The 2018 Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Awards

Point Roberts Press, which publishes The Northern Light and the All Point Bulletin, won 29 awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA) this year. All of the awards were for content in The Northern Light. We'd like to extend congratulations in particular to Ruth Lauman, whose name appears on 14 of the awards for advertising. That is an amazing achievement. The All Point Bulletin received no awards.

According to the WNPA's awards pamphlet, there were 266 advertising submissions and 1146 news submissions from 62 participating newspapers across the state. Submissions were judged by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. With the number of overall entries and the presumed expertise of the judges, these awards provide a fairly objective measure of a newspaper's quality. So it's interesting to look at the results more closely.

A newspaper has two primary constituents: its readers and its advertisers. Ideally, high quality news draws readers, creating a large audience for advertisers. To measure how well The Northern Light serves each constituency compared to its peers, we analyze the number of awards given for news and for advertising, for which The Northern Light won 23 awards. They won six more awards in the additional categories of photography and special editions. In the analysis that follows, we don't include these categories because they don't pertain directly to the question of the balance between news and advertising.

Here's a graph of the number of total awards for news and advertising won by each paper, going from most to least. You can see that The Northern Light finished third in the pack, a very strong showing.

"Ah, Pat and all your colleagues: congratulations! We're lucky to have you in our community."

- Judy Ross, quoted in the November APB.

Who's lucky, exactly? Let's look at the breakdown of awards won for advertising vs. those won for news:

Now let's look at the number of news awards. How does The Northern Light fare by this measure? The following chart shows the publications rank ordered by the number of news awards they won:

What proportion of overall news awards was won by The Northern Light?

Now let's do the same with advertising. How did The Northern Light rank in advertising awards?

And what proportion of overall advertising awards was won by The Northern Light?

All of this begs the question of how we can put the two sides, news and advertising, together into a single measure of where papers place their emphasis. Are they emphasizing service to the community through high quality news? Or are they emphasizing service to their advertisers through revenue-producing high quality ads?

One way of measuring this is to simply subtract the number of advertising awards from the number of news awards each paper received. A paper that emphasizes news over advertising would have a positive number in this measure, while a paper that emphasizes advertising would have a negative number.

We wouldn't suggest that The Northern Light stop serving its advertisers so well, and again, congratulations to the Point Roberts Press's graphics and advertising team for such an impressive achievement. We just think the news side could use a lot of improvement.

So what about the All Point Bulletin?

Publisher Pat Grubb won one news award. It was for an editorial, again published in The Northern Light, titled "What Are They Hiding", in which he took on the state legislators who were trying to exempt themselves from the state Open Public Records Act. In doing so, he went out on a limb and courageously added his voice to the more than 19,000 calls, emails, and letters to the governor on the topic:

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he had also submitted this article from the All Point Bulletin, in which he took us to task for using that same act to make the Hospital District reveal what they were hiding:

Full disclosure

We actually tried to join the WNPA a few months ago. We figured, why not? We've published news and analysis. We've had advertising. And hey, we even have a comics section!

But alas, it was not to be. After filling out our application on the WNPA's web site, we received the following email from Fred Obee, the WNPA's Executive Director:

Hello Victor: At present we are not accepting web-only members. This may change in the future, but for now, you need to publish a printed newspaper of general circulation to join WNPA. We do wish you good luck with your online publication, though. Thanks for your interest in WNPA.

New comic every Monday