GAYS MILLS - The Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout enjoyed another good year in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest.
The weekly newspaper from Gays Mills won 10 awards from the WNA, including three first place awards. All of the awards were in Division F, which is the WNA’s division for the state’s smallest weeklies.
This year, reporter Gillian Pomplun won a first place award for Best Localized National Story for her story on area efforts to provide relief by sending hay to fire-ravaged farmers in Kansas.
Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser received a first place award in the Investigative Reporting category for a story about a cottage cheese recall and how it was handled.
New to the Independent-Scout effort this year was the work of graphic designer Emily (Big Cookie) Koch. The young graphic artist received a first place award for Best Use of Color in an Advertisement.
“At first, I was hesitant to enter an ad since I had never participated in the WNA Contest before,” Koch said of her entry. “But then, I decided, what do I have to lose? I chose the fair ad because it was one of my personal favorites. I love the county fair, so making a colorful, fun ad was easy and I felt confident in its design.”
Reporter Emily Schendel joined editor Charley Preusser in winning a second place award for Breaking News Coverage. Schendel’s story on the rescue of Jane Keeley from her vehicle swept away by the floodwaters of September, 2016 led the package of stories covering the flood events that fall. In praising the coverage, the contest judge called Schendel’s writing very compelling.
“I felt like I’d been dumped in the river myself along with her rescuer,” the judge wrote.
Schendel also received a third place in the General News category for a story she wrote about squatters taking over a cave in Crawford County. The judge gave credit to Schendel for explaining the complicated situation at the Kickapoo Indian Cavern.
“Extremely in depth article—a lot of time and research was put into this,” the judge wrote.
“That the judge thought my story about Jane Keeley’s rescue was that strong was pretty exciting to me,” Schendel said. “I usually don’t win for my reporting. It was also pretty nice to win in the general news category.
“In fact, winning for that story about the squatters at the Kickapoo Indian Caverns kind of surprised me,” Schendel explained. “It was such a weird story, not really groundbreaking news. But, I like writing about crime and courts and this story was just so unusual for our area.”
Pomplun teamed with Preusser to win a third place award for Interpretive and Enterprise Reporting for a series of stories outlining how changing land use patterns were affecting flooding in the area.
“A review of the history of flood prevention efforts proved timely and enlightening, given the impact recent flooding imposed on the local agricultural economy,” the judge wrote. “Thoroughly researched and nicely done!”
“I put my heart and soul into the stories about the history of prevention efforts in our area,” Pomplun said. “It was so eerie to run the story about the experiences local residents had in the 2007, 2008 and 2016 floods in the same issue as the story about the 2017 flood.”
Preusser also won a third place award for a Spot News Photo of the collapsed roadway on the Lansing Dike that killed a motorist in late May of 2017.
In addition to those awards, the Independent-Scout was also the recipient of three honorable mentions in the WNA Better Newspaper Contest. Columnist Jane Schmidt received honorable mention recognition for her weekly column, which has won first place and second place in past years.
Pomplun also received honorable mention in the Community Service Award category for a series of stories on the Tainter Creek Watershed Council and another honorable mention for Feature Reporting for explaining the long-term impact of repeated flooding on local residents.
“Well, it was quite a year for us again in the WNA contest-there’s no doubt about that,” Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser said. “It was great winning in some of those categories, but maybe this year it was just as important reading some of those judges comments and seeing how we can make improvements.
“I especially want to personally thank Bonnie Olson, Sharon Sanders, Gillian Pomplun and Emily Koch for all of the help and support they provide every day that makes this success possible,” Preusser said. “It definitely is a team effort.