tenacious and outspoken figures in Canadian journalism. She began her career in the 1930s, when she became one of B.C.’s first female newspaper publishers.
Through her paper, the Bridge River-Lillooet News, she became known throughout this province as a forthright and outspoken critic of various topics of the day.
In 2001, the BCYCNA changed the name, Better Newspapers Competition, to honour Ma.