DCN makes strong showing at state newspaper contest
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Awards propel paper to 11th straight 'General Excellence' designation
They didn't have to travel any snowy roads this year, and they didn't have to hurry back from Des Moines to finish their next edition, but the staff of the Dickinson County News still earned a healthy amount of acclaim at this year's Iowa Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest. The newspaper won 24 awards Thursday eight of them first place.
The award ceremony and related convention were held virtually this year due to COVID-19, rather than their usual venue in the Des Moines Marriott.
The DCN secured its 11th consecutive "General Excellence" award, placing third in the state's largest category of weekly newspapers. The award takes writing, photography, advertising, page design and digital content into account, and is presented to the top three newspapers in five classifications separated by publication frequency and circulation size.
File photo by Matt Heinrichs
"When the DCN moved up a division ahead of last's year's call for entries, we all knew we'd be in for some stiff competition from our colleagues around the state," DCN News Editor Seth Boyes said. "It's really encouraging to see how well we've placed and how consistent the quality of the paper has stayed."
The DCN earned a first-place award for "Best Newspaper Website" to go with runner-up finishes in "Best of Class Advertising" and "Best Front Page." The paper placed third in "Coverage of Government and Politics," "Best Headline Writing" and "Best Use of Social Media."
Boyes and DCN Sports Editor Matt Heinrichs combined to win 19 awards on Thursday.
The duo earned the top two spots in the INA's new "Best Photographer" category. Heinrichs placed first and Boyes placed second.
File photo by Matt Heinrichs
Each entrant in the new category could submit between six and 10 of their published photos which were then judged on technical ability and the breadth of work. Heinrichs' portfolio ranged from area sports coverage to the University of Okoboji Winter Games and the March for Justice which took place June 4 in Spencer.
"Seth and I were both excited when the INA announced the addition of the 'Best Photographer' award this year," Heinrichs said. "We take a lot of pride in being able to tell a story through our images as well as our writing. To be named the two best photographers in the large weekly classification is a great honor."
Heinrichs also took first place in the "Best Sports Photo" category with a dramatically angled shot of wrestler Isaac Dixon's match on the stage of the Sami Bedell Performing Arts Center in Spirit Lake. The sports editor had been sure to prepare for the unusual venue and lighting well ahead of the whistle in order to properly capture the competitors.
"The clear standout among many good photos," the judge said. "The angle, color, texture and overall composition are truly expert-level."
Heinrichs took all three spots on the proverbial podium for "Best Slideshow," with his photos of the March for Justice earning the first-place plaque.
"Compelling images that convey a range of emotions regarding an important subject when words are often superfluous," the judge said of the photos.
File photo by Seth Boyes
Judges also said Heinrichs' gallery of photos from the 40th annual U of O Winter Games captured a wide range of not only activities but emotions while telling the story of a "distinctly local frolic." The third slideshow, which documented competitors attempting to play basketball while mounted on donkeys in the Okoboji Middle School gymnasium, took the category's third slot. The judge said the slideshow showed "joy and silliness before the pandemic" and went on to say it and stories like it are always popular among readers.
Heinrichs and Boyes shared a first-place finish in "Best Photo Story" for their coverage of the U of O Winter Games, and placed third in the same category for their coverage of the march in Spencer bookending the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune's runner-up finish for coverage of local campaign events. The category is judged on news value, impact of storytelling, composition and overall quality.
Boyes also walked away with the top two awards for "Best Breaking News Photo." The second-place photo showed emergency personnel responding to a vehicle in the ditch along Highway 71 during heavy blizzard conditions the afternoon of Feb. 12, 2020. Boyes' top-placing photo depicted Assistant Spirit Lake Fire Chief Chris Hoerichs shouting to his fellow firefighters during a structure fire northeast of Superior. The judge said the photo's heavy foreground focus accentuated the urgency of the situation.
File photo by Seth Boyes
Boyes' coverage of another urgent situation also earned him a top prize in the "Breaking News Story" category. The article described local teen Calvin Grosvenor's rescuing Jesse Fletchall of Grant City, Missouri, from West Lake Okoboji in May 2020. The two had been scuba diving in Iowa's deepest natural lake when Fletchall experienced an embolism and seizure several dozen feet below the surface. Grosvenor not only brought his diving partner to the surface but swam him to shore and performed CPR on the man until emergency crews arrived likely saving Fletchall's live, according to local authorities. A contest judge described the local coverage as "a good story all the way around, made great by virtue of a cool-headed hero, who admits in the story he had no idea he could do it."
