Spring Grove Herald reporter Marlene Deschler, left, Spring Grove Herald managing editor Heather Gray and <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->publisher David Phillips collected eight awards in the Better Newspaper Contest at the Minnesota Newspaper Association <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->convention.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->SGH/Staff photo<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
Spring Grove Herald reporter Marlene Deschler, left, Spring Grove Herald managing editor Heather Gray and

publisher David Phillips collected eight awards in the Better Newspaper Contest at the Minnesota Newspaper Association

convention.

SGH/Staff photo

The staff of the Spring Grove Herald won five awards in the 2011-12 Better Newspaper Contest at the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) annual convention last week.

Overall, the Bluff Country Newspaper Group won eight awards including the Herald's five. The eight awards is the most won by the group in one year.

The awards were presented Thursday during a special banquet that is part of the three-day MNA convention in Bloomington.

More than 3,000 entries were submitted in the contest that is open to all Minnesota newspapers. Judges were working newspaper professionals from Indiana. Newspapers were judged in circulation categories so they competed against equal sized publications.

The five awards for the Herald included two for the newspaper and three for individuals.

Publisher David Phillips won the other three awards in categories for individuals that include photography and writing.

The Herald won first place for general reporting. "The Herald seems to throw a blanket to provide a wide range of news coverage, an often difficult achievement for smaller newspapers with limited staff," noted the judges.

The Herald also took second place for headline writing. "Headlines announce content of articles without too much fluff," said the judges.

Three Herald staff members contributed to the first-place entry in best advertisement. In an ad congratulating the Spring Grove football team on making it to the state playoffs, judges noted that it was "original" with "great photography." Michelle Oitzman was the graphic artist with photos by S. Lee Epps and Jon Speltz made up the full-page salute.

For individuals, Craig Moorhead won first place for a human-interest story about the local couple Carlton and Beulah Onstad. In his story, "Everyone knew the milkman," judges said it was "A great look at a time gone by. Great quotes and warm characters in a well-told story. Great job!"

Marlene Deschler won first place for her story, "Students and community pay respects to fallen soldier," which was entered in the social issues story category. The story was about the funeral procession of PFC Christopher Horns that passed through Spring Grove.

"Touching and well written," said judges. "I liked the many quotes from those watching the motorcade."

Phillips took first place in sports photography and third place for a feature photo, both were published in the Spring Valley Tribune.

The other award was for best columnist (Publisher's Notebook), in which Phillips took third place.

"Writer offered a diverse group of columns. All were informative and well written," noted the judges. This column appears weekly in the Herald as well as Phillips' other papers.

Phillips, Deschler and Herald managing editor Heather Gray also took part in the educational seminars at the convention.

"Although the recognition by our peers in the form of awards is gratifying, our main goal is to keep striving to bring a better product to our readers and advertisers," said Phillips.

Gray noted, "The Herald had previously won seven awards over a six-year span (2005-2011), to pick up another five in one year is absolutely phenomenal!

"It is so nice to see our entire staff rewarded for their hard work and dedication, as the Herald could not exist without the far-reaching network of employees that bring their area of expertise to our paper each week.

"This sort of honor from peers in your industry and comparing you to other newspapers across the whole state is very humbling and gratifying."

Previous awards for the Herald include: Best Advertisement (1st) and General Excellence (2nd) in 2005; Institutional Advertisement (1st), Best Advertisement (2nd) and Use of Information Graphics & Graphic Illustrations (2nd) in 2010; and Best Advertisement (1st) and Institutional Advertisement (2nd) in 2011.

The Bluff Country Newspaper Group includes five community newspapers: the Chatfield News, the News-Record of Harmony and Mabel, the Republican-Leader of Preston and Lanesboro, the Spring Grove Herald and the Spring Valley Tribune.

The newspaper group also includes the regional Bluff Country Reader as well as the Destination Bluff Country visitors guide.