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Bob Wooten: Hoosiers pull out all stops

If you work at a newspaper, nothing feels better than hitting a deadline.

I've been working against one for the last two weeks, and relished the moment Friday morning when, just in time, the project before me was bagged, tagged and ready for shipment. It must have taken a half-dozen points off my blood pressure.

Along with Charles Pannunzio, The Northern Virginia Daily's assistant managing editor, I've been judging entries in the Hoosier State Press Association's Better Newspaper Contest. We and other editors across the Old Dominion have been returning a favor, since our colleagues in Indiana judged a similar competition earlier this year for the Virginia Press Association.

Much of the judging for these newspaper contests is handled by Federal Express these days, so Charles and I were able to do the work right here in our own newsroom in Strasburg.

That's fortunate, because as appealing as it might sound, I had neither the time nor inclination for a trip to Indianapolis this summer. The Midwest has its charms, but few beaches.

The winning entries are now on their way back to Indiana. Soon, the winners will break open the champagne and celebrate the recognition for a job well done.

On my end, I'm satisfied with having the chance to see the skill, talent and hard work these Hoosier State journalists bring to the profession.

Outstanding journalism -- writing, photography and presentation -- is what we all strive for in this business. It's what readers expect, whether they live here in the Northern Shenandoah Valley or in suburban Kokomo.

For example, an entry from one newspaper demonstrated outstanding coverage of a natural disaster. The remnants of Hurricane Ike had flooded the community, forcing people from their homes, shutting down businesses and overloading emergency shelters.

The newspaper's coverage went well beyond basic reporting, putting human faces on the story and offering lots of practical information about how neighbors could help each other through the crisis.

Entries from other Indiana newspapers made it clear their staffs had pulled out all the stops to cover major local stories -- heinous crimes, crooked politicians, horrendous traffic accidents. In most cases, they rose to the occasion and served their readers well.

Flipping through scores of newspaper clippings, I saw hours upon hours of effort by reporters, editors and photographers doing their best at a difficult and sometimes thankless task. I heard the howls of protest some of them no doubt endured for simply doing their job, which is to shine some daylight on the thorniest issues confronting their communities.

I know because I get the same sort of calls from time to time.

In the end, once all the entries had been assessed, the winners picked and the deadline met, I found myself feeling better about the work we do, both here and in Indiana.

While I have no idea what a "Hoosier" is, I wouldn't mind having a couple in my newsroom.

Bob Wooten is the managing editor of the Daily. Contact him at 800-296-5137 or at bwooten@nvdaily.com.

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