The Tooele Transcript-Bulletin took home a stack of top honors for excellence in reporting, writing, photography, design and advertising at the annual Utah Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest Saturday in St. George.
Of 28 possible categories, the Transcript-Bulletin entered 26 and won or placed in 21, and 12 of those were first place prizes. Of those first-place finishes was the coveted General Excellence award, which weighs an entrant’s performance in the other categories.
The Transcript-Bulletin also took home a first-place Community Service Award for its continuing coverage of Tooele County government’s budget crisis. That entry was comprised of 13 news stories by staff writer Tim Gillie — hand-picked from more than 30 stories written throughout 2013 — and six of the 14 editorials penned by editor David Bern covering the subject.
“We are honored that the judges recognized our extensive coverage of Tooele County government’s financial troubles,” Bern said. “The Community Service Award is one of the highest honors the Utah Press Association bestows, and for us to get this award underscores the short- and long-term effects a crisis like this has on a community, as well as the vital need for a local newspaper to keep citizens informed.”
Other first-place awards include Best News Coverage, for which three specified issues from different points in the year were judged for news writing and reporting, and Best Editorial for Bern’s April 16 editorial column praising the opening of the Grantsville City Library.
The award for Best General News Story went to staff writer Lisa Christensen’s Oct. 1 story “Grantsville man killed in police standoff.” Christensen also won first place for Best Breaking News Story for her Dec. 3 story on a Tooele County Sheriff deputy’s suicide and the resulting lockdown to Stansbury Elementary and High Schools, which occurred minutes before the Transcript-Bulletin was scheduled to go to press.
Photo editor Francie Aufdemorte, who only started with the Transcript-Bulletin halfway through 2013, claimed two first-place awards: Best Photo Page for her coverage of Stockton’s 150th Anniversary, which was designed by graphic designer Liz Arellano, and Best Feature Photograph for a photo of now-Transcript-Bulletin garden columnist Jay Cooper during a garden tour in June. Aufdemorte also won third place in Best Sports Photo for her shot of a Grantsville High School football game.
Aufdemorte’s predecessor, Maegan Burr, also got the top award for Best News Photograph for her dramatic shot of a fire that destroyed a Rush Valley home in February 2013.
Sports editor Mark Watson took home another first-place award for the Transcript-Bulletin with a collection of his From the Sidelines columns, which earned him a first place for Best Sports Column.
Awards for Best Website and Best Special Section, for the Tooele County Magazine, rounded out the Transcript-Bulletin’s haul to an even dozen of first place prizes.
Community News editor Richard Briggs also placed for sports reporting with a third-place finish for his May 21 story about Stansbury High School’s softball team winning the school’s first athletic championship. Three of Briggs’ Out and About columns were also entered, winning him second place for Best Editors/Feature Column.
The Transcript-Bulletin’s design was also honored, with a second-place award for Best Sports Page and a third-place honor for Best Front Page. In advertising, Arellano’s work earned four second places, for Best Staff Produced R.O.P Ad Campaign, Best Staff Produced Ad, Best Use of Ad Color and Best Advertising Idea.
The haul of awards was nice recognition for the company’s dedication to quality, said Publisher Scott Dunn.
“Our level of commitment to the newspaper and the dedication to making the best production possible would stay the same regardless of how we performed in an industry contest like the Utah Press Association’s,” he said. “All the same, it’s nice to see the judges agree with us, that the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin is one of the best newspapers in the state. That’s only possible because of our team of dedicated employees.”
The Transcript-Bulletin competed in the largest category of non-daily papers, though was the second-smallest in terms of circulation amid that category, vying for prizes against publications like the Davis County Clipper, Intermountain Catholic, Iron County Today, Salt Lake City Weekly, Utah Statesman and Valley Journals.
The Sanpete Messenger was awarded General Excellence in its circulation class, with the Sun Advocate and Vernal Express tying for their group. The Salt Lake Tribune claimed the honor for its circulation class.