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Western Wheel recognized with national awards

The Western Wheel newsroom won awards in four categories of the 2021 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards, including first place for general excellence.

The Western Wheel received four 2021 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards this week, including first place for general excellence.

The annual awards from News Media Canada honour outstanding editorial, photography, multimedia, and overall excellence in community newspaper publishing across Canada.

"The Western Wheel has a long history of being supported and appreciated by our local readers and it’s nice to also receive recognition from among our peers across the country," said publisher Shaun Jessome.

Honours for the Western Wheel include first place for general excellence and first place for best editorial page, as well as two second place awards for best front page and best multimedia breaking news coverage.

General excellence, best editorial page and best front page awards were based on two submissions of entire editions of the paper from two months pre-selected randomly by News Media Canada, which were February and October 2021.

The Wheel's two submissions were the Feb. 24 and Oct. 20 editions of the newspaper, the latter of which was the post-municipal election with coverage of the Okotoks, Foothills County, Black Diamond and Turner Valley elections in 2021.

"It is gratifying to be recognized for that election issue, in particular," said assistant editor Remy Greer. "Election issues are always among the most challenging to put together and require that all-hands on deck approach. 

"I can say that was the most difficult edition of the paper to complete that I've ever been involved in and probably the most rewarding as well."

The award for multimedia breaking news coverage goes to reporter Lauryn Heintz and photojournalist Brent Calver for the story Students put spotlight on sexual harassment that appeared online and in the Dec. 1, 2021, issue of the Wheel.

The multimedia award recognizes "the combination or enhancement of print with online journalism on a single breaking news event of local importance."

Heintz said she had been a reporter at the Wheel for only about a month when she wrote the award-winning story.

"I was surprised to learn that Brent and I were being recognized for our work on that story," Heintz said. "Despite it being very cold and snowy that day, it was great to see young people standing up for something that they're passionate about and something that they believe in.

"I think community newspapers are the heart of small towns. I think it's really important for people to have coverage on issues that matter to them. Our team at the Wheel really tries our best, and takes pride in being able to do that, and thoroughly enjoys getting out into the community and telling the stories that matter and the stories that people care about."

Calver said breaking news is all the more important in smaller communities where people are closer to what is happening, he said.

"We publish (online) not just daily, but hourly, as situations unfold," Calver said.

Award categories are classed by a newspaper’s circulation, and the Western Wheel is in the 6500 to 17,499 class.

"I am very proud of the editors and reporters at the Wheel," Jessome said. "I invite you, our readers, to also pass on your kudos to this dedicated team of (award-winning) professional journalists."

The St. Albert Gazette and Rocky Mountain Outlook, sister newspapers to the Wheel as part of Great West Media, were also multiple award winners.

The news of these awards comes after the Western Wheel received multiple awards from the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association in June.