The Henderson Independent recently received six awards in the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s 2019-20 Better Newspaper Contest that recognizes excellence in the field of journalism.
The Henderson Independent received two first place awards, two second place awards, and two third place awards in this year’s contest.
“We are humbled and honored to have been a winner in not just one but six categories this year,” Henderson Independent Editor Rachel Miller said. “We know that this would not be possible without all of the ongoing support from our local businesses, organizations, and loyal subscribers. Last year was a tough year for not just us, but the newspaper industry in general. Your continued patronage means the world to us and inspires us every week to do the best work we possibly can. We truly are in this together, and for that we are eternally grateful.”
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Miller attended a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 28, and received the physical awards last Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Newspapers from all over the state participate in the annual competition and are judged according to their circulation classes. In most categories, the Henderson Independent competes in the under-1,000 circulation division.
Among this year’s accolades was first place for Sports Story, for the Feb. 12, 2020 girls basketball story, “Giants fall by 6 in exciting back-and-forth battle with TCU,” written and photographed by Miller.
“Good storytelling packed with details. Well-written lead. You can tell the reporter really knows that team,” the judge commented in the review.
The Independent also received first place in Social Issues for Miller’s story about local resident Josh Nelson participating in a motorcycle ride to protest police brutality following the shocking death of George Floyd last summer.
The Independent and Miller also received second place in Government/Public Affairs Reporting this year, which is perhaps one of the hardest and most prestigious awards in the contest.
Unlike most categories, Government/Public Affairs Reporting pits weekly newspapers of all circulation classes against each other. Miller received a second place award for her ongoing coverage of Henderson residents’ fight for a fix for flooding. The Pine Knot News in Cloquet placed first, and Southwest Journal in Minneapolis was third.
Miller submitted multiple stories as a single entry, which included “Minnesota House hears bid for Highway 93 repairs” (published Oct. 16, 2019); “Henderson crowd gathers to make Highway 93 appeal” (published Oct. 30, 2019); “When will a fix for flooding get funded? Legislative session ends without a bonding bill, even as Hwy. 93 floods again” (published May 20, 2020); and “Gov. Walz comes to town, Henderson flood mitigation efforts are ‘on the 5-yard line’” (published July 22, 2020).
“Henderson residents should be proud of the efforts they put in that helped convince the governor and state legislators of the importance of funding meaningful flood mitigation,” Miller said. “You proved that you don’t need to be large to make a difference.”
Miller also received second place in the Arts and Entertainment category for last year’s One Act Play story about the Radium Girls and third place for Business Story for her article about how CSA farms received a boost from COVID last summer.
The Henderson Independent also received third place for General Reporting, which evaluates all of the stories in a newspaper.
“Great news-fare, feature-based with government and education, solid community presence with photo pages. Well done!” the judge commented.
Miller also added that coworker Beth Cornish deserves a lot of credit for the work she puts in, most of which is behind-the-scenes, and includes helping Miller with research, occasional meeting coverage, and as of last summer, writing baseball stories.
“Although the community may be used to seeing my byline in the paper every week, putting a paper out every week would be an even more monumental task were it not for Cornish,” Miller said. “A big part of any company’s success is its people, and we make a good team. Whether it is handling our subscriber database, sending out subscription bills, doing background research, pitching in on stories and doing the weekly From Our Files, or any of the other tasks I may ask of her, she does it all with a smile.”