The Star-Herald and the Gering Courier claimed top spots across a number of categories when the Nebraska Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and Sweepstakes Award winners were announced Thursday, June 26.
The Star-Herald is the Edgecombe Family Community Newspaper Digital Sweepstakes Awards daily newspaper winner, with two second-place awards and three third-place awards, for a point total of 34, beating out the second place winner by 8 points. In all, the Star-Herald took home 24 awards.
The Courier took home the Print Class A Sweepstakes award for weekly papers in its classification. The Courier and its staff accounted for 25 awards.
The Hemingford Ledger garnered four awards for its publication.
“I’m honored daily to work alongside such a talented staff of newspaper professionals,” said Rich Macke, publisher for the Star-Herald, Courier and Ledger. “The 53 awards received by the Star Herald, Gering Courier and Hemingford Ledger during the Nebraska Press Association 2020 Awards event are a testament to the hard work each member of our team takes responsibility for. Each has passion and understanding of what a true local newspaper should be to the communities they serve, and share that passion with our readers.”
Star-Herald editor Brad Staman had praise for the staff.
“I am so very proud of the Star-Herald, Gering Courier and Hemingford teams,” he said. “Each team has proved, by the awards won in this year’s Nebraska Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, they are among the very best journalists in the state of Nebraska.”
Staman highlighted the leadership of Digital Editor Maunette Loeks in directing the team to the top spot in the digital contest, and said sports editor Jeff Van Patten’s first place awards for sports feature writing and headline writing were well deserved.
Star-Herald Digital Editor Maunette Loeks said, “I was really surprised, and am really pleased, that the Star-Herald received the top digital award. Analytics show that we have the top news website in the Panhandle, but the role of local news can often be undervalued. It’s great to have our great work affirmed by the judges’ selection.
“All of our reporters and other staff work hard every day," she said. "I appreciate all that they do and look forward to seeing us continue a great print and digital legacy.”
The sweepstakes win was among a number of first place efforts by the Courier in both editorial and advertising content.
Former Courier editor and Star-Herald education reporter Lauren Brant said, “To have the Gering Courier be recognized by the Nebraska Press Association made me proud to be a part of this team, especially as NPA awarded the Courier the division winner in the weekly category. The Courier’s success was a team win. Without everyone’s contributions from writing articles and editing content to page layout and selling advertisements, there would have been no paper.”
Brant said photography has been her avenue for showing readers the story, and she was overwhelmed with joy to see the judges recognize that.
“My passion for journalism and for making the Courier the best it could be would not have been possible without my team, especially Brad Staman and Maunette Loeks, who helped me become a better journalist and photographer,” Brant said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, first, second and third place winners were announced by video presentation. Many newspapers had “watch parties” to view the video and celebrate their wins.
More than 3,400 separate entries, representing 10 dailies and 59 weeklies, were judged by members of the Illinois Press Association.
• Awards claimed by the Star-Herald include:
Sports Feature Writing; Staying Positive by Jeff Van Patten
Photo Page; Lighting Up the Night by Lauren Brant
Feature Photography; Tumbling Fun by Lauren Brant
Personal Column; Take a chance, listen to the B side by Brad Staman
Public Notice and its Promotion; by Brad Staman and Rich Macke
Headline Writing; 4 ducks = 1 new car by Jeff Van Patten
Lifestyles; by staff
Special Section: Stars by staff
Agricultural Advertisement; Marker Ag-Silence by Nicci Vorse and Dalene Louden
Signature Page; Christmas A to Z by Cheryl Helser-Garcia, Connie Ernest and Steph Cooper
Sports Feature Photo; Bayard Edges Out Leyton by Preston Goehring
Photo Page; And the Race is On by Mark Rein
Online Video; Honoring Fallen Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Jerry Smith by Lauren Brant, Maunette Loeks and staff
Online Coverage of Breaking News; Honring Trooper Jerry Smith by Maunette Loeks and Lauren Brant
Use of Computer Graphics - Produced In House; “Where Does the Money Go” by Jeff Van Patten
Building Circulation; Don’t be Like Bob by Rich Macke and Steph Cooper
Reader Interaction/Contest; Ask A Cop by Maunette Loeks
Feature Photography; Plating Up Breakfast by Lauren Brant
Entertainment Story; Ballooning by Lauren Brant
Editorial; by Brad Staman
Specialty Pages/Lifestyle Section; Farm & Ranch by staff
Online Coverage of Breaking News; A Mother’s Plea: Chance, Come Home by Maunette Loeks and Lauren Brant
Best Use of Social Media; Bomb Cyclone 2019 by Maunette Loeks
Best Sports Video; Exploring the Outdoors; Students Visit Wildcat Hills During Hands-On Field Trip by Lauren Brant
• Awards claimed by the Courier include:
Print Class A Sweepstakes
Reader Interaction/Contest; Kids Speak by Jeff Fielder
Classified Section; by Steph Cooper and staff
Advertising Campaign; Monument Physical Therapy Series by Nicci Vorse and Dalene Louden
Single Retail Advertising Idea- Color; A2B Journeys-Let Your Journey Begin by Nicci Vorse and Dalene Louden
Feature Photography; Giving Blood by Lauren Brant
News Photography; Samsung Project by Lauren Brant
Use of Color-News; Moving Water by Lauren Brant
Personal Column; by Lauren Brant
Editorial Page; by staff
News Writing; Controlling the Blaze by Lauren Brant
Building Circulation; Supporting Local Students by Lauren Brant and Ashley Young
Community Promotion Advertisement; A Tribute to Our Heroes by Ashley Young
Advertising Campaign; Panhandle Coop Wine and Spirits by Doug Southard, Kelly Zwetzig and Dalene Louden
Single Retail Advertising Idea- Color; Oregon Trail Plumbing-Dragging the Outhouse Around by Nicci Vorse, Ashley Young and Dalene Louden
Entertainment Story; Oregon Trail Days by Lauren Brant
General Excellence; by staff
Specialty Pages/Lifestyle Section; Community Coverage by Brad Staman and Lauren Brant
Photo Page; Search Continues for Missing Man by Lauren Brant
Feature Photography; Nano Sand by Lauren Brant
News Photography; A Family’s Heartache by Lauren Brant
Personal column; by Rich Macke
Entertainment Story; Old West Weekend by Lauren Brant
Editorial; by Rich Macke and Lauren Brant
Youth Coverage; by Lauren Brant
• Awards claimed by the Hemingford Ledger include:
Signature Page; Congratulations Bobcats on a Great Season! by Holly Wade and Dalene Louden
Newspaper Organized or Sponsored Event; Donation Drive for Eastern Nebraska Flood Victims by Tammy Berry, Kay Bakkehaug and Dalene Louden
Community Promotion and Advertisement; Annual FFA Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed by Holly Wade and Dalene Louden
Agricultural Advertisement; Crossroads Cooperative Harvest by Holly Wade and Dalene Louden