Sussex County — The New Jersey Press Association announced winners of its 2017 Better Newspaper Contest this past week. The Advertiser News North took first place wins and The Sparta Independent won a second place award.Reporter Erika Norton earned the three awards for published pieces in Straus News’ Sussex County newspapers.Norton has consistently covered the burgeoning opioid epidemic in the region. In December, Straus News sent her to the Poynter Institute’s multi-day workshop in Chicago entitled “Covering the Opioid Crisis.” For the second year in a row, the New Jersey Press Association recognized Norton’s reporting on the subject. This year she took second place in the highly-competitive “Responsible Journalism/Public Service” category for pieces published in The Sparta Independent: “U.S. cities grappling with opioid crisis considering new approach,” “What to do if a friend has a problem with drug abuse,” and “Twelve Sussex County overdoses in less than a week.”Norton earned first place in the “Coverage of Crime” category for The Advertiser News’ articles: “Anti-Semitic graffiti found at diner days before Rosh Hashanah” and its follow-up piece, “We have proven that hate has no place here.” Multiple judges commented that the stories made them care about the community, despite not being from the area. On the other end of the spectrum, Norton also took home first place in the “Best Multimedia Element,” category for a video she shot and edited for The Advertiser News. The video, “Living Tiny,” featured a bus-turned-tiny-home on display at the New Jersey Tiny Home Festival. Judges commented that it was a “fun video that compliments the written story.”“We’re really proud to bring such high-quality reporting to our readers, and congratulate Erika on her fine writing and reporting ” said publisher Jeanne Straus.