Inland Newsroom, Digital Journalism Contests reflect an abundance of quality journalism

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Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 1:10 pm, Tue May 14, 2013.

Recording tragedy and triumph, shining a spotlight on shortcomings or success, the reporters, photographers, graphic artists, digital journalists and editors who contended in Inland's 2012 Newsroom Contests demonstrated anew that quality newspaper journalism is flourishing across the nation.

Winners and runners-up in the six contests—this year the Digital Journalism Contest joined the other five instead of being conducted at a separate time—all reflected the passion and convictions of newsrooms that are not a all distracted by wrong-headed notions that they are an endangered species. Indeed, these newspapers are embracing all manner of technology and media platforms in the service of journalism’s fundamental mission—impactful storytelling.

The contests also recognized that quality newspaper journalism can make a real difference in its community. In honoring the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in the Community Leadership Award, for instance, the judges said its coverage of heroin use by local young people was a tough topic to tackle, but that “this series will no doubt save lives.

What follows are the results of the contests, each of which is co-sponsored and judged by a university school of journalism. The comments below the entries are from the judges. Some have been edited for space. Each of the contests was co-sponsored and judged by a university school of journalism.

Entries in four contests were judged within their circulation range, in these classes:

Class A: Less than 10,000 circulation

Class B: 10,000-25,000 circulation

Class C: 25,001-75,000 circulation

Class D: More than 75,000 circulation

Community Leadership Award

Missouri School of Journalism, University of Missouri

Class A: Putnam County (Ohio) Sentinel

The Putnam County Sentinel took its reporting to another level after a flood devastated the village of Ottawa, Ohio in 2007. The paper’s staff has created a community partnership with civic, government and business leaders to make sure that such a tragedy will not happen again. The editor, Marlena Ballinger, has turned the paper’s website into a place where everyone goes to read the latest news about threatening weather and the steps that government is taking to prevent flooding. The newspaper is a weekly, but the weather and the website have made the Sentinel into a daily. And the hard work has attracted many, many new readers.

Class B: No winner

Class C: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The power of a second chance at life is illustrated in story after story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Complete with engaging photos and story telling, writers and photographers take readers on a journey that includes a doctor with one arm, a wounded owl, a cancer survivor and two friends who saved a life. Many newspapers… raise money for charity. But few give as much hope to a city as this wonderful series.

Honorable Mention: The Villages (Fla.) Daily Sun

The Villages Daily Sun created a unique food drive that went far beyond normal community events. The publication set up a competition between area schools during College Colors Day, an event that kicks off the football season. With combined help from both advertising and editorial, the food drive was so successful that pantries were stocked in all three counties served by the paper. There are many food drives, but the unique factor was engaging students and playing on their natural competitiveness.

Class D: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Through its editorial pages and coverage on the news pages, the Daily Herald has shed light on a subject that most would ignore: Heroin deaths among promising young people. The continuing series points to an amazing number of deaths from the drug, the lives left behind and the ways that the community is trying to cope. It is difficult but important reading for any parent or any child in Arlington Heights. This series will no doubt save lives.

Editorial Excellence

William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Kansas

Class A

1st: Daily Star Journal, Warrensburg, Mo.

Simply put, on-target and well-written commentaries on issues—everything from the city manager form of government to an anti-smoking assessment. All are issues intimately affecting the local community, and all the editorials are backed-up with supporting evidence. Always concise and to-the-point.

2nd: Half Moon Bay (Calif.) Review

Well-written editorials, hitting close to center of the target with clear advice and good word choice.

3rd: Owatonna (Minn.) People’s Press

When dealing with real issues, it’s dead on. Tributes were somewhat wordy and less-focused. Nevertheless, strong overall.

Class B

1st: The Gazette, Janesville, Wis.

Clear and informative; strongly local focus on issues directly affecting the newspaper’s constituency.

2nd: Ames (Iowa) Tribune

Well-written and to the point, though calls to action could be stronger.

3rd: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne

Well-written, for the most part, but some “vague” portions, particularly in the longer entry.

Class C

1st: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News

All short but strongly focused with clear messages for the targets of the issues. Great endings that hit to the heart of the issue.

2nd: The State, Columbia, S.C.

Overall, extremely well-written and always supported by facts. But most calls to action fall (too?) softly.

3rd: Sioux City (Iowa) Journal

For the most part, writing that went to the “gut” with some strong anecdotal leads.

Class D

1st: Omaha World-Herald

Good leads and strong, clear stands on the issues with good background and illumination.

2nd: The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

All well-written with strong supporting evidence, though some relatively “soft” endings.

3rd: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

A laudable effort. While having six editorials over six days is a way to punctuate the issue, not sure it took a lot more words than needed to make the point

Sweepstakes winner:

Daily Star Journal, Warrensburg, Mo.

