Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767

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A year full of memories in one evening

My father, Deb and I all attended the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s banquet last week to accept awards we had won after entering the statewide Better Newspaper Writing Contest. 
This was the second time I have ever entered myself for an award.
The first time was two years ago with the Star Eagle for one story I wrote about the mismanagement of CARE Act dollars. I also won a first place award from Page One for that award. 
My dad is no stranger to winning awards. He won first overall for daily’s newspapers circulation under 10,000 three times as sports editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. 
My dad must be getting soft in his old age, we only got third this year. 
I don’t believe Deb had ever been entered for awards from MNA prior to this year.
This year I believe we submitted about two dozen stories for consideration, many more than the one I submitted two years ago. 
I was surprised to have won first place for a social issues story.
For a sports feature, I was not surprised we took home a first-place plaque, just surprised at which story won. 
In the business profile category, I wasn’t very surprised to place, but again, the story which won was not one I would have expected. 
I say that because we submitted multiple stories in the same or similar categories for consideration.
In the social issues category my story about the Steele/Waseca Drug Court program took first place. 
I attended Drug Court for the first time, not long ago, to cover one of the program’s graduation ceremonies. A friend of one of the graduates actually asked me to frame a nice print of the article to give him as a Christmas gift. 
The only reason I knew what Drug Court was, was because when I was out selling advertising prior to the Pioneer opening, a receptionist/employee at the tanning place next to the Pheasant Cafe suggested we write about it. I, as I often do, asked for story recommendations and this particular person didn’t skip a beat. 
At this most recent graduation ceremony, she was there to congratulate graduates, and actually spoke during the program. 
The article that took first place also couldn’t have happened if I hadn’t reached out to Waseca  County Attorney Rachel Cornelious and asked her about the program. She told me she was speaking at a Rotary Club meeting and invited me to come listen. 
I’m grateful the story won. It was certainly memorable, but not one which I would have expected to win. I would have bet good money some of my sports features would win. 
Turns out, Dad’s did. 
After speaking with Ted Hammond numerous times on the sidelines of Waseca High School football games, and after he was honored during a halftime ceremony, I was determined we write about him. 
And I really wanted the author of the story to be my dad. 
This was before my dad jumped head first into his role as sports editor. He never said he wouldn’t do the story, but I was reminded of how, in my early days as a writer, I would tell my dad all the reasons I wasn’t pursuing any given assignment. 
I say often that my dad is my favorite writer. And I really wanted this story to be the one that sparked his interest and got him back into writing. 
It did just that. 
After my dad wrote the story, which he spent a very, very long time on, he couldn’t stop talking about it for a week. At this time my dad had just gotten dental surgery and refused to go out in public. So, he asked me to take Ted’s picture. He gave me exact instructions. 
Specific. 
Direct. 
“It has to be great,” he told me. “It needs to be a great picture, because his story is great.” 
He must have used the word “great” 10 times in his explanation. Which was all he gave me for instructions, by the way. 
So when I met Ted at the school, I was very careful, causing him to suffer through a photo shoot that took approximately 45 minutes, included three different locations, and about a dozen angles per shot. 
Ted rewarded me with his famous “dessert,” a pastry he made, but whose name I have allowed to escape me. I bet, though, if you ask any of his former players, they could tell you. 
For the record, my dad remembers Ted from his days either in high school or as a young sports reporter. I cannot recall which. 
The business profile I wrote which took third was about Dave’s Body Shop changing hands. 
This story was unique because it fell into my lap on a press day. I learned about the change and called them up. They were all gathering together that day for an interview with the Waseca County News and it would likely be the only time both families would be together in their entirety. So, they extended an invitation for me to come interview the families an hour before their other interview. 
I had zero time to prepare, besides maybe a few minutes. 
But none of that really mattered.
Once you got the Krampitz and the Malecha groups together, they couldn’t be stopped. 
It was an exciting, memorable interview and one which I had to write up immediately in order to print it in that week’s paper which went to press that same day. 
I wrote the story, had Deb make sure it wasn’t awful, and sent it back to them to look at all in the space of a couple hours. Just in time to squeeze it in on that week’s front page. 
Maybe if I’d had a little more time it, too, could have garnered first place. 
As for the other categories, second place in general excellence and general reporting gives us something to aim for next year. Anyway, it probably wouldn’t have been fair to win first place in our first full year publishing. 
And, we’re already working on next year's entry. The only critique we received from judges was on our advertising. Since opening, we’ve hired a new advertising design team member, Jon Lucca. I’ve tasked him with remaking all of the original ads created during our first year. I will not begin to tell you the stories of how those ads were designed, other than to say something like “many hands sometimes don’t work well together, and can create many, many headaches.” 
Lastly I was recognized with a third place finish in the “columnist” category for my weekly contribution to “Stargazing” in Waseca and “Just a Thought,” in New Richland. 
This is a very competitive category and I feel very honored to have placed at all.
Here’s to what’s on the horizon. 
Thank you to our readers and our advertisers for making any of this possible.
“The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
― Christopher McCandless

 

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