MADISON — The Vilas County News-Review re­ceived 32 Better Newspaper Contest awards for writing, photography and advertising design, including second place in the coveted General Excellence category.

Contest winners were honored last Thursday night at the 165th annual convention of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA), staged at the Madison Concourse Hotel.

The WNA Foundation received 2,799 entries from 121 newspapers, awarding the News-Review 10 firsts, 12 seconds, eight thirds and two honorable mention certificates. The News-Review also publishes The Three Lakes News.

Publisher Kurt Krueger said the paper’s 32 awards reflect the excellent work being done by the entire editorial, advertising and production staff, including the printing staff at Wisconsin-Mich­igan Publishers in Eagle River. Joining Krueger at the awards ceremony were Editor Gary Ridderbusch, Assistant Editor Michelle Drew and Photo Technician Jacki Risjord. 

The News-Review competed in the large weekly division with circulation of 3,501 or more and received a second place in the coveted General Excellence category. The category recognized the top all-around newspapers in the state. The News-Review has won a General Excellence award five out of the last nine years.

“Receiving second-place General Excellence means our staff is putting together a top-notch product from front page to back page because the award is based on all aspects of the newspaper, from stories and photographs to editorial pages and advertising,” said Ridderbusch. “Three complete issues were submitted for the entry, and two of those are from months required by contest rules.”

About the winning entry, the judges wrote: “Strong visuals and comprehensive, informative reporting. All-around excellent journalism.”

The News-Review also won the Bill Payne Award in the advertising category for the best single ad of the year. The ad, designed by Krueger and Assistant Production Manager Betsy Boulden, with additional photos by Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Doug Etten, was for the World Championship Derby Track and titled “55 Years.” A Northern Lakes Landscaping ad by Boulden and Krueger for bidding residential and commercial landscaping placed second in the category.

On the Derby ad, the judges commented: “This ad is fun and inviting. The colors and design work make it intriguing.” On the Northern Lakes ad, the judges said: “This is a great example of the services being advertised. The greenery is eye-catching.”

Other top awards included first-place plaques for Best Special Section, Editorial Award, Feature/Lifestyle Section, Ongoing/Extended Coverage, Spot News Photo and Feature Photo in news categories; and Best Restaurant Ad, Best Real Estate Ad and Best Use of Color in the advertising category. 

Other second-place awards were presented for Editorial Section, Best Front Page, General News Story, Reporting on Local Government and All-Around Newspaper Photography in the news categories; and Best Restaurant Ad, Best Small Ad and Best Multiple Advertiser Spread in the advertising categories.

Third-place certificates were presented for Breaking News Coverage and Feature Photo in the news categories; and Best Restaurant Ad, Best Real Estate Ad, Best Large Ad, Best Multiple Advertiser Spread, Best Use of Humor and Best Newspaper Promotion in the advertising categories. 

The News-Review also received honorable mention certificates for its Warm The Children program in the Community Service/Engagement category. The program is coordinated by Risjord. The judges commented: “Very accessible for those most in need in the community.”

Eligible entries were published between Sept. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018. Entries were judged by members of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

News categories

The News-Review editorial pages won a first place in the Editorial Award category, with the editorial board of Krueger, Ridderbusch and Etten being honored for editorials on “Schools not to blame for survival by referendum”; “Recreational OWI laws should target repeat offenders”; and “Conservation wardens shouldn’t be park rangers.”

The judges commented: “Clear, concise, specific and strong topics and language.”

The staff also won a first place for its special section called “Salute to Emergency Personnel 2017.” It was the second year in a row “Salute” received a first-place award highlighting area fire departments, their equipment and personnel. 

The News-Review won a first in the Feature/Lifestyle category with one division for all weeklies. Credit for the section goes to Drew, Ridderbusch and Etten. The judges wrote: “Great variety of stories. Strong coverage of events in the area and the people who live there.”

Ridderbusch and Evan Verploegh won a first-place award in the Ongoing/Ex­tended Coverage category in a series of stories on Gov. Scott Walker filming a campaign TV ad at the Three Lakes School. The judges wrote: “Great story-good reporting.” 

News-Review photographer Etten received a first-place plaque in the Spot News Photo category. The judges wrote: “The photo was a clear standout because it was both an authentically harrowing situation and people in action. The firefighter’s snowy boots and posterior wedged between the truck and car add an element of whimsy to an otherwise serious scene.”

