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Independent-Scout wins six awards in WNA Better Newspaper Contest
This photo of apple picker Tim Copus won a first place for General News Photo. - photo by CHARLEY PREUSSER

The Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout was the recipient of six awards in the 2012 Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for Division F Weeklies.

Presented at the WNA’s Annual Convention in Middleton last Friday, the honors included three first place awards, which were: First Place Environmental Reporting-Erin Martin; First Place Freedom of Information/Open Records-Erin Martin; and First Place General News Photo-Charley Preusser.

Martin received the first-place environmental reporting award for stories about frac sand mining. A judge noted her “in-depth research is evident in the articles.”

Martin’s first-place freedom of information story concerned the efforts of a local resident to obtain computerized records from voting machines.

“A good explainer on the tricky world of electronic voting,” the judge wrote of Martin’s freedom of information story. “More and more public records are being held through proprietary programs and it’s incumbent on the news media to ensure that the public’s right to review these records be protected.”

Preusser received a first-place general news photo award for a picture of an apple picker working in the local orchards during the fall harvest. A judge said the “cleanly composed photo with a nice expression on the subject’s face made this photo the first place choice.”

The Independent-Scout was also the recipient of a second place award and two third place awards. Preusser received a second place award for business coverage centered on agriculture. He also received a third place award for a sports feature story about Seneca girls basketball coach Kim Redman and another third place award for the overall sports pages.

“Preusser clearly committed to beat,” a judge wrote in commenting on the agricultural stories that led to a second place award for business coverage. “Stories weave data and perspective well. ‘Composting’ a surprisingly engaging read. An easy pick.”

Morris Newspapers Wisconsin Publisher John Ingebritsen was pleased with the local newspaper’s performance in the contest.

“It’s another banner year for the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout,” the publisher said following the convention. “Judges look for quality writing. Winning entries have a clear focus and can bring out the heart and soul of the story. Charley and Erin have done a terrific job producing award-winning stories.”

It is the second year in a row that the Independent-Scout has won six awards including three first place awards.

“Well, it’s definitely an affirmation of the work,” editor Charley Preusser said of this year’s awards. “I was very happy to see Erin Martin win a first place award for environmental reporting. She definitely deserved it.

“I wouldn’t downplay the importance of the awards that’s for sure,” Preusser said. “We don’t go through the bother of submitting the work because we don’t care about winning the contest. On the other hand, I feel like the biggest honor, the biggest award, is the reader who subscribes to paper or buys it at the newsstand. That’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s really about how the readers judge you. That’s the real contest.”

For her part, Erin Martin was happy to win the environmental reporting award for the second year in a row. Last year, she was part of a team of reporters that included Andreas Transø and Charley Preusser, who won the award for a series of stories about a proposed high-capacity well adjacent to a trout stream, known as Copper Creek.

However, Martin was also very impressed by wining the first place award for freedom of information reporting.

“The contest is a useful thing. It allows you to benchmark your efforts against what’s being done by others in the state,” Martin explained. “It gives you a more objective view of the quality of the work by giving you something to compare it with.”

Although the names on the plaques or certificates may be Erin Martin or Charley Preusser, both were quick to acknowledge the work of others in proofreading, editing and more.

“I particularly want to thank an unsung hero in our office and that’s Bonnie Olson,” Preusser said. “Bonnie is an excellent proofreader and what she does to improving those award-winning stories is invaluable.”