by Winona Post Editor-in-chief Sarah Squires
Usually I wait to spill the beans, but now is the time of year when the talented staff at the Winona Post gets ready to head to the Minneapolis area for the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association awards banquet. It’s a fun time — we get to learn things from the experts in our field (sometimes I’m counted among them and teach a class myself!), we get updates on various Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press legal battles of the year, and we get to pick up our awards. Sometimes, we win awards for the stories that were the hardest for us to write, and this year is no exception.
While I won’t entirely ruin the fun of waiting for the list of all that we were lauded for this year, I’ll give you one sneak peek. We netted Best Editorial Page Overall, which is a category that pits newspapers against one another solely based on the content of, you guessed it, this page. The opinion page, you might call it. And while a bit of that award goes to this corner up here occupied by my thoughts, it is mostly an award that recognizes how engaged a community is through the letters that people write to editors. Those letters not only show the diversity of opinions that a community has, but also shows the ways that news and opinion pieces spark curiosity and thoughtfulness in readers. So, to put it plainly, this award belongs to you.
We’ve long been blessed with more, and higher quality letters to the editor than most newspapers in a market our size can boast. I love sharing your thoughts, even when I disagree. Especially when I disagree, because you all make me think about things differently, and you make my own opinions more thoughtful and well rounded. I have learned a lot from you, and that’s the reason there will be awards with my name on them this year, again, too. For this and so many other things that you do, I am thankful.
Not only does this award recognize the high level of discourse that we have in the Winona region, but it also recognizes the quality of our guest and regular columnists, who bring us incredible insight into so many different topics. Judge Challeen’s Swampwater Jurisprudence is something truly unique, and brings us a perspective that not many people can find while sitting at the kitchen table, whether reading the paper or talking to family over dinner. We are very fortunate to have him!
You may think this page belongs to the editor, or the publisher, but in all truth, this is the page that belongs to you. This is your spot to tell us what you think, to share your trials and accomplishments and opinions and feelings of gratitude. So please, don’t hesitate to send off a letter to your friendly editor. I am excited every time I open one, and I think the rest of the community feels that same excitement when they turn to this page twice each week, too.
You often these days hear a relatively new saying that goes something like this: “People don’t listen to listen anymore, they listen to reply.” These days, with quick social media back-and-forth and following such a contentious election season, that seems to be true a lot of the time. But I think that’s what makes this page so unique. Reading someone’s thoughts on an issue in a newspaper is different. Even if you disagree, and are thinking of rebutting, that rebuttal comes later. You have time to digest, to weigh your own ideas, rather than the knee-jerk responses that have become so common. In that way, we have the time to learn from one another, to think more deeply about our own convictions, and in the end, it makes us more intelligent and thoughtful for them.
So here’s to you, kind reader. Senior, award-winning journalists across the country have recognized that this is a special, thoughtful, intelligent community, something we’ve known all along.