MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Powerful examples of reporting on racial inequities in drug crime sentencing, the consequences of inadequate mental health services and the trauma of child sex abuse highlighted distinguished journalism in the annual Best of CNHI contest for work in 2017.

The Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Indiana, was named Newspaper of the Year for consistent quality content in print and online in Division I, which featured highly competitive entries from CNHI’s largest papers.

Judges honored the paper for comprehensive local coverage, resourceful reporting, reader friendly writing, top-notch sports and feature sections and strong local editorials. A series of stories on child sex abuse, labeled “Broken Trust,” told how cases are investigated and prosecuted. Included were victims’ heartbreaking accounts. The paper presented the series in a special print section and a compelling digital package with video, graphics and interactive components.

In Division II, The Meridian Star in Mississippi was named Newspaper of the Year. Judges praised the paper’s thorough examination of major local issues, ranging from neglected sewer lines to gay rights. The Star’s website was cited for its aggressive approach to reporting breaking news and for community engagement.

In Division III, The Knoxville Journal-Express in Iowa earned Newspaper of the Year honors for reporting of local issues, effective headlines and clean design. The weekly paper produced a comprehensive series on the lack of mental health services in rural Iowa, causing mentally ill patients and prisoners to go untreated for prolonged periods. The project attracted favorable feedback from readers and state legislators. The series, produced in cooperation with its sister newspaper, The Pella Chronicle, also earned the Public Service Award in Division III.

The Record-Eagle of Traverse City, Michigan, earned the top Public Service Award for large newspapers in Division I, producing an exceptional investigative series that used data laboriously collected over months from court records to disclose that black defendants were treated more harshly than white defendants when sentenced for drug crimes. The paper supported its findings with poignant cases of sentencing inequity among defendants charged with identical crimes and with similar criminal backgrounds.

The Goshen, Indiana, News earned the Public Service Award among Division II for efforts to obtain child services records of a woman accused of killing her two young children. A judge sealed the records, citing concerns about pretrial publicity. The paper sued to obtain them, and the judge eventually agreed to release the information.

West Virginia South, produced by the Beckley, West Virginia, Register-Herald, won Magazine of the Year honors in Division I for its attractive design, homey features and well-displayed photography. It was the second straight year the magazine won the award.

Cape Ann, produced by the Gloucester Daily Times in Massachusetts, took Division II honors in the magazine competition. Boomer magazine, produced by the Washington, Indiana, Times Herald, captured the top prize in Division III. Both magazines were cited for their design, photography and stories that projected a sense of community.

Judges also recognized the work of individual journalists in seven categories, as well as digital work for breaking news, innovative storytelling, social media and video. The judging panel included eight CNHI editors and news executives.

The individual and digital category winners:

Reporter of the Year

Division I: Wendy Holdren, Beckley, W. Va., Register Herald

Division II: Whitney Downard, The Meridian, Miss., Star

Division III: no winner

Designer of the Year

Division I: Zack Hartsog, Beckley, W. Va., Register-Herald

Division II: Kevin Burkett, Logansport, Ind., Pharos-Tribune

Division III: Aimee Buckner, Live Oak, Fla., Suwannee Democrat

Photographer of the Year

Division I: John Cleary, Anderson, Ind., Herald Bulletin

Division II: Paula Merritt, The Meridian, Miss., Star

Division III: April Barbe, The Jacksonville Daily Progress

Sports writer of the Year

Division I: Tyler Palmateer, The Norman, Okla., Transcript

Division II: Jacob Hoag, The Dalton, Ga., Citizen News

Division III: Patrick Hayslip, The Gainesville, Texas, Register

Editorial writer of the Year

Division I: Kathy Vos, Mankato, Minn., Free Press

Division II: Jeff Gerritt, Palestine, Texas, Herald Press

Division III: Kim Poindexter, Tahlequah, Okla., Daily Press

Columnist of the Year

Division I: Chip Minemyer, Johnstown, Pa., Tribune Democrat.

Division II: Susan Duncan, Jeffersonville, Ind., News and Tribune

Division III: Pat Finan, Knoxville, Iowa, Journal-Express

Breaking News Digital

Division I: Joplin, Mo., Globe, and the North Andover, Mass., Eagle-Tribune

Division II: the Meridian, Miss., Star

Division III: No winner

Innovation in Digital Storytelling

Division I: North Andover, Mass., Eagle Tribune

Division II: The Meridian, Miss., Star

Division III: Live Oak, Fla., Suwannee Democrat

Best Use of Social Media

Division I: Sunbury, Pa., Daily Item

Division II: Jeffersonville, Ind., News and Tribune

Division III: Tahlequah, Okla., Daily Press

Best Video

Division I: Hadley Green, Salem, Mass., News

Division II: Matt Hamilton, Dalton, Ga., Citizen

Division III: Kristi Sanders, Washington, Ind., Times Herald

CNHI is a leading provider of local news and information, offering a wide array of print and digital products in more than 130 communities in 22 states. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, CNHI is a Raycom Media company. For more information about CNHI, please visit

Recommended for you