MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Watchdog government reporting and breaking coverage of national news stories - including the manhunt for two escaped killers from an Upstate New York maximum security prison – highlighted the distinguished work of CNHI journalists in 2015.

The Tribune Star, of Terre Haute, Indiana, won Newspaper of the Year honors among the company's large-circulation dailies in the annual Best of CNHI editorial contest. Judges noted the comprehensiveness of the paper’s online and print reports, and particularly its ambitious in-depth series exploring the city's dire financial straits.

The News & Tribune of Jeffersonville, Indiana, took top honors among small-circulation dailies for well-rounded news and photography coverage in print and consistent updates online. Special stories focused on local homelessness, a needle exchange plan and an abandoned road project.

Among non-dailies, The Sentinel Echo of London, Kentucky, was honored as Newspaper of the Year for a well-designed, well-planned report that included consistent enterprise, an array of human-interest stories and a robust sports section.

This was the first year CNHI awarded its prestigious “Newspaper of the Year” designation for combined print and online news coverage, an action aimed at recognizing the value of total audience in the digital era.

The Record-Eagle of Traverse City, Michigan, received public service honors for persistent coverage that revealed local police failed to adequately investigate a domestic incident involving the city manager. The paper’s disclosure led to the manager’s resignation.

The McAlester, Oklahoma, News-Capital was honored with a public service award for small dailies for its bulldog coverage of the schools beat, where it exposed a superintendent's shocking misuse of an expense account. Both stories precipitated the departure of local officials.

The Andover, Massachusetts, Townsman received the public service honor for non-dailies for its news coverage and editorial efforts to force town officials to release public documents.

Breaking news awards - given for the first time this year - honored CNHI journalists who stood at the center of national stories. The Press-Republican, of Plattsburgh, New York, received the large dailies award for comprehensive coverage of the June prison break by two convicted murderers and the 23-day search for them across a massive region of northeast New York. The paper’s news staff worked day and night, capturing every development as it happened, keeping fearful residents constantly informed. Judges cited the paper for its extraordinary response to a critical story that riveted the nation.

The Stillwater, Oklahoma, NewsPress won in breaking news for small dailies for coverage of a horrific tragedy at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade. An out-of-control car careened into a crowd of spectators, killing four and injuring scores of people. The paper by chance had two journalists at the scene. Emotional photos of the scene attracted national attention.

The Zionsville, Indiana, Times-Sentinel won the non-dailies spot news award for its coverage of search warrants executed at the home of Jared Fogle, the former pitchman for Subway restaurants who later pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography and solicitation. The paper captured the drama of the day on its website and social media and also remade its weekly paper on deadline to rush the story into print.

Judges also honored outstanding magazines - Marblehead magazine, published by the Salem, Massachusetts, News, in the large division, and Norman magazine, published by The Norman, Oklahoma, Transcript, in the small division. They were praised for their design, effective use of photos and local relevancy.

A panel of nine CNHI editors and news executives judged the contest, issuing another 18 awards for the work of individual journalists. In addition, judges bestowed awards in new digital categories of innovation in storytelling, use of social media, and best video.

Complete contest winners are listed below in Division I (large dailies), Division II (small dailies) and Division III (non-dailies).

Best of CNHI 2015 - Winners

Newspaper of the Year: The Tribune Star, Terre Haute, Indiana (Division I); The News & Tribune, Jeffersonville, Indiana (Division II); The Sentinel Echo, London, Kentucky (Division III)

Magazine of the Year: Marblehead magazine, Salem, Massachusetts, News (Large Division); Norman magazine, Norman, Oklahoma, Transcript (Small Division)

Public Service: The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Michigan (Division I); McAlester, Oklahoma, News Capital (Division II); Andover, Massachusetts, Townsman (Division III)

Breaking News:  The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, New York (Division I); The Stillwater, Oklahoma, NewsPress (Division II); The Zionsville, Indiana, Times-Sentinel (Division III)

Reporter of the Year: Paul Leighton, The Salem News, Salem, Massachusetts (Division I); Parker Perry, McAlester, Oklahoma, News Capital (Division II); Shannon Beamon, Stanly News & Press, Albemarle, North Carolina (Division III)

Designer of the Year: Brent Fisher, The Joplin, Missouri, Globe (Division I); Dillon Hart, The Norman, Oklahoma, Transcript (Division II); Fran Landry, Derry News, Derry, New Hampshire (Division III)

Columnist of the Year: Samantha Perry, Bluefield, West Virginia, Daily Telegraph (Division I); Scott Levine, Clinton, Iowa, Herald (Division II);  James Bright, Chickasha, Oklahoma, Express Star (Division III)

Photographer of the Year: Carl Russo, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Massachusetts (Division I); David Bitton, Stillwater News Press (Division II); Tim Jean, Derry News, Derry, New Hampshire (Division III)

Sports Writer of the Year: Matt Williams, Salem News, Salem, Massachusetts (Division I); Cassandra Negley, Thomasville Times-Enterprise (Division II); Mitch Howard, The Sentinel Echo, London, Kentucky (Division III)

Editorial Writer of the Year: Joe Spear, Mankato, Minnesota, Free Press (Division I); David Palmer, Cullman, Alabama, Times (Division II); James Bright, Chickasha, Oklahoma, Express Star (Division III)

Innovation in Digital Storytelling: The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Massachusetts (Division I). No winners in Divisions II and III.

Use of Social Media: The Joplin, Missouri, Globe (Division I); Gloucester, Massachusetts, Daily Times (Division II). No winner in Division III.

Best Video: Rick Barbero, Beckley, West Virginia, Register-Herald (Division I); The News & Tribune, Jeffersonville, Indiana (Division II). No winner in Division III.