John Scarffe, Lakewood. The 2016 Colorado Press Association Better Newspaper Contest results were announced April 22, 2017 at CPA’s 139th Annual Convention at the Denver West Sheraton in Lakewood. Judging for the awards was conducted by the Minnesota Press Association.
Barbara Hardt, of The Mountain-Ear, won the Innovation Award, and it was the first award presented that night. Hardt was told before a crowded banquet room that community newspapers covering all the events of a small town are few and far between. In the Peak to Peak area of Colorado, The Mountain-Ear is thriving in large-part due to the innovative efforts of Publisher Barbara Hardt.
“The Mountain-Ear is celebrating its 40th year in existence as the only newspaper covering Allenspark to Central City, Colorado. During the past ten years, the paper has been under the leadership of Barbara Hardt, and during that time, The Mountain-Ear has grown in editorial content, circulation and advertising sales. She also initiated the online version of the paper, and its presence has grown steadily.
“Barb started at The Mountain-Ear in classifieds in October 31, 2006, and bought the paper in 2007. She has taken on more of the daily work to keep the revenue going back into the paper, instead of paying others for work she can do herself. She has worked on every single aspect of the paper, including sales, marketing, publishing, editing, graphic design and layout, web design, social media, circulation and more. She also has hired local employees to keep a continued thumb on the heartbeat of the communities the paper serves.
Editorially, she has increased reporting on local governmental agencies and added additional school and feature coverage, calendars of events and a page devoted to local music happenings. She also has invited community members to contribute their own coverage to the paper. Officials with local libraries, senior associations, pet-care businesses, astrologers and geologists have regular columns in the paper that bring informative and interesting perspectives and facts.
“One of the hallmarks of her leadership has been increasing and enhancing the use of powerful photographs. Each issue features a great photo on the front page, and the photos are continued throughout the paper, drawing readers into the editorial content and increasing sales with shots of children and families.
“Barb has increased the social media presence of the newspaper by almost double, and has added to the company’s web presence during the past year. She attends local events and shares the newspaper with the covered entities after each event.
“She has increased advertising revenue by offering packages that allow different size ads and offering cross promotion with other publications. The Mountain-Ear offers brand awareness advertising to make sure all publications within the region are using similar marketing concepts to promote businesses and share the brand already available.
“I would be remiss if I failed to share some things about Barb’s importance in the community. She has been on the board of Peak to Peak Healthy Communities that raises funds for needed projects, which have included the annual Fireworks Display and parade, the Gilpin County Buckle Series Gymkhana and student music scholarships. She has organized Miners’ Day and Old Timers’ Day events, manages the Town’s only shopping center, helps run the Brightwood Music Store, takes college classes and still has time to take care of her family. It’s safe to say that the Peak to Peak area would not be what it is today without Barbara Hardt. Those of us who know her well have a saying: She moves at the Speed of Barb, and that’s pretty damn fast.
“When deciding to give this award to Barb and The Mountain-Ear, the judges stated: ‘A strong weekly newspaper doing it all, well. Under Barbara’s leadership the paper is adapting and soaring to new heights in the changing world of the printed newspaper, online and new media. Congratulations on a job well done!’”
Mountain-Ear Advertising Designer Cynthia Davis won first place in the Best Advertising Layout and Design category for “Thanksgiving Wishes.” The judges did not make any comments.
Barbara Lawlor won first place in the Best News Story category for “Firefighters Win.” The judges said: “Wow. What a great piece of journalism. Excellent photos combined with compelling prose made this an easy choice for first place.”
Lawlor also won first place in the Public Service category for “Many hands make 11,000 meals.” The judges said, “Excellent example of writing that shows rather than tells! The photos were great!”
Lawlor won second place in the Best Photo Essay category for “Winter comes to high country.” The judges said, “Outstanding photography transforms an interesting idea into a strikingly beautiful photo essay.”
Hardt said she was very pleased with the awards. “The focus of The Mountain-Ear is not winning awards. Our focus is always on serving our community both to inform them and give them the news they need every week and hopefully to entertain our readers too. It is very rewarding, though, to receive some positive recognition for the hard work we complete as a team each week.”