Our company this week named the Effingham Daily News the Newspaper of the Year in its division for news and sports coverage in 2020. Judges lauded our strong local coverage, relevant editorial page, clean design and frequently updated website.

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Jeff Long

EDN Reporter Charles Mills also won for Best Video with his piece about a group of volunteers that made much-needed improvements to the home of a woman raising her three great-grandchildren.

“This video’s production nicely captured the good deed story of volunteers from a nonprofit organization gathering with hammers and saws to improve the home of an elderly woman who is raising her three great-grandchildren,” the judges said. “Videographer Charles Mills captured the humanism of the scene, blending action shots with interviews. Good lighting and editing.”

And we were one of three finalists in the Public Service category for our two-part series, “Coping with Covid,” that ran as special sections on consecutive Saturdays in October.

Of CNHI’s 90 newspapers in 22 states, our division of small and mid-size publications has the most – 36. I speak often with many of the editors of those newspapers and I know that their dedication to journalism equals our own.

I can’t say enough how proud I am of our staff: Reporters Charles Mills and Andrew Adams, News Editor Cathy Griffith and Sports Editor Zachary Rainey. We’re all invested in this community. After all, we’re members of this community. Chronicling its triumphs and challenges is our way of giving back.

In fact, everyone in this building understands the importance of local journalism – from the people who sell ads and get them in the paper, to those who answer the phone and make sure your paper is delivered.

2020 was a tough year for everyone in our community because of the pandemic. Putting out the paper online and in print certainly presented many challenges. I think we rose to those challenges.

“The Effingham Daily News produced robust local online and print content,” the judges said. “Attractive, reader helpful layouts from front page to last page. Well done centerpieces. Focus on everyday local coverage, from big stories to small news. Sports (good mix of local and Chicago pro) and features pages also showcased the paper’s strength. Inviting opinion page highlighted local editorials as well as letters to the editor. Fresh website, with a nice array of photo galleries.”

Last year I served on the committee of CNHI editors and executives that chose the award-winners for 2019. So I know how fierce the competition is for top honors among excellent newspapers from across the country. The judges examine multiple editions of each publication to choose the Newspaper of the Year. The debate is spirited in that category and all of the others.

Bill Ketter, the CNHI vice president for news, chairs the committee.

“The Daily News has made impressive progress in the digital era to emphasize newsy and enterprising journalism that enriches the shared life of the communities the paper serves,” he told me in an email this week. “The Newspaper of the Year honor for everyday news quality in print and online, and Charles Mills’ video of volunteers assisting a woman raising her three great-grandchildren, exemplified the paper’s commitment to producing content that readers want and need.

“The paper’s finalist entry in the Public Service category illustrated a prime example of relating the economic hardships of the worldwide pandemic to local workers and businesses.

“Overall, the Daily News impressed the contest judges with journalism that touched the lives of its readers, and went beyond the who, when and where of the news to why it happened and what it means locally.”

I’ll take that. And I’ll add again my congratulations to the staff and to Charlie for their work.

If you don’t subscribe to the EDN, please consider doing so to help us continue telling the story of our community. Whether you read us in print or online, your support helps make sure we can continue doing what we love.

Besides the newspaper, we publish the quarterly Effingham Magazine, our annual Progress magazine, Discover magazine, A Day Away magazine, the annual Farm Fair sections, and many other special features. It’s a lot of work for a small staff, but we think it’s important to tell the story of where we live in a variety of ways.

As always, I invite your ideas on how we can do even better.

Jeff Long is the editor of the Effingham Daily News. A 1987 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he has worked for newspapers in England, Pennsylvania and Virginia. For 13 years, he was a reporter and later an editor at the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at jeff.long@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 129.

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Graduated with a degree in journalism from UW-Madison in 1987. Reporter at a newspaper outside London, England. Then a reporter at papers in Pennsylvania and Virginia. For 13 years, a reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune. Named EDN editor in 2014.