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SPRINGFIELD — The Paxton Record won three first-place awards and several other honors to claim an overall eighth-place finish among 39 medium-sized weekly newspapers that placed in the Illinois Press Association’s 2011 Excellence in News Contest.
With winning entries by Editor Will Brumleve and Sports Editor Cody Westerlund, the Paxton Record tied three other papers for the second-most first-place awards in Division B, which is for weekly papers with a circulation of 3,000 to 10,000; the Record trailed only the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat, which won five.
All three first-place awards won by the Record were in recognition of outstanding reporting, and no other paper in the division earned more first-place awards than the Record in the contest’s 13 sports and news reporting categories. The Record also won a second-place and two third-place awards for reporting.
“The Paxton Record continues to provide leadership in the community through outstanding journalism – proved by the six awards they won this year in the IPA contest,” said Tim Evans, general manager of The News-Gazette Community Newspapers, which owns the Record and several other weeklies. “This community newspaper continues to be among the best in the state year after year. Will and Cody make a great journalistic team and work very hard to provide the best of local news and sports coverage.”
Through the first 10 categories, the Paxton Record was actually winning its division, but a lack of entries in other categories ended up causing the Record to lose ground later. The Record finished in eighth place, just behind the O’Fallon Progress in seventh, Riverside-Brookfield Landmark in sixth and Berwyn Life in fifth. The winner of Division B was Oak Leaves of Oak Park, which edged the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat for the Harold and Eva White Memorial Trophy. The Bureau County Republican of Princeton took third, followed in fourth by the Galena Gazette.
The Iowa Newspaper Association judged the more than 3,500 entries in the editorial contest’s six circulation divisions.
Brumleve attended Friday’s awards convention at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield, picking up a first-place award he won in the category of “Business/Economic Reporting.” The award was for a story written last year about the struggles of downtown Paxton to keep its retail stores.
“This is a strong piece that takes an even-handed look at an important matter without becoming either pessimistic or overly optimistic,” judges wrote of the entry. “The even-handed approach was critical to lend credibility to the reporting. Solid work.”
Westerlund, meanwhile, won two first-place awards – in the categories of “Sports Story” and “Sports Feature.”
The award in the “Sports Story” category was for a story about the Illinois High School Association denying a waiver for Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School football player Eddie Nuss to play in the Panthers’ season-opener against GCMS. Nuss asked for the waiver because he had not completed the required number of practices since he was in basic training.
“Well-written story, presenting both sides of a sensitive issue,” judges wrote. “Writer even got a quote from a state senator.”
Westerlund’s other first-place award was for a feature he did on the PBL High School boys’ basketball team and its experiences coping with the loss of teammate Ryan Coe.
“Well reported and nicely written feature about the seniors in PBL HS basketball team,” judges wrote. “Lead (paragraph) took you into story, and it even had a strong finish. Captured lows and highs of those players, who lost a teammate to leukemia.”
Among other awards won by the Record was a second-place award Brumleve won in the “Government Beat Reporting” category. Judges said Brumleve’s stories about the Ford County Board “show more than basic meeting coverage – You have dug into more than was spoon-fed. They tell me why I should care about what is being reported.” Brumleve’s entry took second behind the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat.
Brumleve also won a third-place award in “Business/Economic Reporting,” for a series of stories about wind farms.
“This is a good collection of stories that put together tell a larger story,” judges wrote. “Good job of exploring several angles in an emotional topic.”
Brumleve and Westerlund together also won third place for “Best School Board Coverage” – a category the Record won last year. Judges said they thought highly of the entry, which included stories about the district’s plans to address low testing scores and implement a drug-testing policy for student-athletes. However, little mention of the school board in the stories kept the entry from placing higher, they said.
Other News-Gazette Community Newspapers also won awards in the editorial contest. In Division B, the Rantoul Press won a second-place award for a sports column and a pair of honorable mention awards for a spot news photo and feature writing. The Rantoul Press placed 13th overall in Division B, tying the Pike Press of Pittsfield.
In Division A, which is for weeklies with a circulation under 3,000, the Mahomet Citizen won first place for general excellence and for an original column. The (St. Joseph-Ogden) Leader won first place for best photo series and two third place awards, for news reporting (single story) and general excellence. The (Tolono) County Star won second place for best sports story and honorable mention for feature writing, government beat reporting and a sports feature.
The Paxton Record won a first-place award in the IPA’s advertising contest for 2011, as well. The Record also won a second-place award, a third-place award and an honorable mention in the contest.
The Record’s advertising representative, Shelbie Rottman, won the first-place award for “Best Ad Series” for a series of ads she did for Heartland Health Care Center of Paxton.
“Consistent theme and designs successfully convey caring message over series of weeks,” judges wrote.
The second-place honor was for “Best Annual Special Section.” The award recognized the Record’s Holiday Greetings Section published prior to Christmas.
“Good, clean design. This section works,” judges said.
The third-place award was for “Best Small Ad,” an advertisement for Paxton Pest Solutions. The honorable mention award was for “Best Shared/Signature Page,” for the Record’s “Buy Local” advertising campaign. Both ads were created by Rottman.
Other News-Gazette Community Newspapers that won awards in the contest were the Independent News of Georgetown and Mahomet Citizen.
The Illinois Press Association, located in Springfield, represents 480 daily and weekly newspapers in the state.