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Voyageur's Best Features of 2004

Voyageur Press staff receive awards

Newspaper earns 11 awards
Voyageur Press is third best weekly newspaper in state
by John Grones  | February 17, 2004

On Fri., Jan. 30, staff members from the Voyageur Press traveled to Bloomington, Minn. for the annual Minnesota Newspaper Convention. It was there that the staff received several awards in the Better Newspaper Contest. The Voyageur Press was one of three newspapers in a close contest for the Mills Trophy, an award given to the top weekly.

The Litchfield Independent Review won the Mills Trophy with 36 points, followed by the Ely Timberjay with 35 points and the Voyageur Press was a close 3rd with 34 points.

The Mills Trophy is determined on the basis of points. Four points are given for every first place won by the newspaper, three points for every first place won by a staff member, two points for every second place won by the newspaper and one point for every second place won by a staff member.

The Voyageur Press won nine first place awards for Sports Reporting, Advertising Excellence, Best Advertisement, Sports Photography, Portrait and Personality Photography, Feature Photography, Photo Story, Best Special Section, and the Food in Your Community section.

The two second place awards were for Best Editorial Section and Best Human Interest Story.

Staff member, Cynthia Brekke was a big winner at the contest. Most Voyageur Press readers know her for her excellent writing, but she is also very talented with advertising composition. She won first place with her Gun Show advertisement. According to the judges, the advertisement had good organization of information, good graphics and good use of white space.

Cynthia also received a first place award for her Photo Story in the Oct. 15, 2002 issue. The photo story from the tree to the table goes through a step by step process of making crab apple jelly. The judge comments explained why this was a first place entry: Color really brings this spread to life. A very interesting idea with a solid result. I like how she follows the cycle from the tree to the jar. The tree shot is stunning. I can’t think of anything to do different or better.

Food in your Community was a surprise category this year that was added to the contest and the Voyageur Press took first place. Evelyn Swedberg and Lynne Gilfus are the two featured columnists on this page and they were on hand to accept the first place award. Evelyn contributes recipes every other week and Lynne visits area restaurants to promote their menus. Cynthia Brekke has also contributed from time to time as does Sherry-Hill Hammer.

The judges reported: Great layout and presswork adds snap to some outstanding recipes. Great profile of restaurants make the section fun to read. Far and away the best of the bunch!

Other newspaper awards included: Advertising Excellence, Best Special Section, Sports Reporting and a second place finish for Editorial Page as a Whole.

There are several Voyageur Press staff members that can be credited for Advertising Excellence. Cynthia Brekke and Nickole Caspersen are the key ad developers on staff and Angie Johnson helped out during the summer months. According to the judges: Somebody at this publication loves making ads. Every ad, even 1x2s have the personal touch. Big or small, they are all “tall” with effort. There must be many repeat ads and long time customers at this paper. A first place winner by a large margin.

This is the second year in a row that the Voyageur Press has won the Best Special Section award. Last year, it was the Wild Rice Days and Lions Cord Feed section. This year, From the Ground Up, was a first place winner. From the judges: This section was well put together and appears to be a great service to its advertisers, as the piece is likely to be saved. Advertising is relevant and content is a step up from the traditional ‘Home’ section.

Sports Reporting in small communities is an integral part of every newspaper and the Voyageur Press once again impressed the judges. John Grones, Mike Burr, Bill Pocernich and Cynthia Brekke combined to produce the best sports reporting for weekly newspapers with a circulation up to 1,500.

The judges were impressed with: Very clear and concise writing. Thank you for staying away from cliches in your reporting. John’s photos bring you in and the writing is just as good. Thank you Cynthia for writing sports features.

The Editorial Page as a Whole was an area of the newspaper that the Voyageur Press has spent a great deal of time improving. The paper has always had quality writers, but it was missing one key element – a locally produced cartoon. Joel Seibel joined the team and gave the page the touch it needed. Writers that submit to this page include: Lee Bennett, Jerome Little, Jacob Kulju, Jennie Hanson, Don Crouch, Sadie Frericks and Cynthia Brekke.

Comments from the judge on the second place finish: I like the header on top of the page. Columnist Lee Bennett goes at broad issues with small-town viewpoint. Page has a strong design to keep attention. Local editorial cartoons are very well done. A good variety of topics.

Last but not least was a second place award for Human Interest Feature Stories. Only two awards are given out in a very competitive category that included 34 entries. Kerry Nelson received second place for his story, Tale of a former boxer, which appeared in the Mar. 25, 2003 issue of the paper.

The judge reported: Took an athlete out of the sports page and turned him into ‘Mr. Average Joe’.

This article first appeared in the February 17, 2004 issue of the Voyageur Press.