Chief brings home 12 NPA awards

The Custer County Chief is standing tall. The newspaper walked away with 12 awards from this year’s NPA (Nebraska Press Association) “Better Newspaper Contest.” The Chief was honored Saturday with two first place finishes, six seconds, and four thirds at the state’s annual Nebraska Press Convention in Lincoln. “I am so proud of the staff, and of what they are able to accomplish,” said Publisher Deb McCaslin. “To even be mentioned in the General Excellence division is tough, much less come home with second place honors in that department.” The contest places the papers into one of five divisions, first by frequency of publication, and then by circulation. The Chief competes in Class D with the largest of the weeklies across the state. The weeklies are judged in 40 categories focusing on writing, photography, advertising, design and creativity. This year, the association received 4,100 entries repressenting 13 daily and 79 weekly newspapers. “The ‘Better Newspaper Contest’ is a chance for each of our member newspaper to not only look back and think about what they are proud of, but also to look at what they can do better,” McCaslin added. The Chief’s two first place honors were for its ‘Spirit of the Sandhills’ Progress Edition, and for an essay and ad by Deb McCaslin, ‘The Newspaper-A Tradition.’ The judges remarked that our Progress Edition won hands down for Special Edition, even beating out those papers who print in full color. The Chief’s second place honor in General Excellence reflects on our community newspaper in its entirety. The judges remarked that they felt our paper was refreshing, with an updated blend of historic and current, and that they felt we defined a sense of true community. “This is something we work very hard at,” said McCaslin. “We pride ourselves in being historical scribes, recording tomorrow’s history today, but without the support of the communities we cover, we wouldn’t be here.” The judges said they were impressed with our use of charts and nugget information, and that our paper contained excellent spot news as well as features, taste of life stories and photos. Second place awards presented to the Chief also included our website,, and our youth coverage. Sports Editor Tim Brown was honored with a second place for reader interaction with his ‘Best of the Decade’ contest, and Ellen Mortensen took home two second place honors, one for news photography with a photo called ‘Welcome Home Mommy,’ and the other for her feature series called ‘Day Trips.’ The judges, in their comments, said that her series just missed the top mark to a paper who was recording history. They loved the old time look of our paper, and Mortensen’s story made them feel like they were riding on a covered wagon to the locations she highlighted as ‘Day Trips,’ and remarked ... “In these tough economic times, you don’t have to go far to enjoy a family vacation,” the point our editor was trying so masterfully to convey to our readers. Mortensen also earned third place in the news photography category Saturday evening with the photo titled, “Last of the Pioneers Laid To Rest.” The judges liked the contrast conveyed between the wagon in the front followed by the line of cars. They commented that the shot was very interesting, but wished we would have run the picture larger to emphasize the faces. Two of our photographers who so graciously help with the coverage of our area schools, were also honored with third place certificates for their work in sports photography; Pam Ginkens for a photo taken at the state golf championships of rival golfers as they take off across the tournament course, and Deb Hostick for a photo of Litchfield’s Adam Kucera. “Thanks Deb, thanks Pam, for all of the work you do here at the newspaper,” said McCaslin The Chief was also proud to be honored for a special section called “Class Acts” published each October. “Lots of faces, lots of people who must want a copy, this is a great way to promote Newspapers in Education,” the judges had to say. The Nebraska Newspaper Association membership includes 178 weekly and daily newspapers with a total paid circulation in excess of 609,000 persons. It was founded in 1873. The Custer County Chief put out its first edition April 1892.