The West Milford Messenger won two New Jersey Press Association awards this week, including first place for coverage of crime, police and courts, and second place in the Lloyd P. Burns Memorial Award for Public Service. Both awards were won with the three-part series, the Heroin Epidemic, written by West Milford Messenger Managing Editor Linda Smith Hancharick.

Commenting on the series, the judges for the Crime, Police and Courts category called the stories compelling, sympathetic and excellent coverage.

"Compelling stories about a growing addiction problem in the country," noted the judges. "The stories are personal and sympathetic to the issues that addiction creates. The information boxes provide additional context. Excellent coverage."

The Heroin Epidemic series included three separate stories on the effects of the growing use of opioids, first with a West Milford Police detective doing his part to help addicts, next with a young man in Morris County jail for crimes related to his drug use, and finally with a young man in recovery turning his life around.

"The purpose of our series was, first, to open the eyes of many who feel this problem cannot touch them, and second, give parents and guardians the heads up on what to notice in their own households. We wanted to let our readers know that help is out there for them," Smith Hancharick explained in the cover letter to the judges.

Commenting on the awards, Publisher Jeanne Straus said: "We're incredibly pleased that the judges of the New Jersey Press Association recognized the excellent reporting and public service The West Milford Messenger provides each week under the leadership of its editor, Linda Smith Hancharick."

The West Milford Messenger is one of nine weekly newspapers published by Straus News in Sussex and Passaic counties, Orange County, New York and Pike County, Pennsylvania.

To read the award-winning stories, go to,,