- Ada, Oklahoma


April 1, 2014

Best of CNHI 2013 - Winners, Finalists and Judges' Comments

Newspaper of the Year

Division I – The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.

Judges Comments: The Herald Bulletin gives its readers a strong mix of enterprise journalism, compelling writing and rich multimedia storytelling, effectively cross-promoting stories and features between print and digital.  It presents strong, well designed front and section pages, but also does a great job right down to the smallest pieces in the paper, such as a column featuring wines made in Indiana. The Herald Bulletin's entry was distinguished by a must-read story, with strong photos, about a death row inmate who wants to be executed, plus a well conceived and well designed package about an important topic in the community - annexation. This paper has the feel of completeness from news to features to sports to commentary and editorials.

Finalist: Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

Division II – The Norman, Okla., Transcript

Judges Comments: The Transcript is an all-around solid newspaper - with great sports coverage, strong local editorials and an consistent flow of letters to the editor. But the Transcript distinguished itself in 2013 with incredible coverage of the May 20 tornado in Moore, Okla. The staff covered every possible angle of the story and delivered clear, compelling writing, powerful images and a strong design. The Transcript delivered right down to the smaller details, like tracking down an author who'd written about a massive tornado in the same community 10 years earlier. Even the garden columnist touched on the post-storm effects.

Finalist: Times West Virginian, Fairmont, W.Va.

Division III - Andover Townsman, Andover, Mass.

Judges Comments: Newsy paper, strong reporting and writing, timely editorials with a distinctive voice, well displayed photographs and lots of local faces.The Townsman's hard-working staff distinguished itself with coverage of  engaging features such as the story of a strawberry farm, and for responding to breaking news, including a local resident’s horrific murder at a nearby high school where she taught math.

Finalist: London, Ky., Sentinel-Echo

Website of the Year

Division I – The Free Press, Mankato, Minn. (

Judges Comments: The Free Press takes a thorough approach to digital reporting, effectively using many platforms. It's distinguished by its blogs, breaking news coverage and good use of social media. It may not post as much video as other sites, but it uses video wisely. Its pieces are smartly edited and make strong use of natural sounds. Examples included a coverage of a building demolition, the bloom of a rare flower, and a piece about a horseless carriage.

Finalist: The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind. (

Division II – The Norman Transcript (

Judges Comments: Readers of received terrific in-depth coverage of the May 20 tornado in Moore, specifically through a feature that traced the massive tornado's path of destruction through compelling video, photos and narrative. That complemented The Transcript's web section of multimedia coverage of the tornado. The tornado coverage was but one significant element of The Transcript's digital effort in 2013: An interactive map of holiday light displays was a smart way to solicit photos and input from readers. The staff showed skill in covering live events, such as Big 12 media days, online. And they delivered news across platforms, with smart use of text alerts and social media.

Finalist: Washington, Ind. Times Herald

Division III – Knoxville, Iowa, Journal Express (

Judges Comments: Breaking news updates and a diligent effort to incorporate multimedia, including video, are highlights of this community news website. In addition, the Journal Express complements its website and print editions with thoughtful, consistent use of social media. The newsroom does an exceptional job of prompting Facebook followers with questions and links to its website, deepening engagement with its community.

Finalist: Pella, Iowa, Chronicle (

Public Service

Division I – Valdosta Daily Times, Valdosta, Ga.

Judges Comments: The Times is commended for its relentless pursuit of sources, documents and details revealing a story of immense importance to readers -- the failure of a wastewater treatment plant during a flood, which led to the discharge of tens of millions of gallons of sewage into a local river. The paper used various charts, graphs and exhaustive stories to illustrate the plant's failures and the financial issues surrounding its flawed operation. In editorials, the newspaper challenged local officials for decisions connected with the plant's failure. The Times persisted in its coverage of this important local health issue, despite resistance from local leaders and others fearing a stain on the community's image.

Finalist: Joplin Globe, Joplin, Mo.

Division II – Claremore Daily Progress, Claremore, Okla.

Judges Comments: The Progress - and particularly reporter Salesha Wilken - deserve commendation for courageous, comprehensive reporting on the questionable conduct of the county's top public officials. The Progress uses solid, records-based reporting to support its coverage of the county commission, district attorney and others. The newspaper and reporter Wilken merit high praise for their relentless pursuit of a complicated, controversial story.

