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Journalists for River Valley Media Group win 20 state awards
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Journalists for River Valley Media Group win 20 state awards

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Journalists with the River Valley Media Group have won 20 awards in a statewide newspaper contest, taking home six first-place titles and a number of other awards.

The staffers from the La Crosse Tribune and the Chippewa Herald were honored in a virtual ceremony Friday night, hosted by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Winning entries in the annual Better Newspaper Contest range from political stories to pandemic coverage, action sports shots, investigative reporting, profiles on important community members, stories on critical medical research and more.

“All of us here at the La Crosse Tribune, Winona Daily News and Chippewa Herald are so proud of our journalists and these well-deserved honors,” said publisher of River Valley Media Group, Sean Burke.

“This recognition from our industry peers is testament to their commitment and dedication to journalism as a public service to our community,” Burke said.

“These awards are great recognition for our staff for work they do every day,” said Bob Heisse, executive editor.

Heisse, who previously served as executive editor of the Kenosha News, also won first place in Division A for editorials focusing on Kenosha.

Tribune staffers competed in Division B, while Herald staffers competed in Division C.

Tribune local government reporter Olivia Herken won three first-place awards.

Herken won first in investigative reporting for “La Crosse GOP ‘fake’ senior letter was sent by executive committee member, emails show,” which used internal emails to reveal that a controversial letter sent to area high school seniors was sent from GOP officials, not from outsiders, like originally claimed.

We can’t wait: Is Grandma’s Gateway the right development for La Crosse bluffs,” also won Herken a first-place award in environmental reporting, a story diving into the environmental impacts of a new trail in the bluffs of La Crosse.

Herken also won first place in local government reporting for “Still pumping: La Crosse North Siders deal with persistent water.” The story painted a picture of how residents are battling non-stop flooding with few solutions. Also included in this win were stories on the bluff trails and one on local clerks preparing for a pandemic-era election.

Herken also won third place for enterprise/interpretive reporting and honorable mention for rookie of the year and coronavirus coverage.

Tribune health reporter Emily Pyrek won first place for a general news story, for “Gundersen Health System at work on innovative ways to treat breast cancer,” which detailed the impact local work and fundraising is having on breast cancer research for patients both local and nationwide.

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Pyrek also received a third-place award for feature story and honorable mention for general news story.

Parker Reed, reporter for the Chippewa Herald, won first place in a general news story for “Menomonie school board censures Jim Swanson; requests his resignation and will file a disorderly conduct complaint against him,” detailing a series of events where board member Swanson had a profane outburst toward a fellow board member in a meeting.

Reed also won a third place award for localized national story.

And Brandon Berg, sports editor for the Chippewa Herald, won first place for a sports action photo. His shot captured a celebration moment from the Chippewa Falls High School boys hockey team after beating Hudson in the Division 1 sectional finals, inching them closer to a state tournament than they had been in 21 years.

Berg also won second place for best sports pages, third place for local sports column and honorable mention for photo gallery.

Other winners and their awards:

Second Place

Feature story/profile—Eric Lee with the La Crosse Tribune

Localized national story—Todd Sommerfeldt with the La Crosse Tribune

Third Place

Sports news story—Todd Sommerfeldt with the La Crosse Tribune

Honorable Mentions

Sports feature story—Todd Sommerfeldt with the La Crosse Tribune

Best special section—Eric Lee, Todd Sommerfeldt and Alex Vandenhouten


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