Oak Ridger’s news editor wins first ‘Making Democracy Work’ award

Donna Smith, news editor of The Oak Ridger, recently received the first “Making Democracy Work” award from the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge. She was presented with the award at the competition’s 2024 annual meeting and program on May 21, following a dinner at the DoubleTree Hotel in Oak Ridge.

According to an article in “The Voter,” the local league’s monthly newsletter, “This annual award is presented to an individual, individuals or organization that has demonstrated committed and visionary leadership that strengthens democracy in our communities through positive change.

“In the spirit of the League, this leadership will be nonpartisan, collaborative, and responsive to the needs of all members of our diverse community with equity and inclusivity.

‘Democracy works when voters are informed.

“An important source of vital information about the state of a community, its problems and possible solutions can be found in the local community newspaper. Unbiased and well-written news articles promote understanding and critical thinking,” the league said in the article.

League board member Carol Plasil presented the award to Smith after noting that hundreds of hometown newspapers with print editions have closed and the remaining papers are in danger. She added that when a community’s newspaper goes bankrupt, the city risks losing its AAA credit rating and causing possible increases in corruption and property taxes.

An award-winning writer and editor, Smith is a 38-year veteran of the news industry. A native of Anderson County, she graduated with a communications/journalism degree from the University of Tennessee and a liberal arts degree from Roane State Community College.

Her roots in the community run deep: She was a reporter for Lake City, Anderson County and Oak Ridge. In these beats she has covered all aspects of city and county government, hard news, events, local crimes, schools and local colleges.

Smith has been recognized with numerous awards in her field. She has received individual writing awards from the Tennessee Press Association, Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors and Tennessee School Boards Association for deadline reporting, feature writing and personal columns. In recent years, she has also been part of The Oak Ridger’s winning staff for awards in makeup, editing and overall newspaper product.

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