TORONTO — Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press was named as the country’s best columnist at the National Newspaper Awards Friday night in Toronto.

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TORONTO — Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press was named as the country’s best columnist at the National Newspaper Awards Friday night in Toronto. 

Martin was recognized at a gala dinner for her sharp and delicate prose that shone brightly in three columns last year. One touched on how the nation reacted to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie’s battle with brain cancer. The second was about the march for pride in small town Manitoba. And the third was about insights surrounding the right to die

"I am beyond honoured. I don’t always believe in myself, but I am so grateful that readers and editors and the National Newspaper Awards judges believe in me," said Martin. "I started 17 years ago because I wanted to tell Winnipeg’s stories. The fact that this is recognized on a national stage is humbling."

Free Press editor Paul Samyn praised Martin as a unique talent who delivers perspective, passion and personality with every column.  

"Melissa is a wonderful story telling talent that we are so lucky to be able to share with our readers, " Samyn said. 

The Free Press was also honoured as a finalist in two other categories.

Randy Turner was nominated in the arts and entertainment category for a collaboration with photographer John Woods. The duo used the upcoming launch of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre — which will house the world’s largest collection — to travel north to Nunavut to investigate the roots of the art form.

Turner was also a finalist in the sports category for a series of articles that showcased the importance of hockey in Manitoba

"The journalism that Melissa, Randy and John delivered in 2016 are all part of our newsroom’s efforts to ensure Free Press readers are rewarded every time they read us in print or online," Samyn said. "I’m so proud that what their work has been recognized as among the top tier or journalism in this country."

The Globe and Mail won 11 of the 21 categories with the newspaper’s Mark MacKinnon named 2016 Journalist of the Year.

MacKinnon was chosen for his report on the Syrian teenagers who sparked the Syrian war, Britain’s referendum on the European Union, the attempted coup in Turkey, and the period of instability that is gripping the world.

The Toronto Star won two awards, and seven other news organizations — The Canadian Press, the Kingston Whig-Standard, the National ObserverLa Presse, the Toronto Sun, the Calgary Herald/Calgary Sun, and Fort McMurray Today/Edmonton Journal/Edmonton Sun — won one each.

The Globe won in a variety of categories, including Beat Reporting, International, Investigations, Long Feature, and Editorial Cartooning.

— staff with files from The Canadian Press