Local News Writing Awards

School of Journalism and Telecommunications, University of Kentucky


Class A: No winners

Class B

1st: Ames (Iowa) Tribune

"Problematic partnerships"

Hannah Furfaro, reporter

2nd: Rio Grande Sun, Espanola, N.M.

"Want to commit a felony? Try Northern N.M."

Lou Mattei, news editor

3rd: No winner

Class C

1st: The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

"Risky Business"

Rick Smith, reporter

2nd: No winner

3rd: No winner

Class D

1st: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

"Suburban Tax Watchdog series"

Jake Griffin, staff writer

2nd: Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh

"Chinese firms find aid in U.S. markets"

Lou Kilzer, reporter

3rd:Toledo (Ohio) Blade

"Three housing executives put on leave"

Tony Cook and Claudia Boyd-Barrett, reporters


Class A

1st: Havre (Mont.) Daily News

"Promise and peril"

Tim Leeds, reporter

2nd: Gaylord (Mich.) Herald Times

"Remembering the 1937 Flint sit-down strike"

Lorene Parshall, staff writer

3rd: Owatonna (Minn.) People's Press

"A holiday without hope"

Jeffrey Jackson, reporter

Class B

1st: Ames (Iowa) Tribune

"Tuition aid programs get closer look"

Hannah Furfaro, reporter

Andy Rohrback, graphic artist/designer

2nd: Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle

"A boom in Blossom"

Jonathan Bilyk, reporter

3rd: The Gazette, Janesville, Wisc.

"Changing Face of America"

Anna Marie Lux, columnist

Class C

1st:The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

"Von Maur deal actually worth $16 million"

Gregg Hennigan, reporter

2nd: Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa

"Somebody's watching you"

Andy Piper, reporter

3rd: No winner

Class D

1st: Toledo (Ohio) Blade

"Local solar company got loans despite money woes"

Kris Turner, reporter

2nd: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

"Big raises, big pensions"

Mike Riopell, state government writer

3rd: The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.

"The surreal day the bank failed"

Sherry Slater, reporter


Class A

1st: Havre (Mont.) Daily News

"Train kids"

Zach White, reporter

2nd: Cortez (Colo.) Journal

"Give the kid a hand"

Dale Shrull, editor

3rd: Paulding County (Ohio) Progress

"Jimmy Miller retires and returns from Washington"

Nancy Whitaker, staff writer

Class B

1st: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne

"A life interrupted"

Ian St. Clair, reporter

2nd: The Messenger, Ft. Dodge, Iowa

"Shellabration VP is chauffeur to rock icons"

Bill Shea, reporter

3rd: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne

"A Big Night at Big Country"

Josh Rhoten, reporter

Class C

1st: The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

"Fall from grace"

Erin Jordan, reporter

2nd: The Villages (Fla.) Daily Sun

"Churn and the Dodger magic"

Steve Trivett, reporter

3rd: The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain

"She once was lost …"

Steve Hanson, reporter

Matt Lubich, The Johnson Breeze

Class D

1st: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

"White like me"

Burt Constable, Suburban Stories writer

2nd: Omaha World Herald

"Miss Spors' War"

Matthew Hansen, reporter

3rd: The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.

"Blackjack, love and a motorcycle"

Archie Ingersoll, reporter

News Picture Contest

School of Journalism, Indiana University

All circulation sizes were judged in the following categories:


Overall judges comments:

Claude Cookman and J. Bruce Baumann judged the Photography class. The judging was open to the public, so over the course of the two-hour event, about two dozen students got to listen to the judges debate the photographic merits of the more than 400 images submitted. The judges were impressed by the quality of the news category in particular and noted that staff photographers had been especially innovative in their coverage of continuing issue news. They thought the portrait category was also strong, but that many photographers needed to have pushed beyond first impressions to get more intimate images. They also mentioned that in all categories, cropping was not as close and careful as it might have been and that moments with strong impact were lessened by extraneous elements in many entries.

Picture Story

1st: Alyssa Schukar, Omaha World-Herald, "Ranch Ritual Endures"

2nd: Nick Krug, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World , "Life Without Mom"

3rd: Justin Merriman & Stephanie Strasburg, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, "Life in Cuba"


1st: Alyssa Schukar, Omaha World-Herald, "Cattle on the Loose"

2nd: Miranda Grubbs, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne, "Queens clinic"

3rd: Mike Yoder, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, "Trooper Christmas."

