TRIFECTION! Pine Knot is top paper in state for third year


February 3, 2023

Contributed photo

The staff members of the Pine Knot News celebrate the newspaper's third-straight Mills Trophy award as the "most outstanding weekly" in the state at the Minnesota Newspaper Association's annual convention Thursday, Jan. 26 in Brooklyn Park.

It's a classic long Minnesota goodbye to an absurd degree. Millie, a guest at the Pine Knot News office the past two years, will be staying at least another year. Blame the staff at the newspaper, for they keep serving up quality journalism and advertising that is enticing Millie to stay.

Millie, as the staff has affectionately coined the Mills Trophy, is symbolic of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's "most outstanding weekly." The distinction was bestowed upon the Pine Knot for the third year in a row last week, a feat accomplished only twice before in the 41-year history of the journalism excellence competition among newspapers from across the state.

For the second time, the staff at the paper drove Millie down to the Twin Cities area for the annual newspaper convention only to haul her back and place her in the window of the Pine Knot office in Cloquet's West End.

"She's an excellent guest, so we don't mind at all that she stays," said Pine Knot editor Jana Peterson.

The Pine Knot won the trophy on a point-scoring system based on the 30 awards it won for work from September 2021 through August 2022. The paper has been eligible for the MNA's Better Newspaper Contest for just four years since it was founded in 2018. It has accumulated 103 awards in those four contests for reporting, photo, design, advertising, commentary and online work.

"Our colleagues from across the state really want to hate us," Pine Knot reporter and designer Mike Creger said. "But then they hear our story, and they root for us."

Those who read the Pine Knot regularly know that story, but editor Peterson reiterated it at the awards ceremony on Jan. 26 in a ballroom filled with people from newspapers large and small across the state.

"When five of us chipped in money to start the Pine Knot News in the fall of 2018, I never dreamed I'd be standing here," she said. "I wasn't even sure we'd still be a paper in four years."

She repeated her mantra about the importance of celebrating the community with hyper-local, independent journalism, especially in an era that continues to see a decline in news coverage in smaller communities and even large ones. "You don't have to work for a corporate newspaper to succeed," she said, the ballroom erupting in cheers. "We are an independent, locally owned newspaper. I'll admit, I work more hours than I ever have in my life - with the exception of waitressing in my 20s - but I am happier and more fulfilled than ever. And I am also free to make this the best paper I can with the best people I know."

She was joined on stage by Creger, advertising manager Ivan Hohnstadt, staffers Rose Chu and Evan Hohnstadt, and investor Ann Markusen. At home but cheering the team on was publisher Pete Radosevich, reporter Brady Slater, and ad designer Peggy Day, along with a host of contributors, including award-winning photographers, columnists, writers, and loyal readers who all add to the fabric that is the now three-time champion Pine Knot.

The awards pile up for Mike Creger, Jana Peterson and Ivan Hohnstadt during the Better Newspaper Contest ceremony Thursday at the Minnesota Newspaper Convention in Brooklyn Park.

"Accolades are great and this is nice," Creger said at the awards ceremony in Brooklyn Park. "But as I was telling some people earlier today, the best thing is when people walk into our office and tell us how grateful they are for having the paper there and how much they love it. That means more than anything."

"I feel super lucky to have a job that I love and also to have the opportunity to get this kind of positive reinforcement from our peers," Peterson said.

On Monday, Creger was found chipping away at ice and snow at the door of the Pine Knot while receptionist Linda Erickson took calls from readers, some with news tips. All was back to semi-normal after the rush of accolades over the weekend. Millie spent a good part of the weekend and Monday on Peterson's kitchen table. The trophy was back where it seems to belong on Tuesday morning, her golden hue shining in the cold sunlight in the front window of the office on Avenue C.

Welcome back, Millie.

More bundt cake?


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