Best of the best: NDNA honors newspapers for excellence in journalism

5/07/21 (Fri)

Best of the best: NDNA honors newspapers for excellence in journalism

North Dakota’s top newspapers by circulation class include the New Rockford Transcript (small weeklies), Hillsboro Banner (mid-sized weeklies), Walsh County Record in Grafton (large weeklies), Daily News in Wahpeton (small multi-day), and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (large multi-day).

They are the first-place winners in the general excellence category of this year’s North Dakota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest, judged this year by industry representatives in Wyoming.

Judging for the coveted general excellence award covers all aspects of each newspaper, including their news and feature stories, photography, advertising, graphic design, and headlines.

Awards were announced on May 7 during a virtual event, after the association’s spring convention was delayed until October due to COVID-19.

Newspapers compete among five circulation groups: large multi-day publications, small multi-day publications, large weekly papers, mid-sized weeklies, and small weekly newspapers.

In the small weekly general excellence division, judges honored the Burke County Tribune in Bowbells with an honorable mention, Valley News & Views in Drayton with third place, and Mandan News with second place. Among the mid-sized weeklies were Foster County Independent in Carrington with a third place and The Leader-News in Washburn with second place. Judges gave honors in the large weekly category to The Journal in Crosby with an honorable mention, third place for the Bottineau Courant, and second place to McKenzie County Farmer in Watford City. Small multi-day general excellence winners also include Jamestown Sun in third place and the Dickinson Press in second place. Large multi-day publications receiving general excellence accolades included the Bismarck Tribune in third place and the Grand Forks Herald in second place.

The contest includes categories for photography, design, writing, and special projects. Some of this year’s special awards included honoring Adam Willis of The Forum as Rookie Reporter of the Year, the Bismarck Tribune for public notice journalism, Grand Forks Herald for its 2020 community service, and The Forum for its First Amendment coverage. “This entry represents a year of hard work aimed at upholding government transparency and illuminating when local government ran afoul of the law,” judges wrote of The Forum’s First Amendment coverage. “Editorials clearly laid out what is at stake for readers when open records/open meetings laws are broken. Reporting on the mental health provider that ignored warning signs before a violent attack on an employee shed light on what can go wrong when institutions are lax in their duty to protect. Fantastic package; readers are fortunate to have The Forum as a champion of their rights.”

Photos of the year are chosen among the first-place winners in the photography categories. This year, photos of the year included “A whole new challenge” by Mike McCleary of the Bismarck Tribune for the multi-day division, and “Tic-Tac-Toe” by Tyson Smedstad of The Leader-News in Washburn for the weekly division.

The contest also includes sweepstakes awards, going to the papers that won the most awards for their circulation classes; this year those winners included the Grant County News in Elgin, the Hillsboro Banner, the Walsh County Record in Grafton, Dickinson Press, and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

Hallmark awards, which are typically also given during the spring convention, were also awarded. Rep. Bill Devlin, along with his wife Margie, were inducted into the NDNA 50 Year Club after their work in newspapers for more than half a century. Duane Schatz, former owner/publisher of Grant County News and Carson Press, was inducted into the NDNA Hall of Fame. Schatz passed away earlier this year. Former Grand Forks Herald Publisher Mike Maidenberg received the NDNA Distinguished Service Award. And, NDNA members thanked outgoing NDNA President and The Forum Editor Matt Von Pinnon for leading the organization over the last year.

For more information about this year’s newspaper accolades in North Dakota, contact NDNA Executive Director Sarah Elmquist Squires at or 701-223-6397.

For further information, contact Sarah Elmquist Squires,
NDNA Executive Director,
866-685-8889 or