The winners and finalists in the 2015 Newsroom Contests


Inland Press Association announced the winners and runners up of its annual Newsroom Contests at the awards breakfast during its Annual Meeting in Chicago Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The contest honored the best work of Inland member newspapers in photography, news writing, front page design, opinion, digital journalism and community leadership

Each of the contests was co-sponsored and judged by a university school of journalism.

Here are the results of the 2015 Inland Newsroom and Digital Journalism Contests:

Community Leadership Award

Sponsored and judged by the Missouri School of Journalism at Missouri University

The Inland Press Association Community Leadership Award was created to encourage newspapers to use their resources of news coverage, editorial support and staff involvement to make their communities better places in which to live and work.

Class A (Under 10,000 Circulation)

The Dickinson (N.D.) Press

The Dickinson Press for its continued and relentless coverage ofthe financial wrongdoing at the Dickinson State University Foundation. Last year, The Dickinson Press won first place in this category for breaking the story on the troubles of one of the city’s most prominent institutions. In 2015, the aggressive coverage continued and the state’s attorney general got deeply involved in the investigation. The foundation’s leadership is no longer there. This gutsy, watchdog reporting no doubt cost some readership, but stands for what newspapers do best.

Class B (10,00 to 49,999 Circulation)

Reading (Pa.) Eagle

TheReading Eagle’s series on the death penalty in Pennsylvania was outstanding on several levels. An innovative data investigation by the Eagle showed the state was spending hundreds of millions of dollars on death penalty cases in a state that had only executed three of 400-plus inmates. The stories helped prompt the governor to declare a moratorium on the death penalty and for the state’s top judge to say that the major failings are due to an elite group of attorneys. The series took the mask off of a serious problem that causes lots of pain for families and is a taxpayer headache.

Class C (50,000 to 99,999 circulation)

The Times of Northwest Indiana

The Times exerted community leadership in every area of its circulation by promoting the importance of civility.  While on the surface, the idea may sound like a simple concept. But the impact has been profound.  The Times has prompted conversations in schools, civic meetings and other places where people come together to discuss important issues. The movement has grown into school curriculum and a new anti-bullying initiative. At a time when there is a national discourse about politics, The Times is commended for bringing its community together under a common topic.

Class D (over 100,000 circulation)

Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.

TheDaily Herald’s series on student and school performance is an outstanding data project that was backed by tremendous reporting and editing.  Through data, the newspaper was able to predict test scores based on poverty rates. Reporters took the data and reported on schools that were doing great jobs despite incredible odds. The series of stories has the potential to be redone in other communities. The lessons learned can be prescriptive for many other cities as America continues to search for ways to end the cycle of failure in many urban schools. A big part of leadership is going beyond identifying problems. The Herald offered solutions and applauded schools that are dong the right thing.

Front Page

Sponsored and judged by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University

(Circulation Under 10,000)

1st: Durango Herald

Judge’s Comments: Excellent use of photos, illustrations and useful graphs/charts to present solid editorial content. 

2nd: Daily Times Herald, Carroll, Iowa

Judge’s Comments: In a competition with very high quality finishers, the Daily Times Herald made choosing a first place winner very difficult with imaginative placement of graphics, and consistently good images chosen for what's apparently a mandated sports-themed skybox.

3rd: Buffalo (Wyo.) Bulletin

Judge’s Comments: Notable for presentation of thoughtfully composed portraits as a frequent graphic element.

(Circulation 10,000 to 49,999)

1st: Scranton Times Tribune 

Judge's Comments: Very well organized paper. There is a nice hierarchy of information. Didn't try to be too clever and always maintains a professional look.

2nd: Victoria Advocate

Judge’s Comments: Cleanest and most consistent series of pages. Nice order, good use of white space. Solid headlines. What a reader needs from a front page.

3rd: The News Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

Honorable Mention: The Villages Daily Sun

(Circulation 50,000 to 99,999)

1st: The State  

Judge’s Comments: Great use of space to tell a story. A nice balance of all the elements. Headlines bring the reading in and work well with the photos.

2nd: Saint Louis American

Judge’s Comments: Terrific photos. Good order, structure and headlines. Solid entries

3rd: The Times, Munster, Ind.

