DAVENPORT, Iowa (March 5, 2020) — Kevin Mowbray, president and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE), announced today the winners of the 2019 Lee President’s Awards for outstanding journalism, innovation, and spirit.
“The Lee President’s Awards embody the exceptional achievements of all of our employees throughout 2019,” Mowbray said. “I’m proud of the work produced across our company and our enterprises’ continued commitment to journalistic excellence, strong business partnerships and superb customer service.”
EXCELLENCE IN NEWS
The news award recognizes outstanding achievement in any aspect of print and online journalism, from reporting and writing to photography, video, graphics and presentation. Receiving awards are:
- The Arizona Daily Star for its coverage of the surging number of Guatemalan migrants crossing through Southern Arizona. The coverage gave readers information and context about what they are seeing in their own community, including debates about where to house the migrants, how to deal with families, and the role of local and federal governments. The Pulitzer Center – which funded the reporting trip – used the coverage as basis for an educational program brought to Tucson high schools and the University of Arizona in the fall of 2019.
The primary contributor was Perla Trevizo.
- The Bismarck Tribune for photojournalist Mike McCleary’s year-long documentation of the struggles of a local couple with crippling medical debt. McCleary captured powerful and intimate images as the couple fought to save and ultimately lost their home to foreclosure. The three-page photo story is powerful journalism that exemplifies the plight of countless other Americans who are decimated financially due to illness.
The primary contributor was Mike McCleary.
- The Casper Star-Tribune for the special editions marking three historical anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the Black 14, the story of the dismissal of 14 football players from the University of Wyoming football team following their requests to protest racial injustice; the 20th anniversary of the brutal attack and murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard; and the 150th anniversary of the women of Wyoming becoming the first women in U.S. history to gain the unrestricted right to vote.
Each of these editions detailed not only the impact of these events on the state of Wyoming, but the impact on the nation as a whole, while documenting the progress, and lack of progress, that has come as a result.
Contributors include the entire Star-Tribune news staff.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch for columnist Tony Messenger’s coverage about Missourians jailed, essentially, for being poor. In case after case, Messenger documented the stories of defendants who had served their sentences, then ended up back in custody after falling behind on their bills for jail time. Messenger passionately told the personal stories of these defendants, nearly all of them living in poverty.
After several of the columns were published in the Post-Dispatch and on stltoday.com, private attorneys in the state volunteered to help the subjects of Messenger's columns, and the state public defender's office pursued cases in all three state appeals courts, seeking to declare the practice illegal and unconstitutional.
The primary contributor was Tony Messenger.
- The Times of Northwest Indiana for "The Region's Deadliest Roads" project, a 20-page special section that anchored a premium edition, and outlined, in the most detailed way possible, the circumstances, causes and human impact of 373 fatal crashes in the region that claimed 404 lives over five years.
The project, by the numbers, definitively identified the Region's deadliest roads based on data maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most importantly, The Times investigation delved into some of the leading causes of fatal crashes in Northwest Indiana and began a conversation regarding what can be done to improve safety and prevent tragedy.
Contributors include the entire The Times news staff.
- The Wisconsin State Journal for reporter Kelly Meyerhofer’s story of a “toxic” environment fostered by a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus within its College of Engineering. Her investigation of conditions there, which may have led one graduate student to commit suicide, resonated for weeks in the higher education-focused community.
As a result, the university will start centrally tracking complaints of hostile and intimidating behavior to ensure reports “do not simply remain hidden inside a department or unit,” and much light has been cast on the pressures graduate students face and the failure among administration to better protect them from the power imbalance they have with their research advisers.
The primary contributor was Kelly Meyerhofer.
- Receiving honorable mention is the Santa Maria Times for its coverage of the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires in California. The reporting examined the vulnerability of Santa Barbara County residents and aimed to help local citizens plan for the next big blaze.