Finalist: Tonawanda News, North Tonawanda, N.Y.

Division III – Suwannee Democrat, Live Oak, Fla.

Judges Comments: The Democrat's staff distinguished itself with aggressive coverage of a medical waste incinerator planned for the community, breaking the story even before plans were formally unveiled during a community meeting.  The Democrat staff did an admirable job of reporting details of this controversial proposal, which had broad impact and interest. The newspaper also notably took a strong editorial position on the plan, before it was ultimately scuttled.

Finalist: Allied News, Grove City, Penn.

Reporter of the Year

Division I – Robb Murray, Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

Judges Comments: Murray excels at writing features, which he constructs with strong detail culled through careful reporting. His work touches upon a range of subjects, reflecting his versatility and an ability to ingratiate himself to a variety of sources. In a story about homelessness, for example, Murray writes about the downtrodden at a human level in a manner that is straightforward and fresh, avoiding the usual stereotypes and sentiment. He frames a story about a couple's struggle with a type of dementia as a love story rich with anecdotes.

Finalist: Mark Vogler, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Division II – Salesha Wilken, Claremore Daily Progress

Judges Comments: Wilken's work stands out for thorough, tenacious reporting of stories about the local district attorney and other county officials. Her stories should be a model of watchdog coverage for community newspapers everywhere. WIlken's work lays out the facts, without editorializing. She distills complicated material into clearly written, easily understood stories. Significantly, she has faced large obstacles to her reporting, including a lawsuit filed by the district attorney against the Claremore Progress and Wilken.

Finalist: John Austin, Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, Texas

Division III – Bill Kirk, Andover Townsman, Andover, Mass.

Judges Comments: Kirk gets high marks for his versatility, use of records to underpin his coverage, and a nice phrasing and writing style that is exceptionally readable. Stories that originate with meetings don't feel like meeting stories. Even a story as small as the hanging of a banner downtown shows that he knows the community well.

Finalist: Ritchie Starnes, Stanly News & Press, Albemarle, N.C.

Sports Writer of the Year

Division I – Aaron Snyder, Ashland Independent, Ashland, Ky.

Judges Comments: Snyder's reporting reaches beyond game stories and predictable athlete profiles to find subjects with truly unusual stories. He weaves compelling stories from even relatively small events, such as a young baseball player's unassisted triple play. A strong voice, judicious use of quotes and strong sourcing distinguish his writing.

Finalist: Phil Stacey, The Salem News, Salem, Mass.

Division II – Mike DeFabo, Times West Virginian, Fairmont, W.Va.

Judges Comments: DeFabo's stories are fun to read and appeal to a broad audience. His topics - from hot rods to a specialized dog training competition - are surprising and engaging. But DeFabo is also a deft storyteller and scene-setter. He infuses his writing with strong  reporting and a sharp eye for detail.

Finalist: Matt Goisman, McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, Okla.

Division III – Denis House, London, Ky., Sentinel-Echo

Judges Comments: House chooses a wide range of subjects and sources, then draws in readers with descriptive language and detail. His profile of a disabled soccer player captures the power of the human spirit.

Finalist: Jake Thompson, Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, Ind.

Editorial Writer of the Year

Division I - Kathy Vos, Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

Judges Comments: Vos' impressive editorials begin with important topics - including government openness and accountability - that she then analyzes with plenty of supporting facts and details. Her editorials are punchy and consistently deliver a clear call to action.

Finalist: Ken Johnson, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Division II – Shea Van Hoy, News and Tribune, Jeffersonville

Judges Comments: Van Hoy expresses a strong voice on interesting local topics. His editorials are well reasoned and researched. They consistently express a call to action, which helps focus his opinion and often empowers his readers.

Finalist: Roger Cowles, Port Arthur News, Port Arthur, Texas

Division III – Lisa Shearer, The Edmond Sun, Edmond, Okla.

Judges Comments: Shearer writes with a strong point of view, and her editorials are backed up by facts. Her writing is clear and to the point. She empowers readers with recommended action, and she shows courage, notably in an editorial confronting a county official following a DUI arrest.