Honorable Mention: Jeremy Portje, Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, "Cool Down"


1st: Kim Kim Foster-Tobin, The State, Columbia, S.C., "Step-up campaign"

2nd: Bryan Kelsen, Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain, "Michelle Obama visit"

3rd: Jeff Beiermann, Omaha World-Herald, "Harvest After Flood"

Honorable Mention: Dave Zapotosky, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, "Walk of Shame"


1st: Matt Miller, Omaha World-Herald, "Duck Hunter"

2nd: (tie) Andrew Russell, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Protester debates"

2nd: (tie) Michael Smith, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne, "Getting ready"


1st: Nirmalendu Majumdar, Ames (Iowa) Tribune, "Phillies Little League"

2nd: Nick Krug, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, "Kansas-NC State"

3rd: Gerry Melendez, The State, Columbia, S.C. "USC-VMI"

Honorable Mention: Christopher Horner, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Helping head"



1st: The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind. "Missing girl dead"

2nd: Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, "Daddy's home!"

3rd: The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind. "Fury, in the heat of frustration"


1st: The State, Columbia, S.C., "It runs in the family"

2nd: Omaha World-Herald, "Ranch ritual endures"

3rd: The State, Columbia, S.C., "I love you, Peggy"


1st: The State, Columbia, S.C. "In rare company"

2nd: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne, "Outstanding in her field"

3rd: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne, "Lassoed by the lens"

Multiple Pages

1st: Omaha World-Herald, "Wild Woolly Rodeo"

2nd: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne, Wyoming "A life interrupted"

3rd: The State, Columbia, S.C., "Super Saturday"


Overall judges comments:

Steve Layton and Jim Kelly judged the Picture Use and Multimedia classes. They were impressed by the size of strong photos run to report on major events and said the winners demonstrated good use of quality visual reporting using both single and multiple images on a page. In several cases, the key attribute of the winning entries was the close connection between images. They too saw too many entries that suffered from loose crops, however. The multimedia pieces varied greatly in quality. The winners showed care in image editing and matching audio and visual content to produce a cohesive whole.

1st: Nick Krug, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, "Moving On After Mom"

2nd: Mike Yoder, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, "Civil War Re-enactors"

3rd: Gerry Melendez, The State, Columbia, S.C., "The Wrestler"

Honorable Mention: Mike Day, Telegraph Herald, "River Fishing"


Class A

1st: Half Moon Bay (Calif.) Review

Consistently good writing and reporting to back up a handsomely designed newspaper. Generally plays good art well, regardless of its source. Reporting is solid, with staff clearly asking follow-up questions and adding important context, even in feature stories. The mix of topics, from government to schools to business to personality pieces, is quite good, and controversial issues get played on page 1 in a manner that seems in proportion to their importance

2nd: Buffalo (Wyo.) Bulletin

Very good mix of stories on each individual front page. Topic selection would seem to represent the community: land use and development, taxes, education, high-profile local events. Although the art sometimes is a little too big, the photographers have put some thought into composing the images, which makes a real difference. Occasional typographical errors and misspellings occur, but in general the paper is well edited for content as well as style.

Class B

1st: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne

The Tribune Eagle's front page is consistently attractive and eye-catching, with color and graphic treatment in service of the content, not at its expense. The design emphasizes well-written, well-conceived local stories. Writing was consistently good, with succinct, punchy leads, fluid prose, clear explanations of complex stories, and avoidance of jargon. Clever writing that isn't afraid to be humorous makes the shorter stories displayed in down-page color boxes satisfying quick reads. Good navigation elements and eye-catching headline treatments invite the reader in.

Class C

1st: Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa

The Telegraph Herald's front page places a premium on news that matters to its local audience, heavily tilting toward locally staff-written stories about local issues and localizing national issues. The page occasionally includes national stories when they have local impact. Staff-written stories have clear, succinct leads and explain issues and events clearly without jargon. Page design is clean and well-organized. makes good use of information boxes to accompany stories. The TH has a good photo staff, and the news editors do a good job of showcasing that work. Headlines are always clear and sometimes quite creative ('With 1 arm tied behind his back' about a Special Olympics competitor, and the nice typographical emphasis on 'K, a zebra and a macaw go to a bar…" about an unusual police case). The page makes good use of navigational tools.

Class D

1st: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

These pages are distinguished by their emphasis on local enterprise, as well as a broad range of topics and a good mix of regional, state, local, and national news. The paper seems to recognize that readers get their "breaking" or hard news online and emphasizes material that they wouldn't have seen somewhere else, or stories where they can add texture to a significant piece of important news. Photography and graphics provide a sense of balance, and the refers and promotion do a very good job of pointing readers inside, or to the Web, for other material of interest.

2nd: Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal

These pages are a solid mix of state, national, and local news, with good story selection in all categories and interesting display of art plus the occasional feature story. The "UpFront" column that appears on each front page (with different authors) conveys both localness and authority. News stories are well reported, with necessary context supplied as required.


