Saying It Loud and Proud

Peninsula Pulse earns 34 awards in 2022 Better Newspaper Contest

The Peninsula Pulse received 34 awards in the 2022 Better Newspaper Contest hosted by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. The awards were announced during the association’s March 24 banquet, held at The Madison Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison. 

The awards for newspapers across the state validate the work that newspaper professionals do day in, day out, week in, week out. The relentless deadlines, the constant interviews and research, the endless government meetings and events. The ruthlessness of some stories or designs that just won’t cooperate. The punch to your gut when you realize you got a name wrong, a fact wrong. The emotions and anxieties you witness and record, and feel in the recording (because we’re human). The pros and cons weighed and double-checked, the sleepless nights, the hard decisions to run with a certain story, quote, sentence, headline, photo. The pound of sweat and flesh that it all exacts – only to start all over again the next day. 

We can’t live with it; we can’t live without it. And an award from your industry peers says, “We get it. We know what this took. Good work.”

A perfect example of this is contained within the judge’s comments for a feature story I wrote that earned an Honorable Mention. It was about an Ellison Bay resident who found his lost turtle with the help of our classified ads and an observant neighbor. 

“I am a sucker for lost-turtle stories,” the judge wrote. “It was never going to be more than it was, and the reporter knew it – took the facts, made me care and created a piece that will stay with me for longer than composting the paper will … Nice to see so many solid journalists are out there doing the job, day in and day out.”

All of our staff members and several of our regular contributors and freelancers earned awards this year, as did our newspaper as a whole. They’re all listed below.

Peninsula Pulse reporter Sam Watson earned first place for Rookie Reporter of the Year. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

A particular shout-out goes to Sam Watson, a journalist who joined us last August upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She earned first place for Rookie Reporter of the Year. This entry required us to submit three of her stories and then write a letter about why she stands out. That was not in any way difficult to do.

Another shout-out goes to our photographer, videographer and Door County Pulse podcast producer, Rachel Lukas. She joined us in the summer of 2021 as our photography/videography intern. Rachel had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and we decided, at the end of the summer, to hire her full time. Prior to arriving on our doorstep, she had never held a camera in her hands. This year, she won a first-place and two second-place awards for her photos and video.

The final shout-out I’ll give to our regular contributor Craig Sterrett. He’s a former daily newspaper editor who can’t rinse the ink from his blood. Even though he now works a full-time job in a different industry, he covers like a pro several beats for us, including education – for which he earned two first-place awards this year. 

“It’s an honor to receive these awards and to have the Door County community recognized,” said David Eliot, publisher and co-owner of the newspaper with Myles Dannhausen Jr. “We have an incredible staff at the Pulse. These awards are a testament to their dedication and commitment to serving their community, and putting the best-quality publication together every week, 52 weeks a year.”

It is an honor, and it is not just ours. Our communities share these awards. Behind every story and photo, there is a person, a place, a thing that’s grounded here on this peninsula that we’ve all chosen to call home. You make us prouder than you know that it’s your stories we are privileged to tell.

The 2022 contest received 2,230 entries from 106 newspapers. Eligible entries were published between Sept. 1, 2021, and Aug. 31, 2022, and members of the Arkansas Press Association judged them.

The entire list of winners and judges’ comments is available by accessing the online version of the Better Newspaper Contest Awards at

Rachel Lukas shot this photo in the summer of 2022, earning her a first place award for Sports Feature Photo.


Newspaper as a Whole

Second Place, All Around Newspaper Photography: Peninsula Pulse Staff

Third Place, Best Front Page: Andrew Kleidon, Sharon Anderson, Ryan Miller

Third Place, Best Opinion Pages: Debra Fitzgerald and Sharon Anderson

Honorable Mention, General Excellence: Peninsula Pulse Staff

Honorable Mention, Overall Page Design: Andrew Kleidon, Sharon Anderson, Ryan Miller

Advertising Awards

First Place, Best Multiple Advertiser Spread, Carlsville Business Association: Jess Farley, Renee Puccini

First Place, Best Real Estate Ad, Action Realty: Deanna Nelson, Renee Puccini 

Second Place, Best Large Ad, Peninsula Music Festival: Steve Grutzmacher, Renee Puccini

Third Place, Best Small Ad, Belgian Heritage Center: Kait Shanks, Renee Puccini

Honorable Mention, Bill Payne Award, Seaquist Orchards: Steve Grutzmacher, Renee Puccini

Individual Awards

Debra Fitzgerald

First Place, Community Engagement Award with Jackson Parr for “The Door County Budget Project”

First Place, Localized National Story for “Processing America’s Withdrawal from Afghanistan”

First Place, Breaking News Reporting for a series of stories on the Butch’s Bar fire

Third Place, Ongoing/Extended Coverage for a series of stories on the Door County Candle Company’s Candles for Ukraine fundraiser

Third Place, Best Headlines

Honorable Mention, Feature Story (non-profile) for “A Classified Ad and an Observant Neighbor Reunite a Man and His Turtle” 

Honorable Mention, Reporting on Local Government for multiple stories

Myles Dannhausen Jr.

Second Place, Sports News Story for “Gibraltar Falls in Madison”

Second Place, Enterprise/Interpretive Reporting for “Egg Harbor Campers Left in the Dark”

Third Place, Coronavirus Coverage for “They Didn’t Have to Be Here”

Kevin Boneske

Second Place, Sports Action Photo for “Over the Top” (pole vaulting)

Honorable Mention, Sports News Story for “DCU Girls Swimmers Seek to Build on Past Successes”

Rachel Lukas

First Place, Sports Feature Photo for “Down the Line” (zip lining)

Second Place, Sports Feature Photo for “Wingfoiling”

Second Place, Best Video for “The Door County Granary Project”

Sam Watson

First Place, Rookie Reporter of the Year

Grace Johnson

Second Place, Best Special Section for “Summer Music Preview” with Andrew Kleidon

Andrew Kleidon

Honorable Mention, Best Ongoing Niche Publication for Gibraltar School News and Pioneer Times

Contributor/Freelancer Awards

Craig Sterrett

First Place, Coronavirus Coverage for “How the COVID-19 Lockdown Unlocked Outdoor Learning Lessons”

First Place, Reporting on Local Education for multiple stories

Bret Bicoy

Second Place, Local Column for his Pulse on Philanthropy column

Kevin Naze

Second Place, Outdoor Column for his Wild Things column

Sophie Nelson

Second Place, Coronavirus Coverage for “COVID-19’s Impact on Craft Breweries”

Joan Korb Honorable Mention, Local Column for her Legal Brief column

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