wins national award for writing

Clifton Barnes, the owner of, has won a national award for writing for a series of articles on the website. has now won awards four years in a row.

The series of articles revolves around former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith won an Award of Excellence from the DC area-based Communications Concepts through its 2016 Awards for Publication Excellence competition.

John De Lellis of Communications Concepts says competition was intense as there were more than 1,600 entries with seven winners in the Writing Series category. Barnes was the only winner in the category from North Carolina or the South.

The columns, which appear on Barnes’ sports website, address Smith’s life, death and funeral.

Judges appreciated the unique insight Barnes had from when he was a student journalist at UNC and his ability to lead readers through a range of emotions from tears to laughter.

In one column, Barnes told about how Smith was committed to the student body at UNC and how that extended to him as a writer for the student newspaper.

Barnes wrote, “Even though one would think I was a bother as a whipper-snapper budding journalist, Coach Smith took time to answer my questions when he wouldn’t talk to anyone else. He allowed me into practice when he would allow no other journalists. He even let me travel with the team to various games, including the national championship game.”

The winning entries can be accessed by going to and scrolling down to a section on the left titled “Dean Smith.” Articles from media outlets and sports teams in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area are featured on the website along with videos, tweets and original sports commentary.

Barnes, who has won more than 70 journalism awards, served as director of communications for the N.C. Bar Association from 1987 to 2002 and, before that, was a newspaper writer and editor.

Today he is a freelance writer, editor and Web developer who owns several websites including In 2016, he completed a book on the University of North Carolina’s Order of the Bell Tower. Barnes is also credited with the idea for the Town of Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award, given each year since 2009 to honor those who promote small town values.

Barnes, a native of Rocky Mount who has lived in Cary since 1996, is a UNC-Chapel Hill journalism and political science grad. Along with his wife Andrea, he raises their 10-year-old son Will Griffin.

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