Winning ... with bunnies


The staff of the Saratoga Sun recently attended the Wyoming Press Association’s (WPA) annual convention held at the Little America Hotel and Convention Center in Cheyenne this year.

This year the Sun competed once again in the “Small Weekly” category. This is the largest category of newspapers in Wyoming and has grown even larger since several papers that were in the “Large Weekly” category lost some circulation and were dropped into our category. So the competition just got that much harder.

While there, we were awarded fourteen individual and group awards for writing, layout and photography. Let me just say at this point that I am very proud of my staff for all of their accomplishments. It should go without saying (but I will say it anyway) that I am usually very pleased with my employees on a regular basis regardless of whether they win awards or not.

They all have jobs that are difficult at times and manage to perform those tasks well and generally very professionally.

Classes and Food

During the convention the WPA puts on classes and tutorials. Saturday morning two of my reporters and I elected to attend a talk given by Bruce Moats, the WPA’s attorney, on open meeting laws. I found it an informative talk on the importance of transparency in government and the laws that govern lawmaker’s and committee’s actions.

We also were invited by the publisher of the Cheyenne Tribune Eagle to take a tour of the press on which the Saratoga Sun is printed.

It is a massive, eight million dollar, four story behemoth with a building specially built for the press. Even though there were no jobs running at the time, I enjoyed climbing the functional structure and taking some photos.

Then we attended the awards luncheon.

At lunch, the Pacemaker (what the WPA call their general excellence awards) winners were announced and everyone’s photos were put up on the big screen along with the awards they had garnered. All the winning put me in a pretty good mood.

That afternoon, one of my reporters and I attended a class on writing on a deadline. Most of this centered on online blogs and Associated Press styles and procedures (things that don’t generally apply to us), but I still managed to gain some nuggets of wisdom that we can use.

I spent the balance of my afternoon talking with my employer about a range of subjects.

Dinner and a surprise

That evening, reporters, sales people, publishers, editors and all manner of press people gathered for a cocktail hour and mingled. It is an impressive collection of suits and dresses. Stories were swapped and friendly rivalries renewed.

Senator Barasso was even at the function with a photographer in tow.

Then we moved to Little America’s banquet hall for the Major Awards Ceremony.

While we were served and began eating, speeches were made and individual achievements were recognized.

After the meal ended the Major awards were announced.

First was the Sweepstakes Award, given to the newspaper that had won the highest number of Pacemaker awards. Although the Saratoga Sun has won this in the past, I knew we were out of this year’s award because I had counted the Pacemakers given to the top newspapers.

Next, the Typography Award was presented. This is the award given for typographic excellence. The Sun has never, to my knowledge, won this one. I would like to take one home but I haven’t figured out how to crack that nut yet.

Advertising Excellence was the next trophy presented. The Sun hasn’t taken one of these during my time either. This one I feel we should have taken home at some point since I have personally taken a large handful of “Best Designed Ad,” “Use of Color in Ad,”Best Small Ad,” “Best House Ad” and the like. This award again eluded our grasp.

Photographic Excellence came and went without a mention of Saratoga this year—but we claimed second last year and in 2010 (they only award first and second place for the Major Awards).

General Excellence was the next award handed out. We have taken second place as recently as 2013 and a first in 2010. This one passed by with no mention of the Sun though.

Last came the Editorial Leadership Award. The Sun had claimed this coveted trophy last year but I honestly didn’t think we stood much of a chance in my first year as editor/publisher. Second place was awarded to The Newcastle News Letter Journal.

Let me take a minute to say that Bob Bonnar, who runs the Newcastle paper, is an extremely talented columnist/editorialist. As a matter of fact, on the trophy we get to keep (because we filled the last space available on the trophy) from last year, Newcastle is listed on it six of the nine spaces available.

So when Newcastle was announced as the second place winner I had two thoughts: First, “who the hell beat Bob Bonnar?” and second, “I guess we got shut out of the Major Awards this year.”

I half-heartedly paid attention as the presenter gave a glowing description of a newspaper who showed itself to be a true community leader. There was more, but I didn’t hear it as the front page of the Saratoga Sun came up on the big screen.

My jaw dropped to the floor.

I was stunned.

My boss had to nudge me to make the trip to the front of the room to collect our trophy.

I think there was applause. There was clapping for every other award winner. I didn’t hear it though as I shook my head in disbelief all the way to the podium.

Surreality surrounded me the rest of the night.

After the dinner

My boss offered to buy us a round at the hotel bar after the presentation and that drink led to several others.

I was told we had to fill the cup with champagne and drink out of it.

We passed the trophy around as a bottle of champagne was consumed using the slightly leaky trophy cup.

Editors, publishers and reporters stopped to congratulate me.

I was told “that is the award that means the most to a newspaper,” by several publishers.

Bob Bonnar let me know that he was “gunning for me” next year.

All in all, it was a very good weekend for the Saratoga Sun.

Oh, and rabbits

Little America sits on a large piece of land just outside of Cheyenne. There is a golf course and there are several ponds. You cannot walk outside without seeing cute little bunny rabbits hopping around through the parking lots and the manicured lawns. Of course this has nothing to do with awards or really anything else­—but I liked the title “Winning … with bunnies” and was then obligated to put some rabbit stuff in to legitimize the headline. I just added it in at the end to make you read the article.

I’m like that.


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