Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
At the 2011 Minnesota Newspaper Association convention last weekend, the Tri-County News received five awards: two first-place, two second-place, and an honorable mention. MNA president Jake Benson and Tri-County News publisher/editor Jean Doran Matua, together holding four of the Tri-County News awards.
A rewarding time at the convention
Every January, I look forward to going to Bloomington for a few days to attend the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association convention. It never fails to be a great learning experience.
This year's convention is now history; it was this past week, ending around noon Saturday.
Each year, I gain a little more confidence, and a few more "newspaper friends." This was my eleventh convention, and it was great.
I found out nearly two months ago that we had won four awards in the annual "Better Newspaper Contest" that comes around each September. I had submitted several of the good things that had been in the Tri-County News during the previous year, and I was happy that four of them were judged by our peers in Michigan to be worthy of awards.
One of the awards was almost an accident. It was actually an accident, or rather a photograph of an accident. The photo earned my husband an honorable mention.
Another was for a small ad with color added to make it "pop."
I also won a second-place award for Best Self-Promotion Ad. It was an ad campaign (series of ads) for our brand-new website that we unveiled in November 2009. "Important information about newspaper's website with a catchy header, 'Coming to a computer near you.' Liked that they didn't try to put everything offered in one ad, using a series of ads looked effective and had to be a success. Nice use of theme and colors."
The most exciting of our awards was our first-place Best Website award. Here's what the judges said: "A very encompassing site with a lot of content. ... The recent update section shows your readers that you are always updating your site Ð something that is very important for a weekly. The variety of story headers, the online calendar of events, and social media usage is nicely done."
When it was time to seriously upgrade the newspaper website two years ago, I spent about nine months researching every possibility.
I chose to work with the company we'd used for several years and to be bold about it: I designed the layout of a website (using the same software I use each week to design the newspaper), selecting the color scheme, positioning, and content categories. Then I sent that design to the company and asked them to "make it happen." To my surprise, they did just that.
So pardon my bursting pride that our site, the one I designed from scratch, won first place.
At least as exciting as that, we've had more than 800,000 page views since the launch of our new site 15 months ago, and more than 18,000 visits to our mobile website (specially designed for smartphones and iPods). We grew steadily from launch day, and put just over 2,000 stories on-line during those 15 months.
Just when I thought it couldn't get better than winning these four awards, it did.
Each year, the MNA holds an ad contest. Each entry was to be a set of ads that any newspaper could use to promote newspapers, both reading and advertising. The ads are posted, anonymously, for everyone at the convention to vote on.
Each year, I've had ideas for these ads. And each year, I've submitted something. Of course, everyone else submitting ads for the contest are professional ad design people. So I always felt like the underdog, and almost unworthy to be in their company.
So this year, at the Friday lunch, they announced the top three winners. Sue Hughes (our ad designer) and I had each entered, as did eight others from among our 350 newspapers in the state. I figured we had a 20-percent chance of winning something, right? Third place, wasn't us. Second place, wasn't us either. There it was. We were out of the running. And then they said my name. First place. I nearly fell over! One of the four ads I created is on page 11 this week. You'll see them in my paper and, this year, in other papers across the state.
I really hesitated to put my own photo on the front page this week. In eleven years now, I think I've put my photo in only a few times, and as small as I could. But this is a big deal, and worth sharing. This year, around June, I'll celebrate 600th issue of the Tri-County News under my editorship. So I guess I'm due for tooting my own horn just a little bit, once in awhile.
We do this all for you, after all, our faithful readers, and for the communities we serve. We are the historical voice of our communities, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
Every once in awhile, it's nice to be acknowledged and to have some fun too.
Most importantly, I must give a HUGE "thank you" to those who make it possible each week to do a better paper: my team (Maxine, Sue, Marlene, Margie, Lexi, Dave and Terry) and my family (Tato and George). THANK YOU for your commitment to our purpose, and for your hard work!