It’s not very often that we toot our own horn and pat ourselves on the back—after all, there are too many deadlines to meet to get the newspaper out each week. Most importantly, I’m not one to be the center of attention anyway’s, so staying in the background and not seeking attention is fine by me.

However, every January we head down to the Twin Cities for the annual Minnesota Newspaper Convention and the annual Better Newspaper Contest. This year the Citizen’s Advocate and New York Mills Dispatch received a combined eight awards, including several of the most prestigious awards given by MNA. 

So, for one week at least, I am going to toot our own horn a bit and share a little about the awards we won as part of the annual newspaper contest. It is always an honor to be recognized by your peers, but given the past year and all of the uncertainties of COVID-19, this year was extra special. 

We were especially honored to receive second and third place in the category of General Excellence, which is one of the most prestigious awards given at the MNA Better Newspaper Contest. The award looks at everything from the design of the newspaper, the use of photos, articles in the newspaper, and essentially, the newspaper as a whole. 

It’s an award we have never won at either the New York Mills Dispatch or Citizen’s Advocate, so to receive second and third place in the category, and just behind the newspaper deemed the best in the state, was quite an honor. 

For the Dispatch in the category of General Excellence, judges wrote “Fantastic presentation, especially the April 29 “The Day Spring Sports Stood Still edition. Visuals and advertising quality are leaders of the pack. In terms of reporting…excellent profiles of local community members, which is one of the most valuable assets of a community newspaper. Through the front page might benefit from more hard/in-depth news.”

For the Citizen’s Advocate, judges wrote “Hard to walk past the strong above-the-fold imagery each week. The page design can be busy, but so are local communities and this approach offers numerous good windows into what’s going on in the community each week. Inspiring profiles of community members. Good issues overage of local affairs. Diverse editorial page voices. Good advertising. Good local sports covers. The community is well-served by this newspaper.”

I think both of the judges comments portray what we want to put out each week, a quality newspaper with as much content as we can fit into these 12-14 pages. Are we perfect, no, but we try our best to provide you a quality newspaper at a fair price. We also hope to be a representation of all of the communities we serve. 

Our staff is small, made a bit smaller due to the uncertainties of COVID-19 over the past year, but we strive to maintain a quality product you can be proud of. Will you always agree with what is in this newspaper? We doubt it. But that is OK and something that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Public discourse and discussion is a good thing, not something that should be frowned upon.

As I write this column the time on my computer just clicked over to 3 a.m. on Monday morning. The printing deadline is approaching and there is still quite a bit of work to finish on this week’s issue. After watching our community essentially shut down last year due to COVID-19, while many of us worked from home, being recognized with the awards we did shows us that all of the late nights, early mornings and occasional all nighters at the office are paying off. 

One of my first publishers told me something that still sticks with me today, “Awards are nice, but we are in a contest each week with our readers to provide the best newspaper possible. It’s a contest with ourselves and we need to do our best to try and get better each week.”

It’s a philosophy we hope reigns true still today. After all, without your support in advertising, sponsorships, subscriptions and story ideas, we wouldn’t even have a newspaper in this community.

Awards are nice, but like my former boss told me, we are more concerned with providing you with the best product possible. Awards are just the icing on the cake.