Top newspapers recognized; Gackle 57th Hall of Fame inductee
Photo credits: Josiah Cuellar, Dickinson Press- General Excellence winners: Cecile Wehrman of the Tioga Tribune; Phil Seibel and Amy Dalrymple of the Bismarck Tribune; Joy Schoch, James Miller, and Jenn Binstock of the Dickinson Press; and Jackie Thompson of the Walsh County Record in Grafton.
The 2023 NDNA Better Newspaper Contest winners were announced May 12th during the NDNA/SDNA joint convention at Spirit Lake Casino near Devils Lake, ND. Mike Gackle, president of the former newspaper company BHG Inc. was honored as the 57th inductee into the North Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame at the Friday night ceremony.
First place winners of the prestigious General Excellence award by circulation group were: the Burke County Tribune, Bowbells – small weekly; Tioga Tribune - mid-size weekly; Walsh County Record, Grafton – large weekly; Dickinson Press – small multi-day; and Bismarck Tribune – large multi-day.
General Excellence judging evaluates all aspects of the newspaper, including news coverage, editorials, columns, photos, advertising, layout and design.
In the large multi-day group, judges raved about the Bismarck Tribune, “enjoyed this paper. Good community focus. Tons of variety in stories. I feel like I know what’s happening in North Dakota. This is a darn good effort. Well done!”
For small multi-days, judges chose the Dickinson Press, “this is a paper that serves its community well, with a depth of local and regional/statewide reporting. It’s attractive, with big, bright and engaging photos of local people.”
The large weeklies group was hard for the judges to decide, “it was a tough competition, but in the end an outstanding sports report helped buoy the Walsh County Record of Grafton to first place. Very good photography and a solid selection of local news made for a quality publication.”
The Tioga Tribune took first in the mid-size weekly group. Judges reported, “Fantastic newspaper. Class of the division.”
And in the small weekly group, judges said about the Burke County Tribune in Bowbells, “Great weekly newspaper. Very well done in every category.”
The sweepstakes awards are based on points received for awards won by each newspaper in the contest, and there is one winner per circulation group. Winners of the sweepstakes awards were: News-Monitor, Hankinson; Hillsboro Banner; Walsh County Record, Grafton; Dickinson Press; and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.
On years when we are combined with SDNA, a special General Excellence contest is held to judge the Best of the Dakotas. North Dakota newspapers are judged against South Dakota newspapers in five circulation groups. This year, North Dakota took home the traveling trophy once again with four out of five circulation groups won: the Hamlin County Republican, Castlewood, SD won in the small weekly group. In the mid-size weekly group, the Hillsboro Banner was awarded. The large weekly group saw The Journal, Crosby as the winner. Dickinson Press won in the small multi-day group. And The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead was the winner in the large multi-day group. Great job to the North Dakota newspapers in being the Best of the Dakotas!
Eric Hylden of the Grand Forks Herald and Kelli Ameling of the Emmons County Record in Linton won the Photo of the Year awards. Two Photo of the Year winners are chosen from all first place photo winners, one in the weekly division, and one in the multi-day division. Watch for Photo of the Year winning entries to be highlighted in the next bulletin.
Several special awards were also announced:
- Melissa Van Der Stad was named as “Rookie Reporter of the Year.” Judges commented on her “outstanding work.”
- The award for “Public Notice Journalism” went to Alyssa Meier of The Leader-News in Washburn for a Wilton election notice story, “great coverage on an important issue,” the judges offered.
- Dave Olson of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead secured the award for “Community Service” with his story on ND’s legal guardianship program. Judges said, “Very thorough and complete coverage, a clear winner in this category.”
- The “First Amendment” award went to April Baumgarten and Jeremy Turley from the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, “this was the best story of the year in my opinion. Baumgarten’s reporting exposed a once-revered man and the state’s longest-serving lawmaker as, at the very least, someone with a few skeletons in his closet,” judges remarked.
- And new this year was the “Headliner” award. This award is chosen from all the first place headline winners. Hillsboro Banner’s Cole Short took the win with his headline, “Life fries at you fast.” He was presented with a t-shirt showcasing his winning headline, and has bragging rights until the next convention for the most clever headline in 2022.
The NDNA Hall of Fame induction was held at the final awards presentation. Mike Gackle, this year’s inductee, helped build, grow and operate BHG Inc., North Dakota’s largest family of “family newspapers.” He became chief financial officer and then president of the company that eventually included 12 community newspapers, a half dozen shoppers and several other publications. He also managed the company’s printing department and grew its customer base to 40 community newspapers and many other commercial clients. Along the way, Gackle volunteered for countless projects in his community, becoming Garrison’s Citizen of the Year in 2010, while also taking on leadership roles in the North Dakota Newspaper Association, the NDNA Education Foundation and the National Newspaper Association.
***Our prayers and positive healing wishes continue to be with Mike Gackle during his journey. You can follow Mike's progree on the caring bridge link below: https://www.caringbridge.org/search?q=mikegackle