Sanpete Messenger wins ‘general excellence’ award, takes firsts in 14 of 26 categories
MANTI—Although the traditional dress-up awards banquet was cancelled because of the coronavirus and the plaques came in the mail, the outcome of the 2019 Better Newspaper Contest was still sweet for the Sanpete Messenger.
For the 11th time since 2001, the Messenger won the “general excellence” award, or first place, in the small-newspaper category. It competed with 15 other Utah newspapers with circulations of 3,000 or less in the contest, sponsored by the Utah Press Association.
“It felt nice,” said publisher Suzanne Dean. “We didn’t win in 2017 or 2018, both times because we didn’t put the necessary effort into selecting our entries. This year, we put in a big effort, including at least two full work days by most of the whole editorial staff. It paid off.”
The general-excellence award is based on the total points a newspaper receives in 26 categories ranging from “best news story” to “best advertising idea.”
The Messenger took first place in 14 categories, and placed first, second or third in 22 of the 26 categories.
“Our awards were well distributed across the different skill areas of community journalism, including writing, photography, layout, advertising, self-promotion and community involvement,” Dean said.
The Messenger took first for “best general news story,” a story by Dean on victim statements in court in the Gunnison Valley High School sex abuse case. Dean also won in opinion-writing for a selection of three of her Publisher’s Perspective columns, including one explaining county property taxes from the perspective of her own property tax bill.
Managing editor Robert Stevens cleaned house in photography with the “best news photo,” “best feature photo,” and “best sports photo.”
His news photo showed a house in Mt. Pleasant being burned down as a fire department exercise. His feature photo showed Gunnison volunteers unfolding “Big Betsy,” one of the nation’s largest American flags.
His sports photo was a time-lapse picture of a pro-mx rider and Gunnison Valley native, Sean Nielon the Gunnison Fourth of July celebration.
Stevens also took a first for “best community event,’ the newspaper’s third Beautiful Yard Contest. Stevens coordinate the whole contest, including judging and prizes. Then he wrote all the articles and took all the photos for a special section of the newspaper featuring a dozen winning yards.
James Tilson, reporter and sports editor (who has since left the paper), teamed up with Dean to produce the “best news series,” a three-part story with several sidebars on “Suicide in Sanpete.”
Tilson also took first in sports columns for “Looking up from the practice field,” his column about cases where sports contribute to building character.
Lloyd Call, associated publisher, who lays out the Messenger, took first place for best sports page and best lifestyle page. Those categories are judged based on three samples of each type of page.
Call also won for ‘best in-house self promotion” for a full-page ad with clipped articles from various issues of the Messenger. The headline read, “Sanpete Messenger; Committed to community journalism, every town, every day.”
Dean said she was especially proud of the newspaper’s first place in special sections. The award was for the Messenger’s final Mormon Miracle Pageant magazine, a 64-page gloss publication with the theme, “Thanks for the memories.”