(Circulation 100,000 and above)

1st: The Sacramento Bee

Judge’s Comments: Solid, complete entry with quite a few nice touches. Strong photography and clean, dynamic approach.  

2nd: Tulsa World

Judge’s Comments: Nice special treatment on the anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. It would be great for them to take some of this approach to the regular daily fronts.

3rd: None selected

Editorial Excellence

Sponsored by the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Kansas and judged by Lisa McLendon , lecturer and coordinator of the Bremner Editing Center

(Circulation Under 10,000)

1st: Durango (Colo.) Herald

Judge’s Comments: The Durango Herald submitted a series of evenhanded, well-written editorials that dealt with both local and broader topics, including standardized testing in schools, water pollution, taxation and the death penalty. Focusing on facts and pragmatic solutions rather than ideology and knee-jerk reactions.

2nd: Greenwich (Conn.) Time

Judge’s Comments: The Greenwich Time took on a broad mix of topics in its editorials, from statewide corruption to school bullying. Strong criticism combined with solid writing – for example, “Bullying thrives in silence, and Greenwich officials are turning the volume knob in the wrong direction. Cries for change must not be hushed.”

3rd: Lahontan Valley News, Fallon, Nev.

Judge’s Comments: These editorials tackled topics such as driver’s license regulations, concealed weapons, taxation, and even what federal agents requested from Burning Man organizers (it really was outrageous) with lively writing and calls for common sense.

Honorable Mention: Dickinson (N.D.) Press

Judge’s Comments: The Dickinson Press has an insider’s view of the energy industry in that state, giving its editorials more weight on the topic of oil and gas. So when the paper is calling for more regulation, for “protecting farmer’s fields and pastures, and drinking water sources,” we know they are coming from an informed perspective.

(Circulation 10,000 to 49,999)

1st. Scranton Times

Judge’s Comments: Awarded for series of editorials centering on opposition to the Keystone Landfill proposal. At heart, its stance is that “the perpetual expansion of gigantic garbage dumps, no matter how well they comply with regulations, is not in the area’s interest.” Taking on the issue from the perspective of transparency, the common good and even the stench, the newspaper took a strong stand against something it felt was not a benefit to the community.

2nd: Miami Today

Judge’s Comments: Thoroughly backgrounded editorials, well-written and with a big ofpanache. Topics included the search for a new University of Miami president, criticism of a plan to help local business (“This warm-and-fuzzy proposal should wind up in the deep freeze.”), transparency on construction bonds, a gag rule on teachers, and the Miami Marlins’ baseball stadium.

3rd: Anderson (Ind.) Newspapers

Judge’s Comments: A nicely written group of editorials on a wide range of topics, from child neglect and unnecessary court fees to the value of being nice. It’s not all opposition and criticism: Sometimes we need to stop and think about what we’re grateful for.

Honorable Mention: Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn.

Judge’s Comments: For editorials that cover both local and statewide issues. Close to Newtown, the city of Bridgeport was no doubt rocked by the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, making the newspaper’s call for “common sense” and “reasonable” gun control not a detached, theoretical plea but a real, emotional one.

(Circulation 50,000 to 99,999)

1st: The State, Columbia, S.C.

Judge’s Comments: The State of tackled a range of topics, including the state Legislature, gun laws, investigations of law enforcement, and the Confederate flag. The editorials offer evenhanded, practical suggestions with an eye on fairness and inclusion. And when change came, the paper took notice: “Today, South Carolina begins a new era. It’s probably not the harmonious, we-can-all-just-get-along era that some had imagined. …. But it is an era in which our government no longer sends such a clear message to black people that this is not their state too.” Because the paper’s stances on some of these issues were probably unpopular among a broad section of its readership, The State should be commended for taking a bold stance.

2nd: The Times, Munster, Ind.

Judge’s Comments: The Times devoted a series of editorials to ethics in government, sparked by nepotism, corruption and wasteful spending. It’s as important as ever for newspapers to be watchdogs for the taxpayers, holding government officials to account. The paper stood up for ethics, from local boards to the Legislature, in service to its readers and all Indiana residents.

