MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An excellent example of investigative reporting on the deaths of county jail inmates, model breaking news on the sudden closure a longtime company with 1,000 workers, and coverage of a pride festival to promote better understanding of diversity highlighted distinguished journalism in the annual Best of CNHI contest for 2019.

One of the smallest newspapers in Texas, the Palestine Herald-Press, received the prestigious Public Service of the Year award for its six-month investigation — “Death Without Conviction” — into the deaths of county jail prisoners before they even had their day in court. The project started as a single editorial demanding the local sheriff release documents, reports and jail video of the death of a woman inmate and broadened into a series of editorials and in-depth stories on in-custody county jail deaths across Texas.

The Daily Item of Sunbury, Pennsylvania, received the Newspaper of the Year honor in the largest circulation category (Division I) for overall quality in print and online content. Judges praised the paper for its consistently impressive digital breaking news coverage, especially its detailed reporting on the announcement by a 77-year-old cabinetmaker that it was shutting down. The closing affected nearly everybody in the plant’s tiny town of Kreamer in east-central Pennsylvania. Judges also cited The Daily Item for fun features such as its annual “Valley Musicals” presentation of plays produced by local high schools, strong sports section and editorial pages that focused on significant civic issues. Videos and links to the online replica e-edition underscored the creativity and reach of the paper.

In Division II, the News and Tribune of Jeffersonville, Indiana, was named Newspaper of the Year. Judges described it as a well-designed, quality paper you want to read from front to back. They singled it out for effective use of social media platforms, including live video of events such as the Southern Indiana Pride Festival, which received comprehensive print and online coverage aimed at promoting public appreciation for the community’s diversity.

In Division III, the Tahlequah Daily Press in Oklahoma was named Newspaper of the Year. Judges commended the paper for its daily enterprise, strong opinion pages, local columnists and diversity in news coverage of the Cherokee Nation, which is headquartered in Tahlequah and represents more than 140,000 tribal citizens in northeastern Oklahoma.

The Cumberland Times-News in western Maryland received the award for 2019’s “Most Improved Newspaper” in the CNHI family of more than 100 papers in 22 states. Judges lauded the paper’s noteworthy progress in editorial writing, spot news, enterprise reporting and sports coverage in print and online.

West Virginia South, produced by The Register-Herald of Beckley, won Magazine of the Year honors in Division I for its superior design, superlative scenic photography, and well-written stories about people and community life in the region. The magazine also featured an attractive community events calendar and illustrated recipes. Judges described it as a magazine you want to pick up and share with your family, friends and neighbors.

Southern Indiana Business, a product of the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, received the Division II top award in the magazine competition. It was cited for its engaging design, stellar photography, gender and racial diversity content, and strong writing that made business coverage accessible to all readers.

Scene, a publication of the Tifton, Georgia, Gazette, captured the Division III first-place prize for magazines. Judges said it radiated a sense of place in small town south Georgia with its cover and content, including features about tiny homes and a travel story on “Land of Oz.”

Individual and digital category winners:

Reporter of the Year

Division I: Mardi Link, Traverse City, MI, Record-Eagle

Division II: Erin Kelly, Meridian, MS, Star

Division III: Kyle Ocker, The Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Sports Writer of the Year

Division I: Elton Hayes, The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA.

Division II: Matt Case, Meridian Star

Division III: Patrick Hayslip, Gainesville, TX, Register

Editorial Writer of the Year

Division I: Andy Ostmeyer, Joplin, MO, Globe

Division II: Jeff Gerritt, Palestine, TX, Herald-Press

Division III: Stuart Taylor, Tifton, GA, Gazette

Columnist of the Year

Division I: Robb Murray, Mankato, MN, Free Press

Division II: Susan Duncan, News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, IN

Division III: Kim Poindexter, Tahlequah, OK, Daily Press.

Breaking News of the Year (Print-Digital)

Division I: The Daily Item, Sunbury

Division II: New Castle, PA, News

Division III: No winner.

Photographer of the Year

Division I: Jamie Campos, Salem, MA, News

Division II: Kyle Phillips, Norman, OK, Transcript

Division III: Kyle Ocker, The Daily Iowegian, Centerville.

Designer of the Year

Division I: Heather Bremer, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, IN

Division II: Kevin Burkett, Logansport, IN, Pharos-Tribune

Division III: John Zavinski, Allied News, Grove City, PA

Best Use of Social Media

Division I: Joplin Globe

Division II: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville

Division III: Tahlequah Daily Press

Digital Innovation

Division I: Heather Bremer, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson

Division II: No winner

Division III: Jamie Wachter, Suwannee Democrat, Live Oak, FL

Video of the Year

Division I: Jenny Harnish, The Register-Herald, Beckley

Division II: Elizabeth Depompei and Craig Pearson, News and Tribune, Jeffersonville

Division III: Erin Cox, Corbin, KY, Times-Tribune

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