The only thing left to say is that there’s room for improvement – but not much. For the first time in its 16-year history, the Nation was nominated as a finalist for the Best Overall Newspaper at this year’s Quebec Community Newspaper Association awards… and came second.

The second-place honours in the most prestigious category of the annual QCNA awards gala, held May 22 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Montreal and hosted by Global TV news anchor Jamie Orchard, touched off loud celebrations from the assembled Nation staff. The announcement included a compliment from the category judge for the paper’s “balanced journalism.” It capped a loud and raucous evening that included three first-place awards going to Nation writers and a total of nine awards and honours overall.

It was also a banner night for former Nation reporter Steve Bonspiel, now the owner and editor of Kahnawake’s Eastern Door newspaper. Bonspiel won the Bob Phillips Award for Best Editorial (General) for his Nation opinion piece on sentencing guidelines for Native offenders. He also picked up first-place honours in the Investigative Reporting category for an article in the Eastern Door.

Bonspiel’s hat trick was completed when he was bestowed the QCNA’s Lyndsay Chrysler Award, which is “presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the community newspaper industry.” It’s quite an achievement for someone who has most of his career still in front of him, but it also demonstrates how well the Nation serves as a proving ground for young and aspiring journalists.

This was borne out by the first-place prizes for two other recent additions to the Nation’s writing staff. Amy German won top honours for the Best Agricultural Story; her article, “The war on pigs,” about the proposal for a massive industrial hog farm near Chapais, was called a “shining example of good journalism” by the category judge. Meanwhile, Jedidat Matoush’s article on diamond mine pollution was picked as the year’s Best Environmental Story for, as the judge wrote, “its quality reporting, and for leaving no stone unturned.”

A special recognition was reserved for the Nation’s publisher and finance director Linda Ludwick, who was awarded the Canadian Community Newspapers Association’s Bronze Quill Award for her long service to the Nation. Indeed, without her business acumen, the history of a people over the past decade and a half would be left unwritten.

In other categories: Martin Siberok grabbed second place in the Best Arts & Entertainment Story category; graphic designer Richard Lawson’s work picked up second prize in the Best Ad slot; Xavier Kataquapit was third for Best Column Writing; and, finally, the Nation came third for the Best Feature Page.