The Winona Post news team took home top awards at the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s (MNA) annual conference held last week in Bloomington.
Reporter Chris Rogers, who joined the Winona Post in December 2012, received a second-place award for New Journalist of the Year among all weekly or semi-weekly newspapers in Minnesota. Judges from the Illinois Press Association said Rogers’ reporting included “strong writing” with “important topics covered,” and praised his news photography work.
Rogers swept passed veteran reporters and won a first-place award for best human interest story, selected among entries from all weekly and semi-weekly MNA newspapers. The story, “Below the surface,” explored spelunkers and the caves they traverse in Southeast Minnesota. “Descriptive, well-written tale of cavers who risk their lives for their hobby and learn about the environment in the process,” judges said of the piece. “The author makes you feel as if you are there in the cave with them, vicariously experiencing the fear, discomfort, and exhilaration of exploring caves. Adding information on how caves are born and speaking with an ecologist rounds out this award-winning piece.”
Rogers also brought home a third-place win in the investigative reporting category for his coverage of the Winona Highway 43 bridge project. Rogers’ report uncovered communication between the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the state’s Historic Preservation Office that not only showed that the two disagreed about the impact the new bridge design would have on the historic, existing bridge, but also that Mn/DOT officials misrepresented state historians’ opinions on the topic.
Winona Post Editor Sarah Squires and Winona Post Publisher and Owner Frances Edstrom claimed a second-place finish for the coveted Freedom of Information Award (FOIA), which recognizes a newspaper’s work to “further the cause of Freedom of Information.” Competition for this award is among all MNA newspapers, including weeklies, semi-weeklies, and daily newspapers. The award recognized the Winona Post campaign for and coverage of Winona County’s new policy to waive fees for copies of public data, a policy the board is expected to review and adopt next month. Judges of the Winona Post’s coverage wrote: “[The] newspaper took up campaign to educate both county officials and the public about the importance of providing information after the county proposed a flat fee [for data].” The Winona Post took home the first-place FOIA in 2010 for a similar transparency campaign.
The Winona Post editorial board also won a second-place award for best headline writing.