REGIONAL—The Timberjay was honored last week with eight awards at the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s annual convention in Bloomington. The awards, presented as part of the association’s Better Newspaper Contest, included first place honors in best investigative reporting, best explanation of newspaper operations and ethics, and best public notice journalism. All awards were presented in the 2,501-5,000 circulation category, except for the explanation of newspaper operations and ethics award, which is judged among all newspapers.
The Timberjay’s exposé of uncertainty over the direction of water flow from the proposed PolyMet mine took the top spot in investigative reporting. “The runaway winner!” wrote the judges. “This is what “investigative” reporting should look like— going beyond the official statements, and making an effort to obtain deeper information.”
The story, which was soon picked up by larger media in the state, revealed doubts about the accuracy of one of the principal water models that underlie many of the assumptions in the Final Environmental Impact Statement on PolyMet Mining’s proposed NorthMet mine.
The Timberjay has dominated the investigative reporting category in the annual MNA contest for more than 15 years.
The Timberjay’s reporting on the Greenwood Town Clerk’s 85-percent pay increase led to a first- and second-place award in two separate categories. “This paper’s coverage highlighted the importance of public notices. Boards must follow their agendas. To approve massive pay raises with no notice does a disservice,” wrote the judges in awarding the Timberjay a first-place award for public notice journalism.
The story also took second place in the government/public affairs reporting. “In most states what the town clerk and the chairman accomplished would have been illegal,” wrote the judges, calling the pay raise and the process the town board used to approve it “absurd.”
The Timberjay’s editorial “Why We Don’t Charge for Letters to the Editor,” won first place among all newspapers for best explanation of newspaper operations and ethics. “An excellent explanation of why the paper chooses to run letters to the editor endorsing political candidates for free instead of charging as an ad. The policy gives a voice to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.”
The Timberjay also took second place for best editorial page as a whole, and third-place awards for general reporting, typography and design, and for best social issues story for its report “North Dakota Nightmare,” which recounted the experiences of Edith Chavez, of Lake Vermilion, during her abduction and subsequent escape in North Dakota. The story was subsequently included as part of a larger report on missing and abducted native women in the Upper Midwest that appeared last month in the London-based Guardian newspaper.