ABC Newspapers, staff members recognized for outstanding work

by Kelly Johnson
Staff Writer

ABC Newspapers staff and publications took home nine awards from the 2010-2011 Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest.

ABC Newspapers staff members received nine 2010-2011 Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest awards late last month. Award winners include Tammy Sakry (back, left), Eric Hagen, Elyse Kaner, Tim Hennagir (front, left) and Sue Austreng. Not pictured is Jason Olson. Photo by Kelly Johnson

Awards include six first-place and three second-place honors. The awards were handed out at the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s convention Jan. 26.

The Blaine Spring Lake Park Life received first place in general reporting for weeklies up to 1,500.

Judges’ notes say, “No contest. Winner. Amount of content set this paper apart, but the quality and consistency of the reporting was more so remarkable. Easily mistakable for a big-market paper. Impressive work.”

Life Editor Tim Hennagir said the two award-winning editions that were displayed in the awards display area were the May 22, 2011 and July 22, 2011 editions of the Life, which were filled with photo and by-line story coverage from area events such as Blaine Aviation Days, USA Cup soccer, Blaine Relay for Life, as well as feature stories.

There were also local business stories as well as an in-depth story on a petition signed by 12,000 people regarding Anoka Hennepin District 11’s controversial sexual orientation and curriculum policy.

For both editions, each page featured two or three staff stories on various events as well as plenty of city council and school board coverage.

“Winning the first-place award in MNA’s Better Newspaper Contest reflects positively on the hard-working newsroom staff at ABC Newspapers,” Hennagir said. “In terms of importance, this award category runs a close second only to general excellence or editorial page as a whole.

“The award was a cooperative effort. As an editor, having a group of dedicated staff writers makes all the difference when it come to covering two very busy and active communities.”

Bullying Impacts All, a series highlighting bullying and its prevention efforts, by Sue Austreng, Elyse Kaner and Jason Olson took top honors for investigative reporting, weeklies up to 2,500, and also captured first place in Category X, weeklies up to 2,500, which rotates annually and focused on best continuing coverage of diversity in the community. The series ran weekly Oct. 29, 2010 through Dec. 24, 2010.

Judges’ notes on the investigative award say, “The series was comprehensive, not because of the volume, but because of the voices in the story – from school leaders, to classroom leaders, to students. Presentation on the page was a plus in delivering the story.”

Category X comments say, “This was an excellent topic for a multi-edition series. The author does a great job of exposing the readers to several facets of the bullying problem. Additionally, the continuity in graphic style throughout the series is well done.”

“Hopefully this award and the resulting recognition will open eyes once again to the devastating effects of bullying and will heighten ongoing efforts to teach children to respect and value each other,” Austreng said.

Kaner also won first place for arts and entertainment story, weeklies up to 1,500, for a story about a Ham Lake artist who creates steel sculptures.

Judges’ comments say, “Dino Might is one of the most unique stories I have read in a newspaper. Both the medium Estrada uses and Kaner’s approach to the story are wonderful.”

“I was pleased to have won first place in the arts and entertainment category because this is the first year the Minnesota Newspaper Association has included the category in the competition,” Kaner said.

Her story about District 16 students using flower sacks to learn about parenting took first place for social issues story, weeklies up to 1,500.

Eric Hagen received first place for a feature photo, weeklies 2,501 to 5,000, that ran in the Anoka County Union. The photo was from a Andover Night to Unite event.

“I love the eyes on both the officer and the little boy,” the judge commented.

“I was pleasantly surprised to receive the recognition for my work,” Hagen said. “I was very happy with how the National Night Out photo turned out because of the great expressions on the faces of the Andover firefighter and kid. However, I never thought I would receive first place considering how many quality photos are submitted each year for the MNA contest.”

Tammy Sakry received second place for a portrait and personality photo, weeklies 2,501 to 5,000, for a photo which ran in the Anoka County Union. It featured a little boy intent on building at a local event.

“Nice impression captured. Waited for the right moment and was ready to capture it,” were the judges’ comments.

A video of a B-17 bomber, recorded by Hennagir in the plane and edited by Sakry, took second place in best use of multimedia, weeklies up to 2,500.

“Good use of both video and a robust photo gallery to supplement the written word. Great editing, and compelling content, for the video,” said the judges’ comments.

Hagen also received second place for best use of media, weeklies over 2,500, for a video, slide show and  photo gallery of the Patriot Ride.

“The Patriot Ride is a tremendous event to cover each year because there are so many photo opportunities,” Hagen said. “The challenge is we can only get several photos in the newspaper. I love having the photo slideshow option to allow our readers to see more images.

“This year’s video was challenging because the lady who spoke about how the Minnesota Patriot Guard helped her was sharing very personal feelings. We usually try to have shorter videos, but I thought significantly editing the video based on length would not do her story and the Patriot Guard any justice.”

To watch the videos visit and

Kelly Johnson is at [email protected]