Accepting the award for “Best of Division” are, from left, sales representative Steve Wendt, editor Ian Stepleton and production supervisor Tami Conlon.
Accepting the award for “Best of Division” are, from left, sales representative Steve Wendt, editor Ian Stepleton and production supervisor Tami Conlon.

   After years working at the reigning Weekly Newspaper of the Year, staff of the Ripon Commonwealth Press found out exactly how long it could maintain its stranglehold on the award.

   Despite winning the honor each of the past five years, the Commonwealth dropped to being (essentially) the second-best weekly paper in the state, as determined by annual awards won.

   At the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s annual conference and dinner last week Friday, the Commonwealth was named the “Best of Division” for weekly papers of a similar size.

   The program was held at the Marriott Madison West in Middleton, Wis.

   Overall, the Commonwealth won 29 awards — up from 27 last year — plus three honorable mentions.

   Knocking Ripon’s paper out of the top spot overall was the Lakeland Times of Minoqua, Wis., which also finished with 29 awards. It topped the more than 150 other weekly papers statewide to earn the honor.

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

   The contest typically includes nearly 3,000 total entries; eligible entries were published between Sept. 1, 2015, and Aug. 31, 2016.

   Judges praised the Commonwealth’s coverage.

   For instance, regarding a story about bullying in the Ripon Area School District for which the Commonwealth was given a “Community Service Award,” a judge wrote, “The story was very important to bringing the real issue to the public as well as the school board. It was excellently written.”

   Of a series of editorials submitted for the editorial award, a judge wrote, “This paper isn’t afraid to take strong stances on local issues. Great writing and viewpoints ...”

   Regarding a story about environmental issues facing Green Lake, for which the Commonwealth received a first-place “Environmental Reporting Award,” a judge wrote, “This is great story telling, but it also drives home the point about how this affects a regular person.”