South Dakota News Watch wins national and regional reporting awards for work in 2019

South Dakota News Watch won several awards this month from two journalism organizations for work produced in 2019, with special recognition given to the staff’s coverage of agriculture.

Content Director Bart Pfankuch won First Place in the News Category in the annual contest held by the North American Agricultural Journalists association, and Pfankuch was then named national “Agricultural Journalist of the Year” by NAAJ for his work in 2019.

The News award was given to Pfankuch for his four-part special report that examined the expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in South Dakota. The project was then entered into the competition for the Glenn Cunningham Memorial Award for Agricultural Journalist of the Year, and won the top prize from among winners in eight NAAJ contest categories. Cunningham was the association’s first president.

The judge called the CAFO series “an excellent, balanced and in-depth report … with myriad angles explored, including health, environmental, economic and animal safety.” In all, 226 entries were made in the contest by 78 writers; the News Category has the most entrants with 51. Second place went to Politico for a series on the exodus of experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Trump administration.

South Dakota News Watch Content Director Bart Pfankuch holds two plaques awarded for agricultural coverage in 2019, including one for being named the national Agricultural Journalist of the Year.

During the NAAJ annual convention, held online in April, News Watch was also given the Audrey Mackiewitz Special Award for excellence in its overall coverage of agriculture in 2019. The award, given in honor of the NAAJ’s first woman president, was awarded to News Watch “in recognition of outstanding dedication to furthering the cause of agricultural journalism by expanding coverage of agriculture and its related businesses.”

The award was presented to Pfankuch and News Watch reporter Nick Lowrey as well as Maricarrol Kueter, the founding editor of News Watch who died in August 2019. During the awards presentation, Pfankuch dedicated the award to the memory of Kueter, who grew up on a farm and was an outstanding editor and a strong advocate for coverage of agriculture by News Watch.

South Dakota News Watch won the Audrey Mackiewitz Special Award for outstanding agricultural coverage in 2019. The award was shared by Bart Pfankuch, Nick Lowrey and Maricarrol Kueter.
Nick Lowrey
Maricarrol Kueter

Also in April, News Watch was feted for its work in 2019 with top prizes in the Great Plains Journalism Awards contest, hosted by the Tulsa Press Club. This competition included media from eight states (OK, AR, NE, KS, IA, MS, ND and SD) and received more than 600 entries.

Competing in the newspaper division, Pfankuch won First Place in the Beat Reporting Category for his coverage of agriculture and First Place in the Business Reporting Category. Pfankuch also was a finalist in the Investigative Reporting Category for his series on abuses of youths at the Aurora Plains Academy in Plankinton, and he was also a finalist in the Online Project Category that included newspapers, magazines and online news outlets. That award was for multi-media work related to the CAFO series.

“It is gratifying to see the excellent journalism done by Bart as well as Nick recognized by these respected organizations,” said Dave Bordewyk, CEO of News Watch. “We often hear from readers and supporters how much they appreciate the good work that News Watch is doing. It’s also exciