Vermillion Plain Talk earns top honors at newspaper convention

Vermillion Plain Talk earns top honors at newspaper convention The Vermillion Plain Talk came away from the 2002 Better Newspapers Contest with a general excellence honor in its circulation division of weekly newspapers from 1,151 to 2,050.

The award was announced during the annual South Dakota Newspaper Association convention in Sioux Falls May 10 and 11. The Freeman Courier and Lemmon Leader placed second and third, respectively.

General excellence is the highest honor bestowed upon papers and is awarded according to their circulation categories. The honor is based on the overall quality of the newspaper.

The contest honors the best writing, photography, and design in the weekly and daily newspapers in the state, divided into five circulation categories.

This year's SDNA newspaper contest was judged by members of the Nebraska Newspaper Association.

The judges praised the Plain Talk staff for producing a complete newspaper product.

"While most newspapers concentrate on the front page, and forget the inside pages, this paper does not," the judges wrote. "Lots of local news; great editorial page."

The Plain Talk also earned a first place award for typography and design. "Very clean front page," the judges commented. "Consistency stands out."

Several entries submitted by David Lias, Plain Talk editor, received first place awards.

Lias' "Between the Lines" column praising the completion of the Newcastle/Vermillion Missouri River Bridge received first place in the best local general interest column category.

"Great column, great analogies, you really make the bridge come alive," the judges wrote.

A "Between the Lines" column devoted to Lias' adventures in trying to outsmart a mole that was attacking his lawn received a first place award in the best local humorous column category.

"Good opening � caught my interest right away � writer uses lots of good information from the county Extension agent," the judge wrote. "If you can educate as well as make them laugh, you've done your readers a good service."

Lias' front page photograph of a bull rider at the Coyote Country Rodeo's Bullarama last September topped all others in the best sports photography category.

"Great action photo overall," the judge wrote. "Not too big, not too small. Good stop action photo with no blurs. Cutline concise and to the point. Very good."

Lias' photograph of Kyle Hubert participating in a pie-eating contest at the Clay County Fair received first place in the best color feature photo category.

"Great expression � great composition � no holds barred the best in the contest," stated a judge.

Lias also received first place honors in best sports reporting for a story that appeared in the Wakonda Times about WHS basketball players from the 1930s who helped today's students recreate the original design of the old gym at the high school.

The Plain Talk received several second place honors in the contest.

Judges awarded second place to M. Jill Karolevitz in the best feature story category for her story about Darrel Christopherson of Vermillion, a survivor of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor.

"Excellent character development," the judges wrote. "Good use of language to tell the story."

Lias received second place for his report of the death of an infant in a house fire near Vermillion.

"Good head, good photos, good writing. Tragic story," a judge commented.

A special publication to celebrate the opening of the Newcastle/Vermillion Missouri River bridge, titled "Expanding Our Horizons," received second place in the best special issue category.

"Very good section from front to back � quality of writing, photography and advertising all good."

The Plain Talk's Web site received a second place award.

"Top notch site," a judge wrote. "Clean and very professional."

This year, the Better Newspaper Contest included a special Best Sept. 11 Coverage category. The Plain Talk staff received a third place award.

"Variety is the spice of life of newspaper's life � nice job with a tough issue," a judge wrote.

Karolevitz received an honorable mention award in the best news series category for her reporting on the Wakonda School District reorganization issue.

"Good job of covering a very emotional subject," a judge wrote.

The convention, held at the Sioux Falls Convention Center, began Thursday afternoon and concluded Saturday afternoon. In addition to sessions on newspaper issues ranging from legal matters to editorials to photography and writing, the convention also included a news conference with the six candidates for governor.

Also, South Dakota natives Al Neuharth and George McGovern were given distinguished service awards by the newspaper association.

And the first SDNA Eagle Award was presented Friday to the 2001 South Dakota Supreme Court. The newly-established award recognizes efforts to ensure open government. Retired Supreme Court Justice Robert Miller accepted the award for the court which was honored for opening the court to cameras last summer.

The South Dakota Newspaper Association, with headquarters in Brookings, represents the state's daily and weekly newspapers. Arnie Garson, publisher of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, was president of the association this past year.

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