Newspaper earns ninth straight 'General Excellence' designation
The Dickinson County News received 35 awards and secured the top spot among the state's weekly newspapers Friday at the Iowa Newspaper Association 2019 Convention and Trade Show.
The event was held Feb. 7-8 at the Des Moines Marriott Hotel.
The newspaper's first-place "General Excellence" designation takes writing, photography, advertising, page design, website elements and community involvement into account. The newspaper earned 84 points based on scoring of first, second and third place awards.
"While our number one focus is always on quality, thorough journalism to serve our readers, itís nice to be recognized by our peers," Publisher Paula Buenger said.
The 84-point total placed the Dickinson County News fourth in the INA's "Newspaper of the Year" standings. Three daily newspapers took the top spots: The Des Moines Register was named "Newspaper of the Year" with 125 points. The Cedar Rapids Gazette finished second, with 102 points. The Carroll Daily Times Herald finished third, with 89 points.
The DCN finished among the top 3 in four of the five "Coverage of" categories, which carry more weight in the Iowa Newspaper Association scoring criteria. The newspaper placed first in "Coverage of Business" and picked up a pair of second-place finishes in "Coverage of Government and Politics" and "Coverage of Court and Crime." The staff picked up a third-place award for "Coverage of Education." The Indiana Press Association considered "Coverage of Agriculture" submissions as well.
"Top finisher is easily the class of the category in quality of writing, depth of sourcing and presentation," judges said after evaluating the DCN's "Coverage of Business" examples.
Approximately 3,654 entries in dozens of categories were judged by class, based on circulation.
"Iím proud of our Dickinson County News team for its consistent focus on excellence," Buenger said. "Doing the work, day in and day out, to ensure our readers have the facts to help them make better decisions for their families, is our top priority."
General Manager Dave Stanley oversees day-to-day operations in Spirit Lake, with help from Office Manager Pam Banta and Advertising Representative Deb Grubich.
Stories, ads and photos are placed on DCN pages by Design Editor Christina Sorenson.
Sorenson's vision helped the annual "Progress" edition earn first place in the "Best Special Section" category. The annual special section was included in the March 28 edition of the DCN. Sorenson used a musical "Classics" and "Greatest Hits" theme for the annual report ó as a nod to the Spirit Lake newspaper's induction into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
She also won first place in the "Best Use of Graphics" category. Indiana judges said Sorenson "added to the storytelling instead of just being there for something extra." They cited a tornado graphic ó used in a severe weather awareness story ó as "especially impactful."
Sorenson's work helped the DCN place second in "Total Newspaper Design." She took home third place awards for "Best Feature Page," "Best Newspaper Marketing," "Best Agricultural Advertising" and Best Web Advertisement" as well.
Staff Writer Seth Boyes earned seven awards, including first-place honors in the "Excellence in Editorial Writing" "Best Blog" and "Best Breaking News Photo" categories. His first-place award was an image of a firefighter battling the elements to put out a house fire in rural Jackson County, Minnesota. He also took third place for a breaking news photo at the scene of a pedestrian-motor vehicle crash in Spirit Lake.
Boyes placed second in the "Best Breaking News" category for his coverage of a severe storm, which spawned a September 2018 tornado near Superior.
Judges said Boyes' editorial writing and blogs were thoughtfully written on timely subjects. "Seth writes from the heart of a reporter and social activist," they said.
Fellow Staff Writer Doris Welle finished second in the "Best Blog" category for the digital version of her "Campus Hotline" at dickinsoncountynews.com.
Judges recognized the newspaper's digital emphasis with a first-place award in the "Best Newspaper Website" category. The newspaper received third-place honors in the "Best Use of Social Media" category as well.
Sports Editor Matt Heinrichs also took home awards for opinion pieces and photography. He picked up first-place honors for "Best Sports Columnist" and "Best Sports Photo" Friday night in Des Moines.
Indiana judges said Heinrichs found "compelling subject matter of local interest" in his columns, which were "well-written and stylistically different, which keep the readers interested week-in and week-out."
"It's obvious this columnist has tapped into the community and addressed the issues at its core," judges said.
A photo from Heinrichs' state wrestling coverage caught the attention of another Indiana judge who said "wrestling photos are tough," adding, the "photographer chose an innovative angle and got a great shot."
Heinrichs earned second-place awards for "Best Sports Feature Photo," with a state wrestling meet image and "Best News Feature Photo" for a polar plunge photo at the University of Okoboji Winter Games. He won third place in the "Sports Feature Photo" category for an image captured at the state softball tournament. The softball coverage earned another third-place award in the "Best Photo Story" category as well.
Boyes placed second in the "Best Sports Feature Story" for a profile on Max Bower, who has excelled at competitive cup stacking.
The sports stories, photos and columns contributed to a third-place DCN award for "Best Sports Section."
Photographer Dave Petrick earned two awards at the Iowa Newspaper Association convention. He took home second-place "Best Slideshow" honors for Dickinson County Relay for Life coverage. Petrick's nature photography in the spring of 2018 earned a second-place award in the "Best Photo Story" category as well.
Managing Editor Russ Mitchell and Boyes claimed a third-place award in the "Best Slideshow" category for team coverage of the Dickinson County Fair.
Mitchell earned three second-place writing awards. He placed second in the "Master Columnist" category for a series of three columns. He took home second place in the "Best News Feature" category for profile on documentary director and Spirit Lake graduate Nick Schrunk.
Mitchell also collaborated with Randy Cauthron of the Spencer Daily Reporter for second place in the "Best Series" category. They worked together on a two-part preview of the 2018 Iowa Legislative Session.
The DCN received a second-place award award in the "Best Headline Writing" category as well.