Finalist: Jo-Anne MacKenzie, The Derry News, Derry, N.H.

Photographer of the Year

Division I – Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe, Joplin, Mo.

Judges Comments: Nomer is a master of timing, framing and lighting, and his images portray an array of subjects and evoke emotion. Notable among his work last year were a dramatic fire scene photo; an intriguing angle on the start of a race at a swim meet; an artistic photo of an acrobat; and a captivating photo of a child's meeting with Santa Claus.

Finalist: Justin Engle, Sunbury Item, Sunbury, Penn.

Division II – Jim Vaiknoras, Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

Judges Comments: Vaiknoras is a talented photographer with an eye for drama and an artistic flair. An action photo of a storm sweeping a house out to sea is among the year's most memorable images. He shows great versatility - with compelling sports images and a colorful image from an Easter sunrise service.

Finalist: Mike Springer, Gloucester, Mass., Daily Times

Division III – Mary Schwalm, Derry News, Derry, N.H.

Judges Comments: Schwalm's images feature engaging subjects, often in serendipitous moments. Her well-framed shots richly capture action and emotion in people and animals.They depict the essence of her subjects.

Finalist:  Denis House, London, Ky., Sentinel-Echo

Columnist of the Year

Division I - Mark Bennett, Terre Haute, Ind., Tribune Star

Judges Comments: Bennett approaches his columns thoughtfully. He clearly knows his subject matter well, yet he supports his pieces with strong, original reporting. His writing is clear and informative. His series on the Wabash River was classic storytelling.

Finalist: Samantha Perry, Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W.Va.

Division II – Eric DuVall, Tonawanda News

Judges Comments: DuVall's columns are interesting, thoughtful and well constructed. He shows a great economy as a writer; each sentence and paragraph moves the reader along to the next. His range of subjects - including national issues and personal experience - assuredly engage readers back home.

Finalist: Roger Cowles, Port Arthur News, Port Arthur, Texas

Division III – Tammie Toler, Princeton Times, Princeton, W.Va.

Judges Comments: Toler's columns deftly weave original reporting and observation. She is relentlessly local in focus, even in cases where she begins by discussing a national topic. Her writing is well cadenced, and her columns truly capture the people of her community.

Finalist: Danielle Cater, North Jefferson News, Gardendale, Ala.

Designer of the Year

Division I - Joe Myers, North Andover, Mass., Design Center

Judges Comments: Myers is a craftsman of thoughtful design that engages readers, and shows great range in his work. He delivers strong centerpieces even without a dominant photo. Notable among his work last year was a somber centerpiece design for a story about suicide among veterans, as well as a well-executed package on dressing for the prom. Most memorable was the feature on the bearded Boston Red Sox that anchored a keepsake edition.

Finalist: Phil Miller, Anderson, Ind., Design Center

Division II – Natalie Davis, Millegeville, Ga. Union-Recorder

Judges Comments: Davis is a creative, imaginative designer who gets high marks for building packages that lack stand-out photos. She's does a terrific job taking a stylized, magazine-like approach to the Union-Recorder's "Neighbors" page.

Finalist: Elizabeth Goodman, Jeffersonville News & Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.

Division III – Fran Landry, Derry News, Derry, N.H.

Judges Comments: Landry's designs are sharp and engaging, and showcase strong photography. She does a nice job of executing packages, such as a feature on the 603 reasons to visit New Hampshire and another comprised of reader-submitted photos of wildlife.

No finalist selected

Magazine of the Year

Large Division – Merrimack Valley Business (MVB), North Andover, Mass.

Judges Comments: This magazine is exceptionally well conceived, written, photographed and designed. It features sharp local content - such as a "40 Under 40" feature, and a package on fashion design camps - that reflect a strong sense of place.

Finalist: Grand Traverse Scene, Traverse City, Mich.

Small Division – Newburyport Magazine, Newburyport, Mass.

Judges Comments: A beautiful publication, Newburyport Magazine is strong in all areas, from bigger pieces such as stories about an alpaca farmer and cider doughnuts, to smaller elements that include countless local faces. Newburyport gets high marks for the quality of its writing and design.

Finalist: Corridor, Fairmont, W.Va.


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