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Independent-Scout wins awards
Chuck and Gilly's awards
INDEPENDENT-SCOUT reporter Gillian Pomplun and editor Charley Preusser hold the three first place awards won in the WNA Better Newspaper Contest.

GAYS MILLS - It’s the right time of year for a little pick-me up…frankly, maybe it’s just theright yearfor a little pick-me-up. Anyway, that’s just what the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout received last Friday night courtesy of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. 

The WNA held a virtual awards ceremony to honor those who won awards in the Better Newspaper Contest. And, the Independent-Scout was right in the thick of it–winning nine awards for small weekly newspapers (in Division F), including three first-place awards.

2020 WNA awards list

Independent-Scout reporter Gillian Pomplun received a first place award for a localized national story in that category. Her story, ‘Dumping milk-dairy is reeling,’ was selected for its thorough local coverage of the issue.

“More than covering a local event related to a national issue, this reporter clearly put in the work to find and explain the local impact of a national issue, and the writing was solid throughout,” the judge noted.

However, that wasn’t all the newspaper won in the localized national story category. Pomplun also took third place for another story, ‘Mask makers help to ensure healthcare workers stay safe.’ The judge called that entry a well-written example of a localized story. Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser was also recognized for a localized national story,‘Meat processing facing problems,’ which received an honorable mention from the judge.

“This article deserves mention for the same reason the first-place winner deserved to be first,” the judge wrote of the meat processing story. “The reporters had to work the story, doing more than covering a local event related to a national issue.” 

 Reporter Gillian Pomplun also claimed a first place award in the ongoing/extended coverage category for her stories on the flooding situation along the Kickapoo River. The entry, which featured multiple stories, was titled ‘Flooding, in the wake of breach of flood control dams and increasing severity of rainfall events, a growing concern.’

“I think Gillian’s ongoing coverage of the flood’s causes and the appropriateness of current mitigation proposals is critical in helping the community come to fuller understanding of the situation,” editor Charley Preusser noted.

The Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser won a first place in environmental reporting for his story ‘Researchers discuss SWIGG study.’ The story reported on a meeting, where study managers explained the well-testing results and answered questions from the public.

However, the judge seemed as impressed by the newspaper’s overall environmental coverage, as the story for which Preusser won first place.

“(The) Crawford County Independent is providing environmental coverage that’s vitally important for the newspaper’s readers to have,” the judge noted. 

“Well, it’s great to have won first place for environmental reporting that’s for sure,” Preusser said. “However, I’m not quite sure the judge understood that Gillian had a separate entry on the same page for a story on a fish kill from manure runoff in a trout stream. He referenced her story in his remarks, but did not give her an award for it.

“The thing is it’s very important for us to win for environmental reporting again,” the editor said. “We’ve won in this category numerous times in the last 10 or 12 years. It’s an emphasis for us.”

Another important award for the Independent-Scout was Jane Schmidt’s second place award in the local columnist category. It is the second year in a row that Jane placed second in the local column category. Overall, her column ‘Jane’s World’ has won first place once, second place three times and also received an honorable mention during the eight years it has been entered.

“Congratulations to Jane again,” Preusser said of the columnist’s latest accomplishment. “We are blessed to feature the work of three award-winning columnists. In addition to Jane, Emily Schendel’s column, ‘From the Valley,’ and John Gibb’s  ‘Drift from a Driftless Place’ have both received awards from the WNA.”

The judge was clearly moved by the three columns of Jane’s World that made up the entry. They included a piece about her mother’s death, the story of ‘Mama Crane’ steadfastly laying on her egg through weather adversity and a good riddance ‘Toast’  on New Year’s Eve to a troubled 2019.

“Jane, I feel you in your columns,” the judge wrote. “You bring the reader into your world and make us feel and see what you are writing. My condolences on the loss of your mother. I am blessed to still have my 93-year-old Mom and we are connected by phone during this pandemic. I will long remember your columns.” 

Jane, ever the eager columnist, resolved to try harder and win first place for the column next year–you got the feeling she wasn’t joking.

And there were other second place awards for the Independent-Scout.

Reporter Gillian Pomplun won second place for business coverage. Her entry was titled,‘Farm economy adapts to climate and COVID.’

The judge’s remarks spoke volumes about the quality of the business coverage in Pomplun’s reporting.

“It is a curse for a judge to have two entries
so close together in excellence as this competition’s first and second places,” the judge explained. “It is obvious that Gillian Pomplun has a heart for the subject of regenerative agriculture and she presented its practice in a masterful way. I had heard about Gabe Brown’s approach to soil health and felt as though I had a thorough course in the subject by the end of the articles. 

“I also wanted to grab my shopping bag and search out Solar Meats,” the judge added. “To highlight specifics of how these
ag producers and businesses are leading the way to sustainability is a gift to any community. Pomplun is to be commended.”

Editor Charley Preusser won second place for a general news photo with ‘Harvesting apples at Sunrise Orchard,’ a picture of John Kiser picking a Honey Crisp apple on a fine fall day.

“Great photo,” the judge stated. “Well-framed, sharp and a strong entry.”

Editor Preusser also won third place for a general news story for some courtroom reporting with ‘Kennedy faces attempted homicide charge.’ 

“I read about the shooting in another entry
and was curious about the case,” the judge stated. “Charles Preusser did a great job of explaining the sometimes confusing aspects of the homicide charge, as well as the events that led up to the hearing. Kudos to him for making a tough legal subject easier for a reader to process.”

Preusser and Pomplun also got an extra pat on the back from the Platteville Journal who won first place  for a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) story. Credited for the effort were Platteville Journal editor Steve Prestegard, Republican Journal editor Kayla Barnes, as well as Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser and Independent-Scout reporter Gillian Pomplun.

“It’s really nice for another  editor, like Steve, to credit your work in his contest entry,” Preusser said after learning of the award. “It’s just icing on the cake for us.”

Fantastic work, especially in the face of pushback from government officials,” the judge said of the Platteville Journal’s first place FOIA entry.

“Seeing all that work honored can be motivational,” Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser acknowledged. “The opinion of your peers is important, but equally important is the opinion of the readers for whom the material was created in the first place.

“There are a lot of things that go into winning these awards,” the editor added. “It’s the proofreading of our office manager Sharon Sanders and her attention to details. It’s the help along the way from weekly columnist and reporter Emily Schendel. It’s the IT help we get from Grant County Herald Independent editor David Timmerman. Of course, it’s the help we get from the Boscobel Dial production manager Barb Puckett and the crew down there. It’s the support of our publisher John Ingebritsen and many, many others. 

“In the end it’s a team effort, regardless of what names appear on any given award,” Preusser said. “Thanks to all of those who help us week in and week out.”