Two former Star-Herald journalists win national awards

Lauren Brant

The Gering Courier claimed top spots across a number of categories when the Nebraska Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and Sweepstakes Award winners were announced June 25.

The Courier took home the Print Class A Sweepstakes award for weekly papers in its classification. The Courier and its staff accounted for 25 awards.

In all, the Courier, Scottsbluff Star-Herald and Hemingford Ledger took 53 awards for excellence in newspaper.

“I’m honored daily to work alongside such a talented staff of newspaper professionals,” said Rich Macke, publisher for the Star-Herald, Courier and Ledger. “The 53 awards received by the Star Herald, Gering Courier and Hemingford Ledger during the Nebraska Press Association 2020 Awards event is a testament to the hard work each member of our team takes responsibility for. Each has passion and understanding of what a true local newspaper should be to the communities they serve, and share that passion with our readers.”

The sweepstakes win was among a number of first place efforts by the Courier in both editorial and advertising content.

“To have the Gering Courier be recognized by the Nebraska Press Association made me proud to be a part of this team, especially as NPA awarded the Courier the division winner in the weekly category” said former Courier editor and Star-Herald education reporter Lauren Brant. “The Courier’s success was a team win. Without everyone’s contributions from writing articles and editing content to page layout and selling advertisements, there would have been no paper.”

Brant said photography has been her avenue for showing readers the story, and she was overwhelmed with joy to see the judges recognize that.

“My passion for journalism and for making the Courier the best it could be would not have been possible without my team, especially Brad Staman and Maunette Loeks, who helped me become a better journalist and photographer,” Brant said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, first, second and third place winners were announced by video presentation. Many newspapers had “watch parties” to view the video and celebrate their wins.

More than 3,400 separate entries, representing 10 dailies and 59 weeklies, were judged by members of the Illinois Press Association.

Awards claimed by the Courier include:

First Place

Print Class A Sweepstakes

Reader Interaction/Contest; Kids Speak by Jeff Fielder

Classified Section; by Steph Cooper and staff

Advertising Campaign; Monument Physical Therapy Series by Nicci Vorse and Dalene Louden

Single Retail Advertising Idea- Color; A2B Journeys-Let Your Journey Begin by Nicci Vorse and Dalene Louden

Feature Photography; Giving Blood by Lauren Brant

News Photography; Samsung Project by Lauren Brant

Use of Color-News; Moving Water by Lauren Brant

Personal Column; by Lauren Brant

Editorial Page; by staff

News Writing; Controlling the Blaze by Lauren Brant

Second Place

Building Circulation; Supporting Local Students by Lauren Brant and Ashley Young

Community Promotion Advertisement; A Tribute to Our Heroes by Ashley Young

Advertising Campaign; Panhandle Coop Wine and Spirits by Doug Southard, Kelly Zwetzig and Dalene Louden

Single Retail Advertising Idea- Color; Oregon Trail Plumbing-Dragging the Outhouse Around by Nicci Vorse, Ashley Young and Dalene Louden

Entertainment Story; Oregon Trail Days by Lauren Brant

General Excellence; by staff

Specialty Pages/Lifestyle Section; Community Coverage by Brad Staman and Lauren Brant

Third Place

Photo Page; Search Continues for Missing Man by Lauren Brant

Feature Photography; Nano Sand by Lauren Brant

News Photography; A Family’s Heartache by Lauren Brant

Personal column; by Rich Macke

Entertainment Story; Old West Weekend by Lauren Brant

Editorial; by Rich Macke and Lauren Brant

Youth Coverage; by Lauren Brant


Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald and oversees the Gering Courier as editor. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at

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