Originally Published: October 17, 2009 10 p.m.
The Daily Courier earned the Associated Press Member of the Year Award, two first-place awards and other honors from the 2009 Better Newspaper Contest.
Several Courier staffers won individual awards as well in the contest, which the Arizona Newspapers Association and the Arizona Associated Press Managing Editors Association conducted jointly. The Courier's sister weekly newspaper, the Prescott Valley Tribune, also earned awards.
Contest officials announced the awards for the Courier and other newspapers Oct. 10 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University. A total of 54 newspapers and high schools participated in a contest that the Mississippi Press Association judged.
Courier Executive Editor Ben Hansen expressed pride in the collective and individual awards. The Daily Courier competed in the division for daily circulation under 25,000.
"The way they structured these awards is a true test of a newspaper's ability in certain areas because in the contest for the individual newspapers the judges ask you for three random dates of your newspaper and they judge from these issues," Hansen said.
"I also congratulate the winners of individual awards," Hansen said. "The Courier and Prescott Valley Tribune have been lucky to have such dedicated, hard-working professionals throughout their organizations."
The Courier placed first in Reporting and Newswriting Excellence, and Community Service/Journalistic Achievement, second place in General Excellence and third place in Departmental News/Copy Editing, Editorial Page Excellence and the Special Section, Newspaper Supplement or Magazine.
Referring to the award for reporting and newswriting excellence, judges wrote, "The reporting tackles real issues from the perspective of the readers, and the writing invites readers into the news story quickly."
Judges applauded the Courier in the Community Service/Journalistic Achievement category, stating the entry won on the "basis of stories' results - more open records and election outcome." Judges added the entry was more "journalistic achievement than community service."
Judges cited the Courier for the special section "Go Green" for "mass appeal concerning important topic" and for being "good locally produced copy."
The editorial page entry, judges said, provided a "nice touch" with Street Speak and good letters to the editor. However, judges said the pages were "a little too gray."
Judges said the Courier won in the news and copy-editing category for being "above most" in local coverage and sports reporting.
Individual awards appear as follows:
Former reporter T.M. Shultz, first place for Investigative Reporting (on the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System) and Sustained Coverage or Series (on health care);
Reporter Joanna Dodder, second place for Investigative Reporting, for her stories on former Yavapai County Assessor Victor Hambrick;
Managing Editor Tim Wiederaenders, first place for both Best Column/Analysis or Commentary ("Bad economy extends beyond the border") and Best Column/Feature or Criticism ("Children have the answers to tough problems");
Sports writer David Hirigoyen, second place for both Sports Column (on the Cardinals changing their stripes), and Team or Best Sports Coverage (on Yavapai College soccer);
Photo Editor Les Stukenberg, second place for Sports Photo ("Going for the ball") and third place for News Photo ("Slurry drop");
Photographer Matt Hinshaw, third place
for Feature Photo ("Restin' up").
Judges noted Shultz's entry for Sustained Coverage amounted to an "excellent idea with fine reporting and writing. Readers got good information from these reports that will impact their lives."
They said her entry for investigative reporting used multiple sources "in bringing to light a federal investigation of patient-care issues" at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Prescott.
The Prescott Valley Tribune, which vied in the division for non-daily newspapers with circulation greater than 10,000, placed first in General Excellence and Website, and second in both Reporting/Newswriting Excellence, and Best Use of Photography.
"It is a special honor to see the judges honor the Prescott Valley Tribune as the best nondaily paper in the state with its first-place General Excellence Award," Hansen said.
Judges said of the Tribune's entry for Reporting and Newswriting Excellence, "How anxiously readers in Prescott Valley must await each edition. Arizona vet with Iditarod hobby? Many staff-generated, well-written stories providing readers with information that affects their lives. "Stories address the 'What's for me?' questions of readers."