By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
The Effingham & Teutopolis News Report received a handful of awards at the annual Illinois Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, held in Springfield.
But two of those awards placed the The News Report among the state’s top weekly newspapers with larger circulation. The News Report won first place in General Excellence for Editorial and placed second in General Excellence for Advertising.
Both awards honored the staff of this newspaper – Steve Raymond, Lisa Eirhart, Viv Cornell, Cheryl Westendorf, Tama Price, Herb Meeker, Tina Bean, Jenny Schouppe, Ruth Raymond and former reporters Alyssa Long and Jenna Esgar -- for their efforts that produce a quality newspaper week after week.
“Impressed with this one!” were the words from the judge in regards to News Report content for the Nov. 12 and June 25 issues from 2015. The IPA designates one specific week from the year that all newspapers are judged on. Each newspaper can then submit one additional issue of their choice.
For advertising, the judges wrote of the News Report entries -- “Great community businesses supporting a community paper. Great variety of vibrant companies using print advertising to solicit their offerings. Good use of color and creative copy.”
The General Excellence Awards encompass all aspects of the newspaper – quality of writing and photography, layout and design, headline writing, and creativity and use of color in advertising composition. Everything is judged from front to back in those issues.
And for the second year in a row, The News Report placed high for General Excellence, both in editorial and advertising.
“The General Excellence Awards are the awards everyone wants to win,” said Steve Raymond, publisher and owner of the newspaper. “It judges every aspect of your newspaper. It was an honor to hear our name called as this year’s winner for editorial and to get second for advertising.
“It’s also a reflection of our staff,” Raymond added. “It takes quality, talented, skilled employees to produce this type of product. Without their abilities and efforts, this award would not be possible. This award is for our entire staff.”
Raymond has been involved with the Illinois Press Association for many years, serving as president of the organization a few years ago. He has also participated in the contests for many years and even served as a judge one year to help determine the best entries for another state press association.
“I’ve been around this a long time. Having one newspaper place in both editorial and advertising for General Excellence the same year is rare. It just doesn’t happen very often,” Raymond noted. “For us to receive that recognition two years in a row is quite an honor and something I’m very proud of.”
The IPA Best of the Press contest is considered one of the most competitive in the country for newspapers. There were more than 3,000 contest entries submitted this year from IPA member papers. Awards were distributed in 37 editorial and 23 advertising categories. The 2016 IPA contest entries were judged by members of the Wisconsin Press Association.
In addition to General Excellence, The News Report was recognized in three other categories as well.
Raymond won a first place in sports news for Division B for his story on Anna Sophia Keller’s third cross country championship last fall. The judges stated “This article does a nice job capturing the significance of the runner’s performance in winning her third straight cross country title. I liked the in-depth analysis explaining why she was able to complete the race in record time.”
Raymond also won second place in the newly-created Generations Serving Generations Volunteer Award when he profiled 2015 Volunteer of the Year Lavanda Joergens, titled “Joergens has the heart of a servant.”
The comment by the judge noted Raymond’s extra effort to add a flourish to the story. “The section of the article about her daughter getting her to the banquet was well placed and a great bit of ‘inside info.’”
Honorable Mention went to The News Report for an illustration. Reporter Herb Meeker and graphic artist Lisa Eirhart were trying to determine last July the best artwork to accompany a story about the late Marine Sgt. William Genaust, whose filming of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima in 1945 was being covered by a Japanese film crew last summer.
It was decided to use Meeker’s photograph of the Marine Memorial statue depicting the flag-raising, which he shot during an Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C. in 2014. Eirhart’s graphic skills created a stunning image on the front page with the story and the result demonstrated the power of creative collaboration.
The image, mixed with the text of the story, also impressed the judges. “Using the photo and wrapping the text around it was a good way to draw the reader to the story.”
“Awards are nice. It’s always meaningful to be recognized by your colleagues and your peers,” Raymond said. “But our goal remains the same this week as it has been since we started the paper in August 2012. We want to produce a local newspaper that keeps our readers informed and entertained each and every week. Without that, the awards wouldn’t mean much.
“I just want to thank the communities we serve for all your support. We wouldn’t be here without it,” Raymond added. “I also want to thank my staff. They are talented, but they also care. And that’s why we are able to produce a quality newspaper that our readers and advertisers look forward to each week.”