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The Lansing Journal earns awards for General Excellence, layout, photography

Six awards in five categories from AFCP

by Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor

LANSING, Ill. (June 25, 2020) – Early this year, The Lansing Journal was judged alongside print publications from across North America as part of the “Best of the Best” awards competition by the Association of Free Community Publications (AFCP). Nearly 1,500 entries were submitted in over 100 different publishing categories to be recognized for outstanding achievement in design, advertising, editorial, and publishing. Newspapers and magazines published between January 1 and December 31, 2019, were eligible, and the judges represented a variety of publishing, graphics, printing, and journalism backgrounds from across the country.

Normally the awards are presented at AFCP’s annual April conference. This year, because of COVID-19, the conference was canceled. But the entries had been received, reviewed, and judged by the end of February, before stay-at-home orders were enacted in March, so AFCP was able to compile the results and hold a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday, June 25.

The Lansing Journal received six awards.

General Excellence: Second Place

Second Place: General Excellence (Click to view the PDF of this issue.)

I am most proud of our second-place win in the General Excellence category. Entries were judged on “cover design, presentation of editorial and advertising design, use of photography and illustrations, organization, print quality, and overall look and feel.” We were required to submit three complete issues—June 2019 (click to view PDF), October 2019 (PDF), and any 2019 issue of our choice. I chose the March 2019 (PDF) print issue (shown above) because I think it represents some of the finest work our team has done. We worked hard to pull together information about all the 2019 Lansing elections, all the candidates, all the polling places, and a variety of candidate events so that Lansing voters could make informed decisions on Election Day, April 2. It was a huge amount of work, but I think it’s fair to say our small team felt energized by the assignment. And it was rewarding to see people lined up for early voting with their March Lansing Journal in hand as a voter guide. In fact, one of the early voting election officials told me they kept copies of that issue in the voting area, and they were able to offer it to voters because it was a factual, balanced, and comprehensive list, not a campaign piece for any particular candidate.

You can learn a little bit more about the people who gather and report your news by visiting this link:

(As a side note, I hope you’ll click on the links to the PDFs of those three issues. Scrolling through the news from last March, last June, and last October is particularly nostalgic given how much change we’ve seen in March, April, May, and June of this year.)

Feature Article Layout: Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention: Feature Article Layout (Click the image to view the PDF of the entire February issue.)

“Lessons from the Pinewood Derby,” which appeared on page 23 of our February print issue, won an award for layout. Entries were judged on “overall appeal, creative use of supporting illustrations and/or photography, typography, and organization.” The link to the online version of the article—which includes more photos and video—appears below:

Best Original Editorial Photography, Sports Article: Third Place

Coolidge’s Torrence Tate (22) drives to the basket. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

It’s great to have an experienced sports writer and photographer on the team who also loves Lansing and is involved in our local schools. Ashlee De Wit covered the Roundball Classic in 2019, and this photo she snapped of Coolidge’s Torrence Tate won Third Place in this category. Photos were judged on “composition, subject matter, style, and overall quality.” Read more of Ashlee’s coverage and view more of her photos in these articles:

Best Original Editorial Photography, News Article: Third Place

Third place: Best Original Editorial Photography, News Article (Click to view the PDF of the September 2019 issue)

Lansing is proud to host Ballet Folklorico as part of their international dance tour each year, and it’s a fun assignment to photograph. With so many colorful costumes, interesting instruments, and dramatic dances, it’s easy to shoot a thousand photos in the span of the three-hour show. Before the final number of the August 31, 2019, performance, one of the stage hands invited me back stage, and I was able to capture a photo that we used on the front cover of our September print issue. The online version of the article, linked below, includes several videos that show the variety of dances and instruments that are part of the Mexican music tradition:

Best Original Photography Used in an Ad: Honorable Mentions

Advertising dollars are what pay for paper, postage, and pixels, as well as a stipend for the generous journalists who submit the award-winning content our readers love. We work as hard for our advertisers as we do for our readers, and it’s nice to be recognized for the original photography we used in a couple of last year’s ads:


Thank you

Thank you, Lansing readers, for signing up for our Daily News email, and for engaging with the content you read. The notes you send, the comments you post, and the questions you ask when I see you around town let me know that you care about this community and want it to thrive. (Anyone can become a subscriber by completing this simple form.)

Thank you, supporters and sustainers, for understanding the costs involved with reporting, publishing, and distributing well written information. The dollars you send help keep this newspaper going, and the encouraging notes you include make us want to do even more. (Anyone can become a supporter by using this simple form.)

Thank you, advertisers, for trusting us to help you reach your customers and prospects, and for understanding that we want you to succeed. Our readers understand that your ads are a message from local businesses to local shoppers, and appreciate seeing that you support their newspaper. (Take a look at the new digital ad options we offer—they’re getting great results.)

It feels good to be recognized for the work we are doing for our community. But the real value of these awards is being able to affirm that the community’s investment in this newspaper is worthwhile.
March print issue

The Lansing Journal
The Lansing Journal
The Lansing Journal publishes news releases from state, county, and local officials who provide information that impacts local community life. The particular contributor of each post is indicated in the byline.


  1. Congratulations! I had no doubt you’d win awards. I’m sure there are many more to come your way. Good job!!!

  2. Way to go, Melanie and crew!! All of your hard work has paid off, and you certainly deserve it! Keep up the great work!!

  3. Congratulations to Melanie & all the TLJ staff for winning these awards, and all of your hard work that goes into producing this newspaper; both in print form in normal times and digital form each day! I love getting the daily email in my inbox and hope to keep reading it for as long as I can. Keep up the great work! ? ? ??

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