3rd: None selected

(Circulation 100,000 and above)

1st: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Judge’s Comments: When major events expose deep problems within a community, the newspaper editorial is in a unique position to serve as the voice of reform. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did exactly that regarding the upheaval in Ferguson, when the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager and the protests that followed shook the community to the core and opened a nationwide dialogue on policing and race relations. The Post-Dispatch’s editorials directly identified problems and suggested clear, practical solutions. Written with a sense of urgency, an eye on history and a deep concern for the people of the greater St. Louis area, the editorials were a forceful call to action,

2nd: The Sacramento Bee

Judge’s Comments: Taking a stalwart pro-vaccination stance may have cost the Sacramento Bee some subscribers, but it chose to advocate for the overall health of children and the state as a whole. The lively writing of these editorials helped drive home the point, as did the use of broad data and scientific findings to back up the arguments.

3rd: Tulsa World

Judge’s Comments: Well-written editorials that are in touch with the community and advocating for it, on topics from calling for the local sheriff to resign to criticizing a statewide tax incentive.

Honorable Mention: Omaha World-Herald

Judge’s Comments:  Good writing on a good mix of topics, including a strong call for transparency from a public utility.

Sweepstakes Winner

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Not long after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote: "In the first editorial this page wrote on the Michael Brown case, we noted that the likelihood of a conviction in the case is extremely low. That remains true. It is the simple reality of most police shootings. But there can be an important conviction: The conviction of a city to change." This was not an easy event to cover or to live through, and the truths that came out weren’t pleasant. But through its series of strong editorials on this subject, the Post-Dispatch showed that it has the conviction to call for change in St. Louis—and help lead that change by suggesting practical, thoughtful and compassionate solutions.

Local News Writing

Sponsored and judged by the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky

Investigative Reporting

(Circulation Under 10,000)

1st: Dickinson (N.D.) Press,"What's Next? The oil slowdown in western North Dakota," Managing editor Dustin Monke, Reporters Abby Kessler and Katherine Lymn, Multimedia Editor Nadya Faulx.

2nd: Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, "Ashley Madison Hack: Affair website hackers expose dozens of Carroll men," Reporter Jared Strong

3rd: Buffalo (Wyo.) Bulletin, "Beefing it up: Waste, hunger drives evaluation of school lunches," Reporter Emma Kennedy

(Circulation 10,000 to 49,999)

1st: Fargo Forum,"Trafficked" series: "Sex for sale in the Bakken,” Reporters Amy Dalrymple and Katherine Lymn

2nd: Connecticut Post, "Fix the trains," Reporters Martin Cassidy, Bill Cummings, David McCumber, Mike Daly and Dan Freedman

3rd: Sauk Valley Newspapers, "A Sorry State: Nursing homes in the Sauk Valley,” Reporter Matt Mencarini

(Circulation 50,000 to 99,999)

1st: The Times, Munster Ind., "Solid waste district wastes taxpayers' money,” Reporter Marc Chase

2nd: The Times, Munster, Ind.,"What's killing region youth?" Reporter Marc Chase

3rd: The Times, Munster, Ind.,"OWI conviction may depend on county where you're caught," Reporter Ed Bierschenk

(Circulation 100,000 and above)

1st: Saint Louis Post-Dispatch,"Municipal courts: A money machine," Reporters Jennifer S. Mann, Jeremy Kohler and Stephen Deere

2nd: Tulsa World, "Sheriff's office investigated after fatal shooting,” Reporters Corey Jones, Jarrel Wade, Kendrick Marshall, Curtis Killman and Samantha Vicent

3rd: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "The Invisible Threat," Reporter Mike Wereschagin

Personality Profile

(Circulation Under 10,000)

1st: Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle, “’I have to reinvent myself': The Kevin Matthews story,”Reporter Brenda Schory

2nd: Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, "Battle Buddies: Local veteran turns to peers during long wait for service dog,” Reporter Audrey Ingram

3rd: Durango Herald, "A teacher's final lesson," Reporter John Peel

(Circulation 10,000 to 49,999)

1st: Victoria (Texas) Advocate, "A Woman of War," Reporter Jennifer Preyss

2nd: Scranton Times Tribune, "Who is Eric Matthew Frein?" Reporters David Singleton and Terrie Morgan-Besecker

3rd: Anderson (Ind.) Newspapers, The Herald Bulletin, "Bond of Brothers,” Reporter Kelly Dickey

(Circulation 50,000 to 99,999)

