Courageous reporting, editorial writing and digital audience engagement lauded in 2023 Best of CNHI competition


A social justice series on gender identity, investigative reporting supported by pursuit of public records, forceful editorial writing, and timely website postings highlighted the annual Best of CNHI journalism awards. Newsrooms from CNHI newspapers in 22 states submitted their work from 2023.

The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, received the Newspaper of the Year top honor in Division I for CNHI’s largest newspapers; recognized for exemplary enterprise reporting, robust local news presentation, daily local editorials and comprehensive sports coverage. A deeply reported special project series humanizing the LGBTQ+ community reflected the newspaper’s resolute efforts to encourage a culture of acceptance and understanding. Judges said The Daily Item “knows its community and truly reflects that knowledge” in print and online with a consistently updated website featuring fresh content throughout the week.

The Tahlequah Daily Press in Oklahoma earned first place in the Division II Newspaper of the Year competition, for its robust local news coverage, strong editorials and commentary, comprehensive coverage of the Tahlequah-based Cherokee Nation headquarters and other tribal news for its Indigenous residents. Judges also commended the paper’s features and enterprise reporting on education, faith, lifestyles, business, agriculture and sports. The “Point-Counterpoint” column on its opinion page drew special praise. 

The Public Service Journalism award for Division I went to The Daily Item in Sunbury for its deeply reported and thoughtful series “LGBTQ+ Lives Here.” The special project, which included editorials, helped dispel fears and myths about the everyday presence of gay, lesbian and other gender identities among the population of the paper’s conservative central Pennsylvania market. The insightful series featured creative storytelling and compelling online video interviews that gave it a very human sense. 

The Public Service Journalism award for Division II went to the Valdosta Daily Times for unflinching reporting and editorializing on a scandal surrounding a school superintendent, whose illegal use of school bus fuel for his personal vehicles and duplicity in also submitting expense receipts from gas stations came to light because of the newspaper’s determined reporting and public records requests. Acting on a tip, the paper caught the superintendent red-handed on video at the bus depot refueling his pickup along with an extra gas tank in the truck bed. The superintendent eventually resigned in the face of mounting public reaction to the paper’s coverage.

Division I Magazine of the Year honors went to Heartland Magazine produced by the Kokomo Tribune and Logansport Pharos-Tribune in Indiana. Judges recognized it for inviting covers that silently say, “you’ve got to read me,” local content, clean design and appealing photography that included a parting image putting an exclamation point on each edition. Judges said while the competition proved extraordinarily strong, “There’s little doubt that readers are already looking forward to the next edition when they finish reading the current magazine.” 

Cullman Magazine produced by the Cullman, Alabama, Times captured the Division II Magazine of the Year honor for its reader-friendly design, community-focused purpose, effective typography, great use of photography and good overall presentation. Judges also recognized it for engaging local stories about local people and places — “There is an overall charm to it. There is a love and a passion for their community that is clearly evident.” 

The Times-West Virginian in Fairmont received CNHI’s Rising Star Award, as the company’s most improved newspaper for its strong commitment to producing a high volume of local news, top-notch sports content, regular local editorials and fearless coverage of controversial topics. The newsroom in 2023 stepped up its public records requests to better serve its mission of holding local government officials accountable so the community can be informed about what they are doing or not doing.

Individual winners: 

Reporter of the Year

  • Division I: Elizabeth Brewer, Traverse City Record Eagle 
  • Division II: Maria Flora, Lebanon Reporter 

Best Breaking News

  • Division I: Sue Laughlin, Terre Haute Tribune Star 
  • Division II: Cathy Griffith, Nick Taylor and Jeff Long, Effingham Daily News 

Photographer of the Year

  • Division I: Laurie Sick, Joplin Globe 
  • Division II: Alex Wallner, Effingham Daily News 

Sports Reporter of the Year

  • Division I: Bill Burt, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover 
  • Division II: Kevin Green, Claremore Daily Progress 

Sports Columnist of the Year 

  • Divison I: Nick Sabato, Niagara Gazette 
  • Division II: Derek Hatridge, McAlester News-Capitol

Editorial Writer of the Year

  • Division I: Rebecca Pierce, Traverse City Record Eagle 
  • Division II: Kyle Ocker, Ottumwa Courier 

Columnist of the Year

  • Division I: Damon Cain, Beckley Register-Herald 
  • Division II:  Kim Poindexter, Tahlequah Daily Press 

Designer of the Year

  • Division I: Kyra Smith-Cullen, Sunbury Daily Item
  • Division II: Warren Morrison, Greenville Herald-Bulletin 

Video of the Year

  • Division I: Rick Barbero, Beckley Register-Herald
  • Division II: Nathan Hutchinson, Richmond Register 

Podcast of the Year

  • Division I: Sunbury Daily Item for High School Football Show (Todd Hummel and Bill Bowman) and Baseball Cards Show (Rob Inglis and Eric Pehowic) 
  • Division II: No entries.


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