North Tama Telegraph brings home awards at INA Convention

Ruby McAllister’s first place Best News Feature Photo in the Iowa Newspaper Association’s annual contest. The photo was published on Dec. 9, 2021, with the caption “The holidays come to light in Traer: North Tama bus lit up for final ride.” The photo was taken with an iPhone. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

The North Tama Telegraph and its parent publication the Times-Republican walked away with several honors at the annual Iowa Newspaper Association convention and awards banquet held at the downtown Des Moines Marriott Thursday, Feb. 2 including three first place awards for Telegraph reporter Ruby McAllister.

In the Weekly Class I contest, McAllister brought home first place for: Best News Feature Story for her coverage of rural ambulance services struggling to find staff in the Jan. 2022 story “Iowa’s rural ambulances hemorrhage volunteers, staff”; Best News Feature Photo for “The Holidays come to light in Traer” published in Dec. of 2021; and Best Continuing Coverage for the five-story entry “Tama County Against Turbines” which chronicled the controversy over wind turbines in Tama County over the past year.

“This coverage was not only in-depth and varied in the angles it explored, but well-written and interesting to read,” the judges wrote in regard to McAllister’s wind turbine coverage. “Most importantly, it revolved around an issue that many Americans have complex feelings around and was critical to your community.”

Stories submitted as part of McAllister’s Best Continuing Coverage entry included “New wind energy project takes root in Tama County,” “Apex wind energy project meeting well attended,” “Concerns surface for Tama County’s eagles amid wind energy expansion,” “Wind energy moratorium hot topic at county supervisors’ meeting,” and “Wind moratorium request draws attention of Apex Clean Energy.”

As part of her entry, McAllister was required to provide context to the series of submitted stories. She wrote, in part, “The initial grassroots organizing that took place was furthered significantly by our paper’s coverage of the effort. We centered their voices on our front pages week after week for months beginning in the early spring of 2022 and continuing through the early summer. Many of the organizers were farmers with Century Farms who were concerned about not just taking farmland out of production but also with – from their viewpoint – being used, again, as a pawn in what they see as another attempt to foist onto the backs of farmers the issue of weaning the country off fossil fuels. One farmer summed it up best – a farmer whose family managed to make it through the Farm Crisis of the 1980s – when he told me at a meeting held by Winding Stairs Wind representatives, “What more do they want from us?” … Our coverage helped shed light on the power of the grassroots and draw attention to an issue that is so much bigger than just one rural county in Iowa.”

Tama County farmers and landowners pictured on March 22, 2022, in the Traer Memorial Building as they listen to representatives from Apex Clean Energy present plans for a proposed wind energy project. The article Ruby McAllister wrote about the meeting was part of her submission to the 2023 INA Awards, a submission that took first place for Weekly Class I: Best Continuing Coverage. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

McAllister also took home third place in the news feature category for a separate story about Union students planting a special flower on the Irvine Prairie – “Holding on and taking root: Union students transplant a very special flower on the Irvine Prairie.”

“With a number of good entries, this story stands out because of the way the writer made something interesting when it might have been fine as a brief in another circumstance,” the judges wrote of McAllister’s entry that documented the find of the rare perennial Virginia bunchflower in a ditch down the road from Cathy Irvine’s rural Dysart prairie.

“The Iowa Newspaper Association awards banquet shined a bright light on our newspapers yesterday and the many dedicated professionals that it takes to provide a longstanding history of good news coverage and excellence in advertising as much as we strive to go above and beyond we don’t always recognize the efforts that are put into delivering an accurate and timely product that we can be proud of,” T-R General Manager Rhonda James said. “As much as we are appreciative of the recognition, we are truly grateful for our readers, subscribers, advertisers and the communities that we serve.”

Master Editor-Publisher

Terry Christensen, who joined the T-R as interim publisher last August and has since taken on the job permanently along with his duties at the Fort Dodge Messenger and Webster City Daily Freeman Journal, was one of four individuals to receive the Master Editor-Publisher Award in 2023. In recognizing Christensen, the selection committee cited his “new ideas, tactics, and philosophies for his newspapers.”

Times-Republican Publisher Terry Christensen, right, was honored with the Master Editor-Publisher award at the 2023 INA Awards Banquet in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 2. Also pictured are his Fort Dodge Messenger predecessor Larry Bushman, left, Bushman’s wife Sandy, second from left, and Christensen’s wife Tammy, second from right. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“When he is named publisher of newspapers, it becomes clear the impact he has on communities and people,” the committee wrote. “His management style is one of empowerment and positive reinforcement. He involves all employees in regular meetings to drive goals and create a cohesive operation. He is known as a “people” person who forms positive relationships with anyone he meets. He is well liked, respected and looked up to in his community. Most importantly, he is driven to improve the communities he lives and works in.”

James also praised Christensen and his leadership.

“Terry works tirelessly daily to make us better people, and his leadership exemplifies the high standards and commitment to the newspaper industry. I almost feel like we should name a street after him or create a statue for all the great things he is doing for Iowa newspapers,” she said.

The Ackley World-Journal was named the 2023 Newspaper of the Year.