INNOVATION IN DIGITAL AUDIENCE
The award for innovation in digital audience recognizes an individual or team for creating or significantly advancing an idea that strengthens digital audience. Receiving awards are:
- The Arizona Daily Star for its continued development of #ThisIsTucson, a platform which includes thisistucson.com, live events, social media channels, email newsletters and smartphone applications. #ThisIsTucson has rapidly grown a large digital audience. In 2019, 1.5 million users visited thisistucson.com — a 74% increase over 2018.
#ThisIsTucson is attracting national attention, including a Knight News Innovation Fellowship from The Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School, a grant from the Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge and inclusion in the 2020 Google News Initiative’s Audience Accelerator Lab.
Contributors include: Irene McKisson, Becky Pallack, Samantha Munsey, Johanna Willett, Andrea Berlin, Jennifer Bond, and Veronica Cruz Mercado.
- The Billings Gazette for its redevelopment of 406 MTSports, a statewide digital platform providing high school sports scores and information such as like live sports tickers, updated playoff brackets, and box scores.
Following the launch of this new platform with an improved presentation, 406 MTSports, using information from the Billings Gazette; the Independent Record; the Missoulian; The Montana Standard and the Ravalli Republic, was tops in Lee for page view growth in the first quarter of FY2020, having seen more than a 580 percent growth above its targets.
Contributors include: Lindsay Rossmiller, Chase Doak, Allie Samuels, Jeff Welsch, Darrell Ehrlick, Preston Stahley, and Lee corporate staff.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch for its growth of digital subscriptions. The driving force behind this success was a personalized approach including:
- Building marketing campaigns that shared newsroom voices in subscriber appeals.
- Instituting a reader onboarding campaign to ensure users got the most out of the site.
- Creating exclusive online user experiences around digital content.
- Developing a personalized subscriber newsletter built around individual reading habits.
These efforts grew digital subscriptions to more than double the prior year and was more than 10 percent over the growth goal for the fiscal year.
Contributors include the entire Post-Dispatch staff.
- The Wisconsin State Journal for its use of a podcast, titled “Front Page,” to take readers behind the scenes of some of the news organization's most interesting and important work. Each episode focuses on building transparency with the audience and bolstering the credibility of local journalism.
By interviewing reporters about the reporting process and the thinking behind the decisions made behind the story telling, the podcast not only helps personalize the reporters for the audience, but also adds supplemental, engaging content to the digital platform.
Contributors include: Elizabeth Beyer and the State Journal News Staff.
- Receiving honorable mention is the Journal Times in Racine for its coverage of the community’s high school prom. Using photo galleries supported by advances stories and news alerts, the website page views nearly tripled as compared to prior month levels. In addition, users were encouraged to activate or start a digital subscription, more than doubling the number of new digital subscribers as compared to the prior month.
Judges for the Excellence in News and Innovation in Digital Audience categories were: David Beard, an editorial consultant and strategist who has worked with National Geographic, the Center for Public Integrity, the Pulitzer Prizes and the AP; Dr. Richard Cole, John Kerr Distinguished Professor and Dean Emeritus, Hussman School of Journalism and Media, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Suki Dardarian, Minneapolis Star Tribune Senior Managing Editor & Vice President. Noreen Gillespie, Deputy Managing Editor for U.S. News at The Associated Press; and award-winning author Alex Kotlowitz.
INNOVATION IN REVENUE
The award for innovation in revenue recognizes an individual or team for creating or significantly advancing an idea that drives revenue. Receiving awards are:
- The Billings Gazette for its unprecedented performance in driving political revenue across its digital and print platforms. A seminar was given to help candidates and their teams better understand the Gazette’s audience platforms and to provide tips to working with the newsroom. They also produced a Voter’s Guide in partnership with newsroom, and in total, generated more than $840,000 in revenue for the election cycle.
Primary contributors include: Dave Worstell, Mandy Schilling, and Ryan Brosseau.
