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Pioneer honored with five state awards

The Bemidji Pioneer received five awards Thursday night at the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest awards banquet in Bloomington.

The awards ceremony was part of the MNA's annual convention.

Individual awards went to Pioneer photographer Monte Draper and reporters Bethany Wesley and Anne Williams. The newspaper as a whole also received two awards.

Draper won first place in the news photo category among all of the state's daily newspapers for his dramatic image of a Bemidji firefighter on a ladder truck battling the flames in the March 22 Regency Park Apartments fire. The fire prompted an evacuation of the three-story, 63-unit south complex and displaced those residents until they were able to move back in this past fall. Judges said the photo put the reader into the blaze and effectively portrayed the danger firefighters face.

Wesley won second place in the human interest story category for daily newspapers under 10,000 circulation. Wesley's work, headlined "In memory of Joshua," told the story of 10-week-old Joshua David Horn, who died June 24 of sudden infant death syndrome, and how his mother, Dana Horn, remembered him as she made tiny baby bracelets for other grieving families coping with infant death. Judges said the writing was straightforward but effective, capturing the emotion of the woman's personal struggle and her motivation to offer support to others.

Williams received a second-place award in the new journalist of the year category for all dailies. Judges said her use of words in one of her pieces gave readers unexpected moments of joy and clarity. They said she showed versatility and, in her column about a muskie and a squirrel, a good sense of humor.

The Pioneer won first place in the editorial page as a whole category for dailies under 10,000. Judges lauded the design and diversity of content and viewpoints. Brad Swenson is the Pioneer's opinion page editor.

The Pioneer received second place in the general reporting category for dailies under 10,000. Judges recognized the paper for its variety of stories and how local each front page was.

"I am pleased to see the fine work of our newsroom recognized by others in our profession," said Pioneer Publisher Dennis Doeden. "Monte Draper's photographs have amazed Pioneer readers for many years. Bethany Wesley and Anne Williams are talented, energetic reporters. Brad Swenson is very dedicated to his craft. It is gratifying to see them rewarded like this."