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Pioneer wins seven awards in state newspaper contest

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Bemidji Pioneer received seven awards Thursday, including four first-place honors, in the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.

The awards were presented at the MNA’s annual convention.

Pioneer reporter Bethany Wesley won two first-place writing awards. Her story about a Bagley family awaiting an apology from county officials for wrongful incarceration of a love one was judged top human interest story among the state’s daily newspapers with under 10,000 circulation. Judges called it a clear winner in a very large category of entries. “It is told very well top to bottom and is full of pertinent facts that reveal much about the couple and family,” judges wrote.

Wesley’s story about efforts to improve downtown Bemidji took first place in the business story category. “This story makes solid use of data gathered independently by the reporter to explore an issue that faces many small cities,” judges commented.

Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner won first place in local breaking news story for his coverage of a rural Bemidji woman who had more than 50 dogs on her property. Judges called it “great writing on a topic that seems to crop up in just about every city and town across the country.”

The Pioneer also received a first-place award for its website, Judges said, “ wins because its staff understands a website is meant to be an all-hours tool to tell stories.”

Pioneer photographer Monte Draper won three second-place awards.

In the news photo category, his shot of a firefighter rescuing a dog from a duplex fire in Eckles Township caught the judges’ attention. “Great job of being on scene for the actual rescue,” they wrote. “Image shows action all the way down to the smoudlering lower corner and the flying ashes.”

Draper’s image of a botched relay handoff in a track meet last spring took second place in the sports photo category. “(We) like what’s about to happen here after the baton is passed, judges wrote. “It’s not a normal posture we see from the back runner.”

Draper also took second for feature photo with an image of a bicyclist riding through zero-visibility fog last March. Judges called it a “serene image.”