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Tooting our own horn


Fri, Feb 23rd, 2001
Posted in

Monday, February 19, 2001

It is usually at this time of year, after the groundhogs have seen their shadows and spring seems like an eternity away, that various news organizations hold their annual conferences. This is an opportunity for us newspaper people to take workshop classes and confer with others in the field on the important matters effecting publishing. It is also the time when the news organizations announce their annual contest winners for advertising and editorial excellence.

This event is a nice break from winter and lets us rural folk go to the big-city for a big-city-fix. We usually have a good time.

We were all set to head up to the Minnesota Free Paper Association (MFPA) annual conference two weekends ago, when old man winter reminded us that we just might want to stay at home. So we missed the big event this year.

We had pretty much forgotten about the conference this past week until the UPS man showed up with a good sized box for us. In it were the awards that we received at the conference’s awards dinner.

The Journal won five awards this year:

• Second Place, News Story. Carol Thouin. “Not in my backyard”.

Judge’s comments: Newspapers in smaller towns are sometimes accused of avoiding controversy for fear of shredding the social fabric of the community. Belying that stereotype, the Fillmore County Journal’s Carol Thouin made the front page with this story about an issue pitting neighbor against neighbor in a dispute over a proposed bike trail. Titled “Not in my backyard,” the story dissects an issue that brings the “Not in my back yard” issue close to readers’ homes, both literally and figuratively. Complimented by sidebars examining views of participants on each side of the spat, this was a nice piece of journalism.

• Third Place, Feature Story. Al Mathison. “It all started with White Beaver”.

Judge’s Comments: This history based feature by Mr. Mathison is an entertaining and illuminating “journey” into Lanesboro’s past. In attempting to trace the tenuous roots of Buffalo Bill’s connection to Lanesboro, the reporter has skillfully researched and woven a mix of fact and fancy into a tightly written personal narrative. The story gives readers a new way of looking at a local legend that had assumed its own “truth” for more than a century. Well done.


• First Place. Personal Column. Al Mathison.

Judge’s comments: Mathison’s laid-back, conversational tone draws in readers, as does his sense of irony and humor. His juxtaposition of quotes and dialogue with his own summaries adds to the flow of the columns. His subject matter is folksy and light• Third Place. Personal Column. John Torgrimson.

Judge’s comments: Torgrimson uses his column to tell interesting and sometimes touching personal stories. His work is well-written and cheerful in tone.

• Third Place Tie. Internet Site.

Judge’s comments: While the site suffers a bit from a home page that is a little on the busy side, it offers simple, complete content lists, easy maneuverability from section to section and a nice feeling of unity among the sections.

Created in May 2000, Jill O’Neill and Kia Donais deserve all the credit for the success of www.fillmorecountyjournal.com.

While I am busy tooting the Journal’s horn, we recently commissioned Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis to measure the Journal’s readership. The study found that 83.7 of those who receive the paper normally read it. This is more than seven percent higher than average for a free newspaper. The survey also found that with an average of 1.7 readers per copy, the Journal’s weekly readership is as high as 17,592 readers.

• Many of you have noticed the absence of writer Al Mathison from these pages over the past month. For your information, Al is busy working on several writing projects of his own this winter. Look to see a feature article from Al in late March.

• The Journal would like to welcome two new contributors to the paper. Mary Jergensen of Spring Valley and Bonnie Prinsen of Rushford will be regular contributors. Many of you may have read Mary’s recent feature story on Chatfield. Bonnie will make her first appearance in next week’s Journal.
• And last but not least. I’d like to thank the readers who have made the Journal their paper and the many adverstisers who make it all possible.

By John Torgrimson

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