As the Steele County Times racked up an impressive showing of 14 state journalism awards last week, I couldn’t help but be excited for our readers.
The awards are an affirmation of the quality journalism we strive to produce for readers. And while being recognized in front of your peers in the journalism industry is exciting, the greatest reward for me is the continuous feedback, mostly positive, that we receive from readers on a weekly basis. No award can replace the satisfaction we get from the service we provide to our communities.
I feel as if our readers are the best judges of what we do on a regular basis. For me, it’s energizing to hear from readers about what they like, and perhaps don’t like, about the newspaper.
I hope readers will take special note of what we’ve accomplished. What I found most interesting is how seven of the 14 awards were in categories we had never won anything in before. Two of those are among the state’s top journalism awards: Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award and Dave Pyle New Journalist Award. The latter award honors our own Johnnie Phillips, who provides the area’s best sports coverage.
As Phillips accepted his first state award, it took me back 40 years when I was still in high school and accepted my first award as a cub reporter for my hometown newspaper. From those early years, I always dreamed of having my own award-winning newspaper.
Of all the awards we won this year, they covered all areas of the newspaper, including writing, photography, advertising, social media and overall appearance. Sometimes newspapers may excel in one particular area, but it’s more difficult to perform solidly in all areas.
While we received many awards for specific categories, there is one that stands out among all the rest. It’s General Excellence, which is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the states. It’s something that ties together all areas and judges the paper on its overall depth, breadth and quality. It’s the second year in a row we have finished in the top two for our circulation size (weeklies 1,501-3,000), which I will argue is one of the toughest categories in the entire contest. There are many great community newspapers serving Minnesotans.
For those who may be new to our newspaper, and there have been hundreds of you over the past year, I take incredible pride in providing the area with what has become one of the best in Minnesota and the nation.
It all started 14 years ago when I took over the Times.
I’m always hesitant to make promises, but one that has stuck is when I informed readers back in 2009 that I would make the Times one of the best community newspapers in the state. Through lots of hard work and putting together a great staff, I feel we have succeeded.
Readers have made it all possible through great support of subscribing and advertising or both. Providing a great newspaper takes the efforts of the entire community, not just our staff. We can’t do it without your support.
Looking back over the past year, the greatest award we have achieved didn’t come at last week’s Minnesota Newspaper Convention, but rather when readers went in hot pursuit of making us Steele County’s top choice for local news by surpassing the “daily” newspaper in Owatonna last fall.