MONROE — The Monroe Times’ efforts to accurately reflect an outstanding community were rewarded last week with the paper being named the best in its circulation division in Wisconsin.
The Monroe Times was recognized along with the best newspapers in Wisconsin on March 7, winning 38 awards in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation’s Better Newspaper Contest.
The awards, announced at the WNA’s annual banquet held at the Madison Concourse Hotel, included the Times earning the award for General Excellence in its circulation division. The Times was recognized as the best newspaper in Wisconsin in its circulation division — one of only six newspapers to earn such a distinction.
The awards were judged by members of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
The accolades reflect on the entire staff of the newspaper, which has been in the community for 121 years and employs 19 associates in various departments. In the past two years, the Times has won 63 awards in the WNAF contest.
In noting the reasons the Times received the award for General Excellence, judges said, “The Monroe Times wins for its extensive local coverage from reporters and photographers. It’s the only newspaper evaluated that carried local commentary on its editorial page, offering readers analysis of the community from community members. Kudos for your commitment to your community.”
The Times won five other first-place awards in addition to the award for General Excellence.
Reporter Bridget Cooke won a first-place award for her general news story regarding Green County receiving a $40,000 grant for business growth. Photojournalist Marissa Weiher won a first-place award for a photograph she took while covering the Green County Bulls and Barrels at the Green County Fairgrounds. Weiher also won first place for a photo essay of local residents fishing on Lake Beckman. The Times’ advertising staff of Advertising Manager Laura Hughes, Tai Ruegsegger, Diane Albright and Lance Ray won a first-place award for producing the Best Multiple Advertiser Spread. Jaimie Tran and Matt Johnson won a first-place award for the best use of color in an advertisement that thanked the community as the Times went through its conversion from six editions per week to two.
Additionally, the Times won 13 second-place awards, 10 third-place awards and nine honorable mention awards.
Reporters Adam Krebs and Katjusa Cisar, along with Cooke and Weiher, each won multiple awards across several categories. The editorial team, which earned more than 20 awards, is led by Times Editor Emily Massingill.
“We take pride in covering the events that are pertinent to the community here,” Massingill said. “There is so much talent on this staff and they work so diligently during all hours of the day; I’m so happy to see them get some recognition for their efforts.”
The advertising team of Hughes, Ruegsegger, Albright and Ray won multiple awards across several categories. Additionally, Albright won three individual awards.
“It’s been a wonderful accomplishment to our sales team,” Hughes said. “The credit also goes to the many wonderful businesses in the area who continuously support us.”
Six of the awards earned by the Times were in competition with all of the daily newspapers in the state, regardless of circulation. These include second-place awards for All-Around Newspaper Photography, Best Restaurant Ad and Best Ongoing Niche Publication; third-place awards for Best Sports Page Design and Best Newspaper Promotion; and Honorable Mention for Best Website.
The Times won a second-place award for the Best Editorial Section in competition with newspapers in a higher circulation category.
Regarding photography in the Times, judges said, “Love the focus on living local! All photos focused on local people doing local things important in the community.”
Advertising awards earned by the Times included ads done for local businesses such as Black Walnut Kitchen, Graceland Manor, Speich Oil and advertisers supporting special sections such as the Times’ Sports Sections, FFA Pages, Farm Harvest Time, Salute to Cheesemakers and the Monroe Parks and Recreation & City Resource Guide.
Regarding the Times advertising, judges said, “Lots of hard work and time went into this…” praising the concepts, use of color and photography in advertisements.
Monroe Times Publisher Matt Johnson said it’s humbling for the entire staff to be recognized for publishing a newspaper and website considered to be among the best in Wisconsin, in some categories regardless of circulation.
“I’m happy for our team, which not only does excellent work, but finds time to participate in the WNAF Contest,” Johnson said. “Awards are just that — awards. More important to us is what we’re putting on our pages and website regularly that highlight the community we cover and our advertisers.”
The ideas the Times has used over time have helped create a publication that lives up to its motto of providing “strong local news and excellent customer service,” Johnson said.
“Judges took note of our dedication to local columnists on our editorial pages,” Johnson said. “One of our long-time feature columns — ‘Best Friends,’ about people and their pets — was recognized for its unique spin on positive things in people’s lives. We cover hard news stories that include topics that are difficult to report, but we’re also making the Times the best overall newspaper possible. Many newspapers share in this mission and I’m a strong supporter of greater participation in the contest, so more journalists, designers and those on newspaper staffs can receive recognition.”
This year’s WNAF Contest included more than 2,000 entries with approximately 110 newspapers earning awards.
The Times competed in Division C of the contest for daily or multiple-edition-per-week newspapers with a circulation of up to 7,000. The Times has a gross circulation of 3,157. The Times is published by Morris Media of Monroe. It is a subsidiary of Morris Newspaper Corporation of Wisconsin, which is published by John Ingebritsen. Other Morris publications in Southwestern Wisconsin earning awards in the contest include the Grant County Herald-Independent of Lancaster, The Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout of Gays Mills, the Platteville Journal, the Boscobel Dial, The Fennimore Times, the Tri-County Press of Cuba City and the Progressive of Muscoda.