1st: The Times, Munster, Ind., "Retiring but not giving up on Gary,” Reporter Joseph Pete

2nd: The Times, Munster, Ind., "Little man stands tall," Reporter Philip Potempa

(Circulation 100,000 and above)

1st: The Sacramento Bee, "An unquiet death," Reporter Charles Piller

2nd: Tulsa World, "Legally insane: Matt Stick,” Reporter Ginnie Graham

3rd: Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, "Two worlds," Reporter Stephen Deere

Explanatory Reporting

(Circulation under 10,000)

1st: Daily Chronicle, DeKalb County, Ill., “Fairdale tornado: Path of Destruction," Daily Chronicle Staff, Reporter Adam Poulisse

2nd: Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle, "Business minded,"Reporter Ashley Sloboda

3rd: Lahontan Valley (Nev.) News, "The community grieves for young life lost," Reporter Christine Kuklica

(Circulation 10,000 to 49,999)

1st: Anderson (Ind.) Newspapers, The Herald Bulletin

Anderson Newspapers

The Herald Bulletin, "Living ALICE: Asset limited, income constrained, employed," Reporters Zach Osowski and Traci Moyer

2nd: Connecticut Post, "Ruins Reborn," Reporter Hugh Bailey

3rd: Scranton Times Tribune, "The Future of Faith," Reporters David Singleton and Bob Kalinowski

(Circulation 50,000 to 99,999)

1st: The Times, Munster, Ind.,"County property tax exemptions growing," Reporters Robert Kasarda and Bill Dolan

2nd: The Times, Munster, Ind.,"$3,000 Pay Cut," Reporter Joseph Pete

3rd: The Times, Munster, Ind.,"Darren Vann coverage,” Reporters Elvia Malagon, Sarah Reese and Lauri Keagle

(Circulation over 100,000)

1st: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Cyber rattling," Reporter Andrew Conte

2nd: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Roll of the dice," Reporters Bob Cohn, Jerry DiPaola and John Harris

3rd: Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, "A senior year mostly lost," Reporter Elisa Crouch 

News Picture Contest

Sponsored and judged by The Media School at Indiana University

Class A: Photography

Picture Story

1st: Photo Staff, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, “A year in Ferguson: The shooting of Michael Brown”

2nd : Renee Byer, Sacramento Bee, “Marshall Hotel”

 3rd: Gerry Melendez, The State, “Drill Sergeants”

Honorable Mention: Justin Merriman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,“American Coyotes”

Honorable Mention: Natalie Kolb, Reading Eagle“Friday Knights”


1st: Andrew Russell, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Haifa”

2nd: Gerry Melendez, The State, “King Day”

3rd: Marla Brose,Albuquerque Journal, “Albuquerque Pride Parade”

Honorable Mention: John Starks, Daily Herald, “Captive no more”

Honorable Mention: Mike Simons, Tulsa World, “Winter storm”

Honorable Mention: Mike Simons, Tulsa World, “Bug man”


1st: Gerry Melendez, The State, “Bluebirds”

2nd: Brian Hill, Daily Herald, “Lincoln in ice”

3rd: Christian Gooden, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, “Levee high jump”

Honorable Mention: Tim Dominick, The State, “Gamecocks”

HR : Rick West, Daily Herald, “Butterfly selfie”

HR: Samuel Hoffman, The Journal Gazette, “Bubbles by the Bunche”


1st: Robert Cohen, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, “Tear gas man”

2nd: David Carson, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, “Firing of tear gas”

3rd: Phil Carlson, Quincy Herald-Whig, “Elkton fire”

Honorable Mention: Autumn Driscoll, Connecticut Post, “Fire memorial”

Honorable Mention: John Starks, Daily Herald, “Tornado’s aftermath”

Honorable Mention: Steve Lundy, Daily Herald, “Protest of police shooting”

Honorable Mention: Natalie Kolb, Reading Eagle, “Fire kills 5 dogs, displaces 11 in city”


1st: Jose Luis Villegas, The Sacramento Bee, “Safe at home”

2nd: Mike Simons, Tulsa World, “End zone catch”

3rd: Roberto Esquivel, Herald-Standard, “Ready to rumble”

Honorable Mention: _Chris Lee, Saint LouisPost-Dispatch, “Touchdown!”

