The newspapers and websites produced by Lake Country Publications and Mukwonago Publications took home 33 awards in the annual Better Newspaper Contest, which were announced Friday, Feb. 28, at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association's annual convention at the Marriott hotel in Pewaukee.
The newspapers and websites racked up 11 first-place awards, doing especially well in photography, where they collected nine awards, five of them first place.
The showing by Lake Country and Mukwonago publications is the second-best performance by the group in the WNA contest, trailing only last year, when a total of 35 awards were garnered.
The Lake Country Reporter notched 16 awards to lead the group, followed by the Oconomowoc Focus with eight honors. Waukesha Now had four awards, the Mukwonago Chief three and the Sussex Sun and Kettle Moraine Index one apiece.
First-place honors went to the Reporter's Scott Ash for both best feature photo and best sports photo, to Melissa Graham for best reporting on local education and to Michelle Flanders for best advertising idea.
For the Oconomowoc Focus, first-place awards were earned by photographer Todd Ponath for best general news photo, and by Scott Ash for both best sports photo and best photo essay, by Chris Schuck for best sports column and by the staff for best editorial pages.
First-place awards went to Matt Colby for Waukesha Now for best overall page design, to Kelly Smith of the Sussex Sun for best open records and freedom of information reporting.
The Mukwonago Chief's JR Radcliffe won second place for best headlines, and the Radcliffe-led sports team took third for best sports pages. Carol Spaeth-Bauer earned a third-place award for her overall reporting on local government. Spaeth-Bauer also earned a second-place award for best education reporting at the Kettle Moraine Index.
At the Reporter, second-place awards went to Radcliffe and the sports team for best sports pages, to Chuck Delsman for best sports column, to Donna Frake for local education reporting and to the entire staff for general excellence in web pages, LivingLakeCountry.com. In advertising, seconds went to Kristin Hill, Paddy Kieckhefer and Michelle Flanders for best advertising idea in a series, best use of color and best use of art service, respectively. Flanders also captured a third place for best use of color in an ad.
Second place at the Oconomowoc Focus went to Paige Brunclik for environmental reporting and to Ponath for feature photo. Also, Ash took third place for best feature photo.
At the Reporter, third-place honors went to Radcliffe for best headlines. Colby earned third for best use of graphics and best feature-page design. Editor-in-chief Scott Peterson took home a third place for his Scott Free column.
Waukesha Now scored three third-place kudos, for best business coverage (Chris Kuhagen), best general news photo (Ponath) and best photo essay (Ash).
Four business stories were part of the submission. These included a story on the Golden Guernsey closing, an article on the current mayor and former mayor addressing The Clarke Hotel, analyzing how the loss of the downtown Waukesha Business Improvement District would be felt and a story on redevelopment in the City of Waukesha.
Now's sister publications, covering suburbs closer to Milwaukee, also had a strong showing, bringing home 13 awards, doing especially well with web content, where they collected eight awards, including firsts for creative use of multimedia and general web excellence.
Smith's coverage of the Butler police pornography and sexual harassment scandal was called out by the judges in their remarks: "Good coverage of a major police scandal. This is what reporting the news is all about! The public is entitled to this information."
On Schuck's sports column, the judges said, "great information and word choice put this entry over the top."
Ponath's photo of the flooding the Oconomowoc area promoted the judges to say "Beauty in devastation. First, a visually stunning photo. Then I realized it was a flooding disaster. Really great capture."