P&D, Plain Talk Claim Top State News Honors

The Yankton Press & Dakotan has swept both the General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards, along with claiming a total of 25 awards, in the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s “Better Newspapers Contest.”

The Press & Dakotan won the top two awards for daily newspapers with a circulation of less than 7,000. General Excellence recognizes all aspects of the publication. Sweepstakes recognizes the total points accumulated by both the staff and the newspaper itself.

In addition, the P&D won first place for best typography and design in its circulation category.

Gary Wood is the P&D publisher, while Kelly Hertz is the managing editor. The P&D won two of its awards competing against dailies of all sizes.

In addition, the Vermillion Plain Talk won the General Excellence award, the Best Typography and Design award and Best Website award for weeklies with a circulation of 901-1,300. Gary Wood is the publisher, David Lias is the editor and Beth Rye is the digital media director.

In addition to the newspaper’s awards, David Lias won third place honors for local column and best news series. The three-part series focused on people associated with Vermillion or the University of South Dakota who lived in New York City during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following are the results for the P&D staff. In some cases, the categories include all daily or weekly newspapers, regardless of circulation.

• Best Editorial Writing (all daily newspapers): 1st, Kelly Hertz for his series of three editorials on a proposal by some Yankton County residents to secede their townships from the county; an incident at the state capitol involving intoxicated legislators; and the local controversy over mask mandates.

• Best Feature Photo: 1st, Kelly Hertz for his photo of a comet over Lake Menno; 2nd, James Cimburek for his photo of the Platte-Geddes football player in a wheelchair holding up the championship trophy at the DakotaDome; Cora Van Olson for a picture from Special Olympics;

• Best Feature Series: 1st, Randy Dockendorf and Cora Van Olson for their stories on people and events impacted by the pandemic along with local efforts to combat COVID-19;

• Best Feature Story, Profile: 1st, Randy Dockendorf for his tribute story on the late Travis Halsey, a Springfield native who became a renowned costume designer by establishing his own company and working with the nation’s top theatrical companies;

• Best Lede (opening paragraph): 1st, Kelly Hertz; 2nd, Randy Dockendorf

• Best Local Government Story: 1st, Rob Nielsen for his story on a Yankton County Commissioner’s controversial emails; 3rd, Randy Dockendorf for his story on the resignation of a Bon Homme County deputy sheriff as part of a settlement.

• Best Sports Columns: 1st, Kelly Hertz; 3rd, James Cimburek

• Best Sports Photo: 1st, Jeremy Hoeck for his photo of University of South Dakota high jumper Zach Anderson (of Parker) at a track meet;

• Best Spot News Photo: 1st, Kelly Hertz for his photo of a house fire near Yankton; 2nd, Cora Van Olson for her photo of Irene-Wakonda High School graduates tossing their mortarboards into the air; 3rd, Randy Dockendorf for his photo of demonstrators during a protest in downtown Yankton;

• Best News Series: 2nd, Cora Van Olson for her coverage of the Stephen Falkenberg murder trial;

• Best Sports Story: 2nd, Randy Dockendorf for his profile on Wagner resident Wayne Scherr qualifying his horse for the Kentucky Derby; 3rd, Jeremy Hoeck on the University of South Dakota’s use of male basketball players to scrimmage with the Coyote women’s basketball team

• Best Sports Series: 2nd Jeremy Hoeck and James Cimburek for their stories on “Where Are They Now?”; 3rd, Jeremy Hoeck on the Bob Winter basketball camps;

• Best Portrait Photo: 3rd, Randy Dockendorf for a photo of Georgianne Pravecek, who retired after 70 years as organist at St. George Catholic Church in Scotland.

• Best Special Section (all dailies): 3rd for the winter sports season preview, with Gary Wood as publisher and James Cimburek as sports editor.

A number of area weekly newspapers also won awards. The following is a round-up of those accolades.

• The Freeman Courier swept both the General Excellence and the Sweepstakes Award for weekly papers with circulation of more than 1,300.

Jeremy Waltner is the publisher, while his father, Tim Waltner, formerly published the paper and still contributes to the publication.

Tim Waltner won first place for best editorial writing, while Tabitha Schoenwald won first place for best two column advertising, best series advertising idea and best use of color and third place for best digital ad idea and campaign.

Jeremy Waltner and Schoenwald won third place for best use of local photographs.

Jeremy Waltner won the remaining awards: first place for best feature series, best feature story (non-portrait), best headline writing, best local government story, best news series, best portrait photo, best sports reporting, bet spot news photo, best typography and design, and second place for for best editorial writing, best series ad idea, and third place for best sports section and best use of local photographs.

• Parker New Era editor Sarah Ebeling won first place for best lede (opening paragraph) among weeklies with less than 900 circulation.

• Parkston Advance photographer Diana Holden won third place for best sports photo among weeklies with less than 900 circulation.

• Scotland Journal editor Peggy Schelske won third place for best photo series among weeklies with less than 900 circulation.

• In other regional newspapers with under 900 circulation, the Dakota Dunes-North Sioux City Times won third place in General Excellence, along with first place in spot news photo; second for best local government story, best sports photo, best sports reporting; and third for best spot news story and best typography and design.

• Among newspapers 901-1,300 circulation, the Southern Union County Leader-Courier won third place in General Excellence and third place in feature photo, sports photo and typography and design.

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