Managing Editor Rick Fromm and Sports Editor Jennifer Bissell.
Managing Editor Rick Fromm and Sports Editor Jennifer Bissell.
Decorah Newspapers has received two first-place awards in the annual Iowa Newspaper Association's better newspaper contest.

Managing Editor Rick Fromm earned the top prize in the Master Columnist category (Weekly division, Class III), and Sports Editor Jennifer Bissell was presented the winning plaque in the best sports story competition.

The awards were announced at the INA convention held last weekend in Des Moines.

Fromm has won or placed in Master Columnist numerous times during his 40-year career in journalism, and Bissell has captured top honors for her best sports story entry in two of the last three years.

"The competition is incredibly tough, so any INA award received is something that is richly deserved. Jennifer just does an outstanding job of covering sports in Winneshiek County and I'm so happy for her and very proud to have her on our staff. She works extremely hard and is so conscientious. Our readers are lucky to have her as sports editor," said Fromm.

"It truly is an honor to be recognized by my peers. I put a lot of time and effort into my work, so it's gratifying to be honored," said Bissell.

"I've been fortunate enough to earn Master Columnist recognition in each of the last five decades, and that's an achievement I'll always treasure," said Fromm. "It's nice to know that as you get older, you can still be relevant."

The judges' comments about Fromm and Bissell's entries are as follows:

Best Sports Story - A top notch series by Jennifer. She pulled the first place with this series because she brought an outsider into this story that has no clue who the Olejniczaks are and made me feel like when I was done reading the story that I knew this couple as well as the locals that have known them all their lives. Fantastic series very deserving of the top award.

Master Columnist - Tops of a very good group of columns, quite a few of which could easily have cracked top three depending on the day. Your pieces were conversational, easy to read and informative. And many in this class could learn from you that a good column needn't be half a page or more long...

  Ken Fuson of the Northwest Iowa Review placed second in Master Columnist, and Scott Campbell of the Eldridge North Scott Press was third.

Adam Wilson of the Altoona Herald-Index was runner-up to Bissell, and Campbell again placed third.

The Des Moines Register was named 2014 "Newspaper of the Year." The contest was judged by the Nebraska Press Association. Nearly 4,000 entries in dozens of categories were judged by class, based on circulation.