Each year, in its Better Newspaper Contest, the National Newspaper Association recognizes standout stories and innovative ways to present vital information … and the Ink’s reporting team is proud of what the judges recognized in our approach for our 2021 submissions.

We received five total awards in the Editorial Contest (all winning publications are published here). First place went to Juliana Demarest, culture editor, in the Best Editorial category for Ask a Stupid Question … Please! while Alex Hoeft, reporter and hack-of-all-hats from layout design to new motherhood, received a third-place win for How I Combine Church and State. Our news reporting also gained recognition: Hoeft, along with publisher and editor-in-chief Mayumi Elegado, won another third in the Best Investigative or In-Depth Story or Series for Dementia Discharge and contributor Liz Bowling received an Honorable Mention in the Best Sports Feature Story or Series for Women of Winter.

MOUNTAIN GAL: The “mountains raised” Michelle Parker, but as a young female skier she never imagined they could provide her a career, too. Parker is featured as one of four “women of winter,” movers and shakers in the Tahoe/Truckee winter world, which received praise for its depth of research by NNA judges. Photo by Wade Snider/Moonshine Ink

Lastly, Moonshine’s whole content production team received a third-place win in the story/series category of Communication in a Crisis for our multimedia in-depth pandemic coverage. This win is shared with community and media partners, like KTKE, our radio collaborator on Moonshine Minutes, which was a quickly-executed daily radio show bringing listeners our latest Covid coverage, resources, and local information.

‘RONA ROLLERS is the somewhat too-silly-for-a-once-in-a-century-pandemic internal name that the Ink team has bestowed on our rolling updates covering Washoe County in Nevada and Placer, Nevada, and El Dorado counties in California. This coverage, along with a variety of other multimedia, collaborative, and in-depth projects working to bring important information to the community, won a third-place recognition from the NNA. Logo by Sarah Miller/Moonshine Ink

This category took into account our wide range of multimedia coverage as the virus took hold and the Tahoe/Truckee region adapted all throughout the last year and a half, including our Tahoe Talks community conversations which were born out of the difficult times, our live and rolling Covid updates, and our in-depth reporting and analysis.

“Good job of informing your readers about the pandemic,” wrote the NNA judges. They said they “enjoyed reading about the 1918 pandemic and how it affected Tahoe/Truckee” and particularly appreciated how our content did a “good job of getting different voices and viewpoints in the stories.”

We love constructive criticism, too: While judges praised Bowling’s research, they advised against our choice to use a direct question-and-answer format, saying that “a good feature writer works on description and storytelling. Anyone can do Q&A. The best can take subjects and make them come alive.”

Ultimately, the feedback we received is both helpful and flattering, especially in the sense that we were recognized for aspects of our coverage on which we were intentionally focusing. For example, while we stretched ourselves paper-thin to cover all aspects of the pandemic, we never wanted to lose our watchdog role in other parts of society, holding powerful institutions to account, and keeping the focus on telling in-depth stories.

Dementia Discharge was an extensive investigative endeavor, with the dream team of Hoeft and Elegado at the helm. The end result had the NNA judges complimentary of the article’s writing, and how it highlights “a sad, frustrating situation that affects so many families,” they wrote, adding that the transparency of sources in the article made the piece stronger: It’s “good to show how many people connected to the nursing home wouldn’t comment.” 

The NNA judges also noticed the effort and skill behind the interviews, noting: “Good work by the paper to get a family member to allow so much access to this situation. [This is a] very informative piece about several aspects to nursing home care and financing.”

DEMENTIA DISCHARGE: Jon Borden and his children, Avian and Stephen, visited patient Bill Borden at Tahoe Forest Hospital for Father’s Day in June 2020. Multiple state agencies and a court ruled against the Tahoe Forest Hospital’s refusal to readmit Bill after his discharge, with the Ink’s coverage of the story receiving recognition from the NNA. Photo courtesy Jon Borden

It’s also nice to get some individual recognition, and the Ink squad is grateful for the unique perspectives that make up our editorial board, and form the ideas that create Moonshine’s content. We use our editor’s note platform to share insights and ideas from the minds behind Moonshine.

In her winning editorial, Hoeft took a serious look at how her Reno community and the greater society perceives a disconnect between her religious identity and her progressive viewpoints, yet she feels the morals of her Christianity and her political ideology are both historically and logically aligned.

“This editorial makes you think again about faith beliefs and how they correlate with political philosophies,” wrote the NNA judges. “The writer gives us a genuine look at her own personal beliefs and issues a challenge for us to look at ours.”

Meanwhile, judges were blown away by Demarest’s prose in Ask a Stupid Question … Please! They recognized the “creative and thought-provoking” writing style the Ink team knows and loves, and wrote simply: “This writer has a gift!”

Read up on our six 2019-20 wins here and our eight 2018-19 wins here (yeah, it’s true … we don’t take a year off from winning … 😉 ). The full table of this year’s awards follows.

Moonshine Ink’s 2020-21 NNA Better Newspaper Contest Awards

Entry  Placement Class Issue Credit(s)
Ask a Stupid Question … Please! First Place  Editorial – Best Editorial January – February 2020 Juliana Demarest
How I Combine Church and State Third Place  Editorial – Best Editorial October – November 2020 Alex Hoeft
In Multimedia and In-depth: The Pandemic in Tahoe/Truckee Third Place  Story/Series – Communication in a Crisis In many 2020 and 2021 issues, on this site, on Zoom, on the radio  Mayumi Elegado, Alex Hoeft, Becca Loux, Juliana Demarest, Sarah Miller, Wade Snider, KTKE, and many more
Dementia Discharge Third Place  Story/Series – Best Investigative or In-depth Story or Series August – September 2020 Alex Hoeft, Mayumi Elegado
Women of Winter Honorable Mention  Story/Series – Best Sports Feature Story or Series November – December 2020 Liz Bowling


  • Becca Loux

    Becca Loux relocated to Truckee on a mission to tell stories that are fact-checked and data-driven without sacrificing the human element. She is an avid hiker, biker, skater, surfer, boarder, kayaker, sun-worshiper, and all other important "-ers" relating to the outdoors. Becca's wolfpack recently expanded to include a teenage husky named Koda.

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