This contest has two circulation categories

Category A: Newspaper circulation below 20,000

Category B: Newspaper circulation above 20,000

General Excellence, Category A

1st:, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal World keeps its community informed and engaged with a Web-first editorial strategy, publishing the news online as soon as it happens, whether the story is about news from the statehouse or the local schoolhouse, from the nearby KU Basketball universe or the Lawrence community. The site design is clean and very usable, presents the content of the Lawrence Journal World along with original Web journalism, and hosts a non-stop dialogue with its readers on every topic relevant to Lawrence. Readers are invited to contribute thoughts, photos, videos and blogs and they do. Innovative, interactive, and always on the go.

2nd: (Tie), Durango (Colo.) Herald The Cortez Journal

The Durango Herald site collaborated with the Cortez Journal site on an excellent Election 2012 site with a local focus. (

With a combination of local reporting and aggregated content from top national news partners, this special politics and elections site offers a solid collection of information and views. The site also includes information for its communities on when and where to vote locally. This collaboration may offer a model of how small papers (both winners are under 10,000 in circulation) can work together to offer deeper and more comprehensive coverage and leverage their resources.

3rd:, The Van Wert (Ohio)Times Bulletin

This small paper is proving every day that it doesn't always take a large staff and deep pockets to do a bang-up job of informing and engaging the community. The Times-Bulletin site design is rudimentary but intuitive, featuring lots of photos, slideshows, videos, and twice-daily video newscasts ("The Times-Bulletin's Daily Grind"). The community calendar is full of information and readers can easily contribute events. "Your Two Cents" and "Letters to the Editor" elicit a wide variety of comments. All of this homely warmth adds to the overall sense of a "well-thumbed" community information source and a paper working hard to keep its neighbors up to date.

General Excellence, Category B

1st:, The Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette

A comprehensive, thoughtful site that offers actionable features, invites reader participation and brings The Cedar Rapids Gazette to vivid multimedia life. Excellent navigation and usability. The front page every day features the liveliest forum conversations of the moment. Also prominently featured on the home page currently: a deeply informative voter guide that covers 153 races and 287 candidates in detail, and offers users an interactive feature that allows them to compare opposing candidates' experience, biographies and views on a range of key questions important to voters in the district. An excellent online edition of a fine newspaper.

2nd:, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review serves up a dense menu of story links on its homepage, divided into accessible topical areas, and provides numerous navigational choices to find content of interest. Readers who stop by for the latest can go to the "Breaking News" homepage section that aggregates the latest top stories from around the paper and from the Associated Press. Those with a little more time can browse topical sections for breaking and other stories, or choose their content through more than 20 neighborhood homepages.

No third-place winner

Creative Use of Multimedia

1st:, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal World, "Exonerated but still not free,"

( "Joe Jones was the first person [in Kansas] to be exonerated of a crime by DNA evidence." But that was not the end of the story. Nearly 20 years later, he is still struggling to rebuild his life and get away from drugs and other crimes, and the victim's family still believes him guilty. A searing portrait, well-written, deeply reported, conveyed in video, photo galleries and text.

2nd:, Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill., "Football Focus" (

This polished, highly usable site covers prep sports at 80 local high schools in depth with comprehensive video, photo galleries and stories about teams, players and news.

3rd:, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, "Complex distribution centers take in and ship out everything from charcoal to snow shovels,"( Excellent, imaginative multimedia portrait of how Family Dollar moves thousands of products to countless customers smoothly, efficiently and hopefully, without a hitch.

Best Online Innovation

1st: MLive Media Group

MLive Media Group’s new approach to digital-first investigative reporting. At a time when many news publications are eliminating their investigative teams and slashing headcount across the board, the ten Advance Digital newspapers in the MLive Media Group have devised a new way to intensify daily reporting while expanding the reach of in-depth investigative reporting. Statewide Projects Coordinator John Barnes assembles teams from around the state to work on investigative projects. This collaborative effort by previously independent publications produces impressive accountability results that none of the papers, alone, could sustain, and provides high-quality information to their communities.

2nd: The Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune

The Columbia Daily Tribune uses responsive design principles to present a clean and well-integrated site. This multiplatform publication is easy to use and highly readable on tablets, mobile and Web. It's a handsome site featuring clean design and intuitive navigation. Easy to navigate from within individual articles. Readers can tap a simple index to see what else is new. Quite impressive.

3rd:, The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Ind.

The Journal Gazette is fulfilling the fundamental journalism responsibility of informing the local community by building out a site filled with public records data, from regional census figures to local salaries to public school reading scores. This is a vital community resource that can only become more valuable, and influence public policy, as datasets are added and more in the community access it.

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