OPINION: To Trempealeau County: We Won
The Wisconsin Newspaper Awards last Friday, much like many of the annual events that have come and gone over the past year, did not look anything like years past. Instead of getting dressed up to the nines and celebrating over dinner at a Madison hotel, I sat alone watching a livestream in my home office while wearing a polo.
Despite the lack of usual fanfare, I was beyond humbled when it was announced that I had won second place in our division for best local sports column in 2020. Ever since last December when we first received notice that managing editor Andrew Dannehy and I had each won undisclosed awards, my mind had been racing at the thought of this possibility. My three choices of columns to submit were significant to me for a variety of reasons. All three were from after the onset of the pandemic, a deliberate effort on my part to see not only how my work under duress stacked up, but the impact that your support had along the way.
Thanks to the support of our readers, I have been able to continue in my service to this community as a reporter, photographer and columnist. I also chose to submit columns that reflected firmly held convictions of mine, whether that be support for those fighting peacefully for social justice (Kneelers Love America More Than You), finding hope in biblical Scripture in the midst of COVID-19 (To the Class of 2020: A Time as This) and my pride in the Class of 2020 for all they have overcome (Once More Down Lens). I was also certainly encouraged to submit these columns based on the feedback I received from readers, which often showed me which pieces were having the greatest impact. To be awarded for three columns that I believe encompass my faith, empathy and gratitude to be in the position I am in is all I could hope to ask for as a writer.
As the undeserved praise on social media died down last Saturday morning, I began to think about my friends that I have been partaking in a virtual Bible study with over the past year.
Among our group is a doctor, a couple teachers, a couple music therapists, a server and a youth minister. I thought about how unfair it was for me to have this moment of overwhelming outreach from friends and family expressing their pride in me, while those with far greater impact on human lives did not go similarly recognized. In this continued time of social isolation, I would encourage you to reach out to the healthcare professional, teacher, food service worker or minister in your life and let them know your gratitude for their work.
The kind words I have received over my nearly four years here, and especially over the past week, have reinvigorated me and reminded me why I do what I do. Particularly in such a difficult, challenging year, I am grateful to bring this award home for all we serve at the Times.