For the second-straight year, the Ripon Commonwealth Press has been judged the best weekly newspaper in Wisconsin.

   It was picked as tops among the 192 weekly papers in the state as part of the annual Better Newspaper Contest held by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

   The announcement was made last week Friday night at an awards banquet held at the Marriott Madison West in Middleton, Wis.

   “We are humbled to receive this award for the second year in a row, but gladly accept it on behalf of the many readers and advertisers who make it happen for our community, week after week,” said Tim Lyke, publisher of the Commonwealth.

   Points are awarded to newspapers for each award it earns, and the paper with the most points is named Newspaper of the Year.

   The Commonwealth also won Newspaper of the Year last year, when it garnered 33 awards in the Better Newspaper Contest.

   This year, the Commonwealth outpaced last year’s total, earning 38.

   This was double the next closest competitor in the weekly category: the Jackson County Chronicle of Black River Falls, which garnered 19 awards.

   The Brillion News, which is led by Andrew Pantzlaff — a former Commonwealth reporter — finished with 16 as another of the top award-winners this year among weekly papers.

   Another former Riponite, Steve Prestegard, helped his newspaper — The Platteville Journal — earn seven awards, including “Most Improved Newspaper.”

   At the Commonwealth, every member of the staff contributed to the awards earned, including 15 first-place honors.

   “I’m privileged to work next to such a talented team of professionals, committed to excellence and dedicated to the notion that democracy works best when we are able to inform the public thoroughly, fairly and accurately about the activities of those who use their tax dollars to create and implement public policy,” Lyke said. 

   In critiquing the Commonwealth’s stories from 2012, judges offered strong praise of the newspaper’s efforts.

   In discussing a first-place “Open Records/Freedom of Information Award” story about the ongoing issue with downtown developer Boca Grande Capital LLC, a judge wrote, “Public/private development projects are ripe subjects for watchdog journalism and I’m glad to see you watching this project. ‘Follow the money’ still rules.”

   Regarding the Commonwealth’s first-place sports columns, a judge wrote, “Great layout and feature quality to the sports coverage. Local athletes, coaches, parents and the community should be proud of this paper’s efforts to cover sports.”

   A second-place story about a local student’s experience with Donald Driver prompted a judge to state, “Real neat story. Lots of quotes, strong storytelling ability. Obviously took some research and follow-up, which strengthened the piece as a whole. Solid journalism.”

   Lyke down-played the honors the Commonwealth received.

   “We like awards, but we value even more the privilege of being able to report on a first-rate community that make the activities of newspaper coverage so rewarding,” he said.