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Larry Lough

Judges say you read a pretty good newspaper

Maybe no professionals give their colleagues as many awards as journalists do.

Dozens of regional, state and national contests are open to writers, photographers, designers and editors of publications in print and online.

The editorial staff of this newspaper enters a few of those competitions, and we are always gratified when the peer judging finds our work worthy of recognition.

We proudly report our awards on the news pages, as we did this month with the results from statewide contests sponsored by the Illinois Associated Press Media Association and the Illinois Press Association.

But we don’t expect you to be as excited about it as we are.

STILL, LIKE ANYONE, we appreciate the occasional pat on the back – especially from our customers.

And not just because most of the feedback we get isn’t so positive. That goes with the business of publishing a newspaper.

So it was nice that some of the Facebook friends of offered words of encouragement after we posted an article about our recent awards.

“Congratulations, hard work pays off!” Eva wrote. “You all are doing a wonderful job! Please keep us informed!”

Later she added, “Proud of the job well done!”

Matt posted a simple, “Congrats!”

But Dennis wasn’t impressed.

“So what ...” he wrote. “Big deal ... who cares ... Boring ...”

According to his Facebook page, Dennis is a Cubs fan.

So maybe that whole winning thing is totally foreign to him.

EVEN THIS EDITOR won an award: Second place for column writing in the IPA contest, which was judged by newspaper journalists from Pennsylvania.

That winning entry consisted of three columns: one that recalled the editor’s kidnapping during a jailbreak 40 years earlier, a column on politics, and another on open government.

“Larry’s prison escape story is fascinating,” the judges wrote. “And although he tends to be high on the word count, Larry’s columns read quickly, from the first word to the last.”

High on the word count! The judges could have just said the columns were too long!

For the record, this column is written each week for this newspaper’s readers, not for contest judges.

And our readers like those long columns.

Right? ... Right? ...

LET THE EDITOR say thanks, again, to all of you who regularly make this column a part of your weekend reading.

People often tell the editor they enjoy his column and read it every week; some even say it’s the first thing they look for in the weekend edition.

We received several messages, and a few online postings, about last week’s column on the editor’s 40th wedding anniversary. Thanks for the kind words.

Any feedback, positive or otherwise, is appreciated.

Even if you think the column is too long.

THOSE 38 AWARDS our staff picked up in Springfield this month were a record for this newspaper.

Considering that we compete with much larger “mid-size” newspapers from around the state, that’s quite a feat.

Of special note was the first place award for General Excellence in the AP contest, the second time in four years that Sauk Valley Media has won that honor.

The judges in that competition evaluate the entire newspaper – front to back – from three editions that contest organizers pick at random.

So, unlike with some contests, newspapers cannot submit just their best editions of the year. It’s a category that journalists cannot plan for.

That makes the recognition kind of special.

WHAT MADE THAT award even more special this year were the comments from the judges.

According to those judges, the contest for the best mid-size newspaper in Illinois was ... well, no contest.

“The margin between second and third place was razor-thin,” the judges wrote about our competitors from Crystal Lake and Quincy, “but The Telegraph stood out as a clear winner. A simple yet engaging design allows the staff’s excellent writing to take center stage.”

But we are most proud that judges recognized how seriously we take our role in monitoring the job that local government officials do.

“The staff appears to have a firm commitment to watchdog journalism that serves their readers well,” the judges wrote. “Aside from the jaw-dropping and ongoing tale of the city official accused of stealing more than $50 million from the city, staff members consistently turn their attention to important issues affecting the lives of Sauk Valley residents.”

We’re glad they noticed.

AND THE JUDGES made it clear that bigger isn’t necessarily better.

They compared the Telegraph and Daily Gazette, perhaps the smallest newspapers in the competition, to newspapers with much bigger staffs in much larger markets.

“The paper is thinner than most of the other entrants, but it is jammed with great content,” the judges said. “In an age when local features content is growing rarer all the time, Telegraph readers have several local offerings. ...”

Judges summed up their comments with, “Very impressive effort.”

So, the anecdotal evidence suggests you are reading a darned good newspaper.

Thank you for your business.

We will continue to work hard to deserve your trust.

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