The 2021 Iowa Better Newspaper Contest was judged by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. Approximately 3,000 entries in dozens of categories were judged by class, based on circulation. The Dickinson County News competes in Weekly Class III the largest of the weekly categories for papers with 1,501 circulation or above. This was the DCN's second consecutive year competing in the Weekly Class III category.
- DCN earns 10th consecutive 'General Excellence' award (02/11/20)
- DCN finishes fourth in 'Newspaper of the Year' standings (02/12/19)
- DCN earns eighth straight 'General Excellence' designation (02/07/18)
- DCN finishes third in 'Newspaper of the Year' standings (02/08/17)
- DCN named state's top mid-sized weekly newspaper (02/10/16)
First place Best Newspaper Website
First place Best Slideshow: Matt Heinrichs
First place Best Breaking News Story: Seth Boyes
First place Best Breaking News Photo: Seth Boyes
First place Best Sports Photo: Matt Heinrichs
First place Best Photo Story: Matt Heinrichs, Seth Boyes
First place Best Photographer: Matt Heinrichs
First place Best Web Advertisement: Nina Sorenson, Matt Heinrichs
Second place Best of Class Advertising: Nina Sorenson, Matt Heinrichs
Second place Best Front Page
Second place Best Video: Seth Boyes
Second place Best Slideshow: Matt Heinrichs
Second place Best Blog: Seth Boyes
Second place Best Breaking News Photo: Seth Boyes
Second place Best Sports Feature Photo: Matt Heinrichs
Second place Best Photographer: Seth Boyes
__Third place Coverage of Government and Politics
Third place Best Headline Writing
Third place Best Video: Seth Boyes
Third place Best Slideshow: Matt Heinrichs
Third place Best Use of Social Media
Third place Best Sports Columnist: Matt Heinrichs
Third place Best News Feature Photo: Matt Heinrichs
Third place Best Photo Story: Matt Heinrichs, Seth Boyes
SPENCER DAILY REPORTER
The Spencer Daily Reporter earned 13 awards in the small daily classification on Thursday. The newspaper also earned "General Excellence" honors, taking third place in its division.
The Daily Reporter earned first place in the "Best Advertising Idea for a Community Promotion or Event" for its "Unfair Days - Spencer Main Street." The promotion was coupled with a Clay County Fair campaign after fair officials had to restyle and even call off many the year's touchstone events and attractions due to COVID-19. The award also carried the Daily Reporter to a first-place victory in Best of Class Advertising. A contest judge highlighted the promotion's wordplay as well as its typography and concluded "Unfair Days" was "a great way to have a little fun with all the cancellations going on."
Publisher Paula Buenger earned top recognition for "Excellence in Editorial Writing." The newspaper's SDR Triple Option Podcast also impressed judges again in the "Best Podcast" category with its second-place win.
The Spencer Daily Reporter also received recognition for first place in the Best Feature Page category; second place in Best Editorial Page," "Best Advertising Series or Campaign Featuring Any Service or Merchandise Category," "Best Use of Graphics," "Best Breaking News Story" and "Best Series;" and third place in "Coverage of Business," "Best Newspaper Website" and "Best Video."
STORM LAKE PILOT-TRIBUNE
The Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune also earned attention from contest judges with a total of nine awards. The Pilot-Tribune earned a first-place win for "Coverage of Education" as well as "Community Leadership." A contest judge took particular note of the Pilot-Tribune's focus on difficulties within its community as part of the latter category.
"Keeping a persistent spotlight on poverty issues from multiple angles isn't always popular, but these articles move the community conversation in the right direction for long-term change," the judge said.
The newspaper also earned top marks for "Best News Story" and editor Dana Larsen was awarded first-place in the "Master Columnist" category.
Judges awarded the Pilot-Tribune a second-place recognition for "Best Photo Story," "Coverage of Court and Crime," "Best Feature Page," and "Best COVID-19 Coverage" as well as a third-place honor for "Best Continuing Coverage."