The Daily Iowan named Newspaper of the Year in state journalism contest

The Iowa Newspaper Association honored The Daily Iowan with its top award in the statewide 2020 Better Newspaper Contest.



Daily Iowan staff members hold first-place plaques and the 2020 Newspaper of the Year award to celebrate earning the Iowa Newspaper Association’s top honor at the association’s annual awards convention at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown on Feb. 7. The achievement marks the first time the DI has won Newspaper of the Year since 1981.

DI staff

The Daily Iowan was named the Iowa Newspaper Association’s 2020 Newspaper of the Year Feb. 7 in its statewide contest, marking the first time the DI has received the organization’s top honor since 1981.

Overall, the University of Iowa’s independent student-run newspaper brought home more than 40 awards, including 18 first-place awards against daily newspapers with a circulation less than 10,000.

“We’re thrilled to be recognized as the Newspaper of the Year,” DI Publisher Jason Brummond said. “This is truly an impressive accomplishment for our student journalists, who compete for these awards against professional newspapers across the state of Iowa. We have a talented and dedicated staff who balance newsroom assignments with classwork to deliver important news and storytelling to the UI community and beyond.”

Editor-in-Chief Marissa Payne said the DI’s recognition was a testament to the newsroom staff’s hard work, professionalism, and dedication to producing quality journalism.

“For more than 150 years, the DI has been a strong training ground for students to learn how to be journalists,” Payne said. “While we work in this learning laboratory, we are real journalists doing real work — investigating the UI administration, covering city council meetings, asking important questions of Iowa politicians, and documenting all Hawkeye sports. I’m so proud of our historic achievement, but the ultimate honor is the work we do every day as the UI’s paper of record informing the Hawkeye and Iowa City communities.”

Payne and 2019 graduate Gage Miskimen were editors during the contest period.

Payne won the Harrison “Skip” Weber Investigative Reporting award for her April 2019 scoop on the UI’s nearly $4 million change order to replace Cedar Rapids construction firm Modern Piping with another bidder as a subcontractor on the Pharmacy Building project.

Creative Director Katina Zentz was awarded three citations, earning first place for Best News Feature Photo for capturing a moment between a parent and child at golden hour while sitting at Molly’s Cupcakes as well as first- and second-place finishes for Best Slideshow.

Politics Editor Julia Shanahan’s reporting on the fatal cost of rising insulin prices and how 2020 presidential campaigns are engaging with minority voters in the first-in-the-nation caucus state earned her first place for Best News Story and Best News Feature Story, respectively.

Other notable highlights included winning Best Newspaper Website for the fourth year in a row and sweeping first, second, and third for Best Personality Feature Story, Best Sports Photo, Best Video, and Best Slideshow.

The DI earned first in the following categories:

  • General Excellence
  • Coverage of Education
  • Coverage of Agriculture
  • Best Newspaper Website
  • Best News Story – Julia Shanahan
  • Best Personality Feature Story – Kit Fitzgerald
  • Best News Feature Story – Julia Shanahan
  • Best Sports Feature – David Harmantas
  • Best Video – Roman Slabach
  • Best Slideshow – Katina Zentz
  • Best News Feature Photo – Katina Zentz
  • Best Sports Photo – Ryan Adams
  • Best Editorial Page
  • Best Feature Page
  • Best Newspaper Marketing
  • Best Ad Featuring Grocery, Food or Entertainment
  • Best Ad Featuring Professional Service
  • Best Ad Idea for a Community Promotion or Event

Second-place awards:

  • Coverage of Government & Politics
  • Coverage of Business
  • Community Leadership
  • Total Newspaper Design
  • Best News Feature Story – Brooklyn Draisey
  • Best Personality Feature Story – Jordan Zuniga
  • Best Video – Jenna Galligan, Katie Goodale and Brooklyn Draisey
  • Best Slideshow – Katina Zentz
  • Best News Photo – Roman Slabach
  • Best Sports Photo – Shivansh Ahuja
  • Best Front Page
  • Best Headline Writing
  • Best Ad Featuring Furniture, Furnishings, Appliances or Hardware
  • Best Web Advertisement

Third-place awards:

  • Coverage of Court & Crime
  • Best Sports Section
  • Best Special Section – Editorial
  • Best Sports Story – Adam Hensley
  • Best Sports Feature Story – Brooklyn Draisey
  • Best Personality Feature Story – Katelyn Weisbrod
  • Best Video – Ryan Adams
  • Best Slideshow – Shivansh Ahuja
  • Best Sports Photo – Shivansh Ahuja
  • Best Photo Story – Shivansh Ahuja
  • Best Sports Feature Photo – Nick Rohlman

The Newspaper of the Year is presented to the newspaper that accumulates the highest point total from placing first, second, or third in select categories in the association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest. Member newspapers submit thousands of entries in news, writing, advertising, and digital categories.

The Virginia Press Association judged more than 3,300 entries in Iowa’s 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, which took place at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.

View the full list of awards and judges’ comments here.