Also in the Spot News Photo category, Ridderbusch received an honorable mention for his photo of a rollover accident. The judges wrote: “The photographer did a relatively good job of getting close to the action and showed the seriousness of the situation without compromising the dignity of the victims.”

Freelance photographer Dean Acheson received a first-place award in the Feature Photo category for his photo of a jake wild turkey standing on the roof of a vehicle. The judges wrote: “This engaging photo caught a truly unique moment. While many feature photo entries are static images of cute subjects, this one caught an action and a reaction. The composition is well-balanced and the colorful leaves make a great backdrop for the bird.”

A second place went to the News-Review’s Editorial Section. The judges wrote: “Editorials and columns emphasize community issues. Letters are encouraged and there is strong citizen participation through letters. Publisher editorials and columnists address diverse issues.”

News-Review photographers Ridderbusch, Etten and Krueger and photo technician Risjord received a second place for All-Around Newspaper Photography. The judges wrote: “Good image quality throughout. Images are treated with prominence.”

Another second place went to the News-Review for Best Front Page, with the award going to Production Manager Jean Drew and Ridderbusch. The judges wrote: “Lots to catch the eye. Great layout.” Drew and Ridderbusch also won a second place for Overall Page Design.

News-Review freelance writer Joe Costanza received a second-place award in the General News Story category for his story on the opioid crisis in Vilas County. The judges wrote: “Lede does a good job of putting the opioid and meth crisis in perspective in terms of how long drugs have been a problem in our country. And the rest of the story details how the current issue is affecting the community. Excellent coverage of a major issue.”

A third-place award went to Acheson for Breaking News Coverage of a helicopter crash that killed the pilot and two paramedics, and the communities’ support for the families of the victims.

Another third-place went to Etten in the Feature Photo category for his photo of a woman and child looking at robin eggs in a nest. The judge’s wrote: “Strong feature photos capture moments and emotions that viewers can relate to — in this case the joy of discovering the beauty of nature alongside a small child.”

Advertising categories

In addition to the first-place Bill Payne Award, the News-Review swept the Best Restaurant Ad placing first, second and third, recognizing Boulden and advertising consultant Jo Daniel. First went to an ad for Main Street Ed’s, with the judges saying, “This ad makes me want to go there for some good Midwest food.” Second place was for an ad for the Gateway Lodge New Year’s Eve party with the judges saying, “Nicely done. Very classy.” And third went for an ad for Golden Pines Supper Club, with the judges saying, “Cute idea with chalkboard.”

The News-Review got a first and second for Best Real Estate Ad, with Boulden and Daniel getting the credit for ads for Judy Barr and Catfish Lake Manor.

The category for Best Use of Color garnered the News-Review a first for “55 Years of the Derby” and second for Northern Lakes Landscaping by Boulden and Krueger.

The News-Review re­ceived a second and a third for Best Multiple Advertiser Spread for pond hockey and holiday gift guide, respectively. The judges wrote: “Great photos and great use of color” for the pond hockey ad and “Great one-stop shopping spot for readers” on the gift guide ad by Boulden, Daniel and advertising consultant Collette Sorgel.

The Best Large Ad garnered the News-Review a third place for the Derby ad for “55 Years.”

A third place for Best Use of Humor in an ad went to Boulden and Daniel for a 2018 Fall Sale. The judges commented: “High quality silly graphic given enough of the ad’s space to be impactful. Colors used in the ad and typography tie in well together.”

Another third place went to the News-Review for Best Newspaper Promotion of the paper’s online photo gallery by Boulden and Krueger. The judges commented: “Good idea but a little too much in one ad.”

Other staff at the News-Review office in Eagle River include Lead Production Technician Toni Ruthven, Accounting Manager Terry Posto, advertising consultants Mary Jo Adamovich and Chris Boone, Circulation Manager Elizabeth Schmidt and production technicians Rebecca McDowell and Marcy Karianjahi.

Ridderbusch said producing a quality large weekly newspaper wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of freelance writers, including news correspondent Ken Anderson, who provides coverage of the Eagle River City Council, Northland Pines School Board and Vilas County Board.

The newspaper also has community correspondents, including Kerry Griebenow in Three Lakes, Wally Geist in St. Germain, Sharon Gifford in Phelps, Shirley Kufeldt in Conover and Bob Hughes in Land O’ Lakes.