Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

The WNA awards are a starting point

by John Halverson

March 07, 2013

“Awards only matter if you win.”

In the past, I’ve told people that as a hedge against disappointment.

Well, this year we won.

The Lake Geneva Regional News won the General Excellence Award in its circulation class at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association annual meeting last weekend. That means the judges from the Missouri Press Association thought it was the best paper of its circulation size in the state.

Our website was named best in its division. And our ReelLifeTV project won two firsts.

Plus we won four other awards.

No one on the staff can remember winning more than one or two awards in the past and never general excellence.

So what does it matter?

We can put some plaques up on the wall. Everyone on the paper ought to have a little spring in their step when they walk by, which ought to make us feel better about our jobs and the pursuit of excellence.

We can brag about the awards in ads and note them on the front page of the paper.

Maybe that will entice casual readers to read us more and make others, who may have written us off, give us a second look.

That would help circulation, and in this age every paper needs that.

If you’re one of those people who would give us a second look, your last opportunity to subscribe at the current price of $45 (in county) is nearing. Please give us a chance. (You can do it by calling (262) 248-4444 or on our website.)

One thing the awards won’t do is make us complacent. It should give us a quiet pride that we can do even better.

I could tell in the eyes and the words of my fellow journalists at the awards presentation Friday night that this was just the start. We’re a competitive group and we have something to chase after now.

Another weekly paper, the Ripon Commonwealth Press, had more awards overall and took home a trophy for the best weekly paper in the state.

We want that trophy next year.

Clearly, bringing home awards isn’t a be-all and end-all.

It might inspire us to make that extra phone call to make sure a story is right or to ask one more question.

It may make us focus better on a Tuesday night when we put together the paper and we’re all tired.

It might make our Wednesday critique meetings even more fruitful as we come up with ideas to mitigate our shortcomings and multiply our strengths.

And it ought to mean something to the rest of the staff we have, too. Three editorial staffers joined me at the awards ceremony Friday night.

I wish more of our staff could have attended because we’re all in this together.

The last thing I want is for the rest of our staff to think the editorial department is the be-all and end-all.

And the last thing I want is for the editorial staff to think they’re more important than they are and forget how much they and the paper depend on everyone who works here. We’re all tethered together.

The advertising staff sells the ads and the production department creates the ads which pay for everyone.

The office staff fields calls for reporters, and the entire staff, which is full of experience, constantly gives the editorial department leads for stories.

The rest of the staff supports the reporters and editors and sometimes criticizes us. We need that.

These awards should bond us together not separate us. Make us more of a team.

In the end, awards go beyond what they mean to us.

They mean our readers are being rewarded, too. Not for what we’ve done in the past or what plaques we put on the wall, but for the resolve to do even better.

In the end, it should be the readers and advertisers who win.

John Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News