Honorable Mention: Gerry Melendez, The State, “Basketball camp”

Class B: Picture Use


1st: The State, “SC turns page in  history book”

2nd: The Villages Daily Sun, “A slow slog back”

3rd: The Villages Daily Sun, “Chasing Ebola”

Honorable Mention: Daily Herald, “After 30 seconds”


1st: The Villages Daily Sun, “Calm out on the water”

2nd: Journal Gazette, “City’s property brothers”

3rd: None selected


1st: Daily Herald, “A real downer”

2nd: The State, “Anderson catches lightning in a bottle”

3rd: None selected

Multiple Pages

1st: The State, “SC turns page in  history book”

2nd: The Villages Daily Sun, “The day the Wall came down”

3rd: The Journal Gazette, “Wind, rain punch hard”

Digital Journalism Contest

Digital Journalism—General Excellence A

(Circulation under 50,000)

1st: Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Judge’s Comments: This site deploys every form of digital media when telling stories, encouraging engagement and providing information of all types. Particularly impressive was their multimedia coverage of the shooting death of a Fox Lake police officer, which set a single-day pageview record that day with 429,882 pageviews, including 236,317 on mobile.

2ndI: Victoria (Texas) Advocate

Judge’s Comments: A simple, uncluttered design nevertheless manages to provide a wide array of news, sports, opinion, and audience engagement.

3rd: Anderson (Ind.) Newspapers

Judge’s Comments: Very effective use of video.

Digital Journalism—General Excellence B

(Circulation 50,000 and over)

1ST: Tulsa World

Judge’s Comments: OKPrepsExtra is a high school fan's delight. The layout is exceptionally well done and the amount of information provided is impressive.

2nd: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

3rd: None selected

Creative Use of Multimedia

(Combined circulation categories up to 49,999)

1st: The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

“Penn State Victory”

2nd: Victoria (Texas) Advocate

“Supporters want to pump life into downtown Victoria”


3rd: The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Ind.

“Building up downtown”

Honorable Mention:  Anderson (Ind.) Newspapers

“Unsolved murders”

(Circulation over 50,000)

1st: Tulsa World

“Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Site”

2nd: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“American Coyote”

3rd: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“The Great War and the Steel City”

Honorable Mention: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Two Worlds”

Best Online Innovation

(Combined circulation categories up to 49,999)

1st: The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

“50 ways to engage our readers”

Judge’s Comments: A creative, sweeping engagement initiative with a clever title and mantra to boot, that unleashed a controlled gusher of multimedia, interactive and engagement efforts across the enterprise and brought the company's multi-platform content focus solidly into the 21st century. And it led to results. One albeit small project that really showed the creativity and heart of the overall mission: Walk-in customers at the front desk writing their New Year's resolutions on white boards and holding them up for a photo in an online gallery.

2nd: Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Judge’s comments: Touring makes your head spin the first time, there is so much content of every storytelling and engagement flavor. From the Bears to high schools, ChicagoFootball comes at you with a variety of interactive tools, lots of huge photos and videos (even live streams of HS football games) and text. An impressive body of work.

3rd: Anderson (Ind.) Newspapers

“Top 50 Most Influential People”

Judge’s Comments:The fabric of a community is sewn from its rich past and those whose lives made a difference. Kudos to the impressive investment of time and energy than that the Herald Bulletin committed to in an initiative that featured the 50 most important people in Anderson’s 150-year history. Stories of the 50 were told in print in a series of five one-page packages and a set of five 15-minute videos of people telling the stories of the top 50.

(Circulation 50,000 to 99,999)

1st: The Times, Munster, Ind.

“Regional Crime Report”

Judge’s Comments: A commendable public service effort that hosts interactive crime maps for each city in its market area. Those maps are built, maintained and updated regularly through a partnership between a university and the local police departments and supported by grant funding. 

 2nd: None selected

3rd: None selected

(Circulation 100,000 and above)

1st: Tulsa World

Tulsa World All-World Football Contest”

Judge’s Comments: This creative online and offline initiative lets the public vote online for the best high school football players -- and doubled its votes this year to nearly 1.5 million. A key was aggressive offline, school-by-school promotion and in social media, including following each player, school and coach on Twitter - with a substantial number of follow-backs and retweets. 

2nd: None selected

3rd: None selected