Three first-place honors

 Barron News-Shield editor Bob Zientara, left, and publisher Mark Bell hold three first-place plaques awarded to the newspaper for sports and for continuing coverage of the Closs case and the July 19, 2019, storm that struck the Barron area. Photo by Jim Bell

The Barron News-Shield has earned three first-place awards in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s annual “Better Newspaper Contest.”

Judged by members of the New York State Press Association, the contest included entries from a time period that ran from September 2018 through August 2019.

The paper’s reporting team earned top honors in its circulation class for coverage of the Closs case, which drew national and international attention to the community for an eight-month period between October 2018 and May 2019.

The team included Mark Bell, publisher, Bob Zientara, editor, and editors from two other Bell Press publications, Carl Cooley, editor, Chetek Alert, and Luke Klink, editor, Ladysmith News.

The team of Mark and Jim Bell, Cooley and Zientara were also named first-place winners in the category of breaking news, for the newspaper’s coverage of the devastating windstorm of July 19, 2020, and its aftermath.

Judges congratulated the team for “outstanding (and) in-depth coverage.”

The News-Shield team (including Lindsey Bell) also got third place honors for a photo essay published after the storm.

The News-Shield’s sports section earned first place in the circulation class. Judges were impressed by what they said was “astoundingly comprehensive coverage (in) professional, high school and participatory sports, including an innovative outdoor section for recreational activity.”

The News-Shield’s honors were among 19 press awards won by weeklies in the Bell Press group, which includes newspapers in Barron, Bloomer, Chetek and Ladysmith.

“This is the best awards year ever for our newspapers,” said Bell Press president, Jim Bell. “It is gratifying to be recognized for our efforts by our newspaper peers. This is definitely a team effort accomplished in an environment that gets more challenging every year for community newspapers. I thank everyone involved in this effort, particularly our hometown readers without whom, of course, none of this would be possible.”

Bell Press award winners also included:

Barron News Shield

Second Place; Local Outdoor Column; Bob Zientara;

Third Place; Local Sports Column; Mark Bell; Sports Scene

Honorable Mention; Spot News Photo; Jim Bell; Have gun, will travel

Honorable Mention; Ongoing/Extended Coverage; Bob Zientara, Chris Kroeze Coverage.

Ladysmith News

First Place; Spot News Photo; Luke Klink; Family flees Holcombe area house fire

Second Place; Open Records/FOI Award; Luke Klink, three stories: State puts freeze on Indianhead weatherization; Former county worker seeks to block release of personnel records; Officials mum on officer resignation

Third Place; Investigative Reporting; Luke Klink; State puts freeze on Indianhead weatherization; Lost confidence cited in revoking agency’s contract for weatherization; Department of Energy e-mails show financial concern of Indianhead; State documents detail financial concerns about Indianhead;

Honorable Mention; Ongoing/Extended Coverage; Luke Klink, Jerilea Hendrick; Jury to decide charges linked to slaying of deputy; Defense raises questions about officers motive as trial starts; Jury finds Nitek guilty of murder count for killing sheriff’s deputy; Closing arguments a matter of intent; Man who killed deputy;

Honorable Mention; Editorial Award; Luke Klink; Ladysmith News makes its response public; Legal system fails in release of records as soon as practicable; Dubious move for city to invest in rodeo.

The Ladysmith News competes in the state’s largest circulation class.

Chetek Alert

First Place; Best Newspaper Promotion; Julie LeMoine, Lisa Rhodes, Carl Cooley, Erica Pecunia; The Chetek Alert Subscribers’ Hall of Fame: Polar Vortex

First Place; Best Headlines; Carl Cooley, Tyler Florczak; “Snow Blows if you get the drift; Hello from the otter side; Another superior feat

Second Place; Spot News Photo; Carl Cooley; Kids, families have fun sledding in the snow in Cameron

Third Place; Feature Photo; Tyler Florczak; Deep snow has pheasants feeding along roadways

Third Place; Breaking News Coverage; Carl Cooley; Tornadoes, winds cause widespread damage; Volunteers needed for cleanup days

Honorable Mention; Portrait or Artistic Photo; Tyler Florczak; Spring has officially sprung: natures alive, well.