Sanpete Messenger receives General Excellence Award

Current staff of the Sanpete Messenger celebrate awards received for work published during 2016. The awards were presented at the Utah Press Association Better Newspaper Contest banquet on Saturday, April 29 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. Pictured are: (seated) Karen Christensen, Suzanne Dean, Robert Stevens, (standing) Daniela Vazquez, Kyler Daybell, Bryan Spencer, Linda Peterson, Michael Bahlmann, Bob Bahlmann, Cathi Call and John Hales.


Sanpete Messenger receives General Excellence Award


John Hales

Staff writer



PROVO—It may have been a little while, but what used to be a regular occurrence has returned: The Sanpete Messenger is once again the best little newspaper in the state, as judged by fellow journalists.

At a banquet and awards ceremony at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo on Saturday, April 29, the Messenger received the Utah Press Association (UPA) General Excellence award for newspapers with circulations of up to 2,500 copies per week.

In the competition, known as the Better Newspaper Contest, newspapers are judged in various categories of news content, photography, design and page layout, and advertising. The judges this year were from Nevada newspapers.

Of 26 individual categories, the Messenger placed first, second or third in 21 of them; 11 of the wins were first-place awards.

“We were pretty much blown away by the number of awards we won, especially all the first places,” said Messenger Publisher Suzanne Dean. “I have to say, when we got 11 first-place awards based on work in 2016, plus 10 more seconds and thirds, it was much more than I expected.”

The Messenger was almost a perennial winner of the General Excellence award throughout the first decade of the 2000s. But after about 2013, the Messenger went through what in sports jargon would be called a “rebuilding” phase.

“About three years ago, we started having some long-time staff people leave us. We were kind of like a sports team with all freshman players,” Dean said.

But a winning team has again emerged.

“The nice thing was that our total of 21 individual awards, resulting in the General Excellence award, represented the work of eight or so full-time and part-time staff members, which was an unusually broad representation and shows that it takes a team to produce a quality newspaper.”

The Messenger’s individual-category first-place awards follow:

  • Publisher Suzanne Dean received first place in the Best Editorial and Best Feature Story categories.
  • Alec Barton won the Best News Series category.
  • “A Half Bubble off Plumb” writer Randal Thatcher took first in Best Feature Column.
  • Sports writer Bob Bahlmann won first for Best Sports Story. (Perhaps with these awards and as the sports season is wrapping up, it is an appropriate time for the Messenger—and its readers—to say “thanks, and fond farewell” to Bahlmann, as he will be soon leaving the newspaper and moving with his family to the St. George area).
  • Reporter Megan Batterman won first place for Public Notice Reporting.
  • In newspaper page design, Lloyd Call won first places for Best Sports Page and Best Lifestyle Page.
  • Call also won for Best Use of Ad Color.
  • The Best In-House Self Promotion was a collaborative effort between Call, Managing Editor Robert Stevens and ad hoc designer Sean Hales. The win was for a series of ads promoting a new Messenger website.
  • Managing Editor Robert Stevens took first place for Best Community Event, the Messenger’s “Most Beautiful Yards of Sanpete County” contest, which was the brainchild of Dean and Stevens.
  • The entire Messenger team won first place for Best News Coverage.

Second- and third-place wins were for Best General News Story, Best Digital Breaking-News Story, Best Sports Column, Best Photo Page, Best News Photograph, Best Feature Photograph, Best Staff-Produced Ad, Best Ad Idea and Best Website.