- The Sioux City Journal for its “Top 50 Restaurants” contest and publication. The contest secured sponsorships, and nearly 600 readers signed up to be notified of future contests and promotions via email from the Sioux City Journal. The publication, highlighting the Top 50 Restaurants and featuring content from the editorial staff, secured 18 new print advertisers and 27 digitally enhanced listings.
Primary contributors include: Chad Pauling, Tracy Simmons, Cynthia Donovan, Bruce Miller and Angie Dye.
- The Wisconsin State Journal for a high-impact digital ad conversion initiative, which put digital sales focus on selling only high-impact, high-performing advertising that drive big results for local customers while proving more inventory for national digital streams to monetize. The results drove Madison’s digital performance as well as controllable retail to a best-in-Lee performance of +8.6%. The program was later launched companywide.
Primary contributors include: Ben Blackwell.
- Receiving honorable mention were:
- The Quad-City Times for QC Insight Business Journal, a community-advised quarterly publication that generated $161,000 in its first year.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch for its quick-thinking response of staff across departments, who took full advantage of the historic Stanley Cup win by the St. Louis Blues in 2019, bringing in $1.15 million in revenue across a variety of efforts.
- The Times of Northwest Indiana for “Chefs of Steel,” a cooking competition created to drive revenue, audience engagement and cooperation across the company.
- The Quad-City Times for QC Insight Business Journal, a community-advised quarterly publication that generated $161,000 in its first year.
Judges for the Innovation in Revenue category were: Christian Hendricks, Managing Partner at Extol Digital; Barbara Cohen, president and founder of Kannon Consulting; and Herbert W. Moloney III, an independent director of Lee and longtime advertising and publishing executive.
OUTSTANDING SALES PERFORMANCE
The Outstanding Sales and Performance Award recognizes sales executives demonstrating extraordinary results, creativity and tenacity while driving revenue for our company. Our winners exhibited a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a relentless drive to close sales. Receiving awards are:
- Katherine (Kit) Osborne of Madison Newspapers, Inc., who exceeded her prior year revenue by 17 percent, totaling $262,000, and exceeded current year revenue goal by six percent, totaling $107,000.
Kit had direct digital activity with 87% of her accounts and delivered year-over-year revenue gains with 67% of her accounts.
- Lisa Tavoletti of The Times Media Company, who this past year, grew her territory revenue from $838k to $1.23 million and her digital revenue from $427k to $857k. She also exceeded her overall and digital goal 14 months in a row.
The Lee Spirit Award recognizes outstanding personal commitment to our company and the people we serve.
Receiving the Exceptional Spirit Award is:
- Dave Bundy of the Lincoln Journal Star for his remarkable courage and uplifting positive attitude while battling not one, but two, cancer diagnoses. Through it all, Dave has maintained his sense of humor and a steadfast commitment to leading the newsroom in Lincoln. “Because Dave finds the positive in every situation, we all have a better perspective,” said Lincoln Journal Star President and Publisher Ava Thomas.
Receiving the Spirit Award is:
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As the lead reporter covering the St. Louis Cardinals, Derrick’s stories generated the most page views among all Lee reporters in 2019. But when a videographer collapsed in the visiting dugout at Busch Stadium, it was the former lifeguard and Eagle Scout’s CPR training that made all the difference. His attendance to the man for nearly two minutes while trainers sought a defibrillator helped save the man’s life.
Lee Enterprises is a leading provider of local news and information, and a major platform for advertising, with daily newspapers, rapidly growing digital products and almost 200 weekly and specialty publications serving 49 markets in 19 states. Year to date, Lee's newspapers have average circulation of 0.7 million daily and 1.0 million Sunday, and are estimated to reach almost three million readers in print alone. Lee's markets include St. Louis, MO; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Davenport, IA; Billings, MT; Bloomington, IL; and Tucson, AZ. Lee Common Stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LEE. For more information about Lee, please visit www.lee.net.
Director of Communications