The National Newspaper Association judges’ comments on Moonshine’s historic eight placements in their Better Newspaper Contest made us blush, from our Shine On submission causing them to “laugh out loud” to their praise of our “excellent reporting” to descriptions of one of our publisher’s editorial pieces as “outstanding.” 

The trend in our wins for our local news coverage was holding local agencies and government to account. Around these topics, the NNA judges particularly praised Moonshine for the thorough reporting and research our community has come to count on. 

Trash Talk, a September 2019 collaboration between former news editor Sage Sauerbrey and  then-news editor, now digital content editor Becca Loux (author of this article), shared its first place win in the environmental story or series category with a tangentially-related piece on microplastics by The Highlands Current based out in Cold Springs, New York.


The NNA judges noted that both publications won because they effectively tackled environmental issues “through localizing the challenges. Both publications thoroughly researched the topic and used local experts to underscore the challenge local citizens face. They also detail the ongoing local efforts to address the problem.” 

Recognized again for our in-depth investigations involving multiple reporters, the other news article that received first place was Nine TTUSD Teachers Let Go Last Spring Highlight a Tough Situation, written last November by reporter Alex Hoeft and yours truly. It was a touchy story involving strong opinions and peoples’ careers, with numerous anonymous sources. The NNA judges were similarly impressed with our diligence and background work to tell an important story the community wouldn’t get anywhere else, praising the sources and research.

(Here is a link to download the spreadsheet of all the winners and categories; included are the judges comments for each winning entry. A full chart of the Ink’s wins, with links to our winning entries, is at the end of this article.)

On the Opinion front, our gem of an editorial cartoonist Mike English was recognized with a first place win for Anyone Say Prophet? (below) which the judges said was relatable and made them laugh out loud.  

MIKE ENGLISH’S “Shine On” editorial cartoons are often clever, always interesting, and more often than not make you think. The National Newspaper Association judges awarded them the top honor in the editorial cartoon category.

Our fearless leader, publisher and editor-in-chief Mayumi Elegado, also bagged multiple awards in the editorial and column categories, with a first place in the Best Serious Column category for the open letter she wrote in launching our membership campaign, Does Moonshine Ink Have a Future? and a third-place win in Best Editorial for Appetite for Destruction. The membership campaign itself also received first place, broadening our wins into the Advertising contest.

The membership campaign ads are, according to the judges, “stylish and effective reader support ad highlighting the current state of local journalism,” while they also noted that the typography is clean and the use of testimonials was effective. 

Elegado’s membership campaign update, meanwhile, focused on the crisis facing local journalism and how it applies to us, a topic the judges said they read many submissions on. Yet, they wrote, “this one did it best,” praising “how direct and straightforward it was about challenges and what it will take to survive, as well as the writing itself.” 

Lastly, the Ink took home two placements in sports categories, with the judges who assessed Moonshine contributor Melissa Siig’s piece titled Grooming with Hart seeming particularly blown away. 

They wrote: “From the first briskly-worded paragraph, readers have no doubt where Melissa Siig is headed in her profile of a female trail groomer at a local ski resort. In just over a hundred words, Siig introduces her petitely-sized subject and the anything-but-petite machine she drives, sets the scene for exploring the nighttime work of trail grooming, and raises questions about why so few women work in this field.”

FIRST PLACE IN 500 WORDS OR LESS: The judges were impressed with Melissa Siig’s ability to elegantly tell a well-packaged story highlighting female groomers in a few words.

We also received an Honorable Mention for A Strength that Prevails by Laura Read, a personal story of her husband’s resilience in the face of disease, and the judges noted the subject matter wasn’t unique but deemed this piece “inspiring.” . 

The Better Newspaper Contest award ceremony, remote of course, is scheduled to take place on Oct. 3.

All in all, our takeaway is that we are being recognized for the things we’ve worked the hardest over this last year to improve. We set out to, as we call it, “poke the bear” effectively by holding local agencies and governments to account. As a new news team, we’ve shared tips and tricks to improve our research and data work and skills working with our sources, which were points of praise from the NNA. 

And our biggest leap of faith of the year, turning to our readers to help save and support Moonshine to continue our coverage for years to come, was recognized with first place wins both for the essay launching the campaign and the campaign itself on the advertising side. It’s a good thing we’re in the mountains, because the only route from here is up. 


Moonshine Ink’s 2019-20 NNA Better Newspaper Contest Awards

Entry  Placement Class Issue Credit(s)
Moonshine Ink Membership Campaign  First Place  Metro Creative  
Graphic’s Best Advertising Idea
Online and in each issue Mayumi Elegado
Trash Talk First Place  Story/Series- Best Environmental Story Sept. 2019 Sage Sauerbrey and Becca Loux
Nine TTUSD Teachers Let Go Last Spring Highlight Tough Situation First Place  Story/Series -Best Education/ Literacy Story Nov. 2019 Alex Hoeft and Becca Loux
Does Moonshine Ink Have a Future? First Place  Column- Best Serious Column Nov. 2019 Mayumi Elegado
Anyone Say Prophet? First Place  Editorial- Best Editorial Cartoon June 2019 Mike English
Grooming With Hart  Second Place Column- Best Sports Column Feb. 2019 Melissa Siig 
Appetite for Destruction  Third Place Editorial – Best Editorial Sept. 2019 Mayumi Elegado
A Strength that Prevails Honorable Mention Story-Series – Best Sports Feature Story or Series Feb. 2019 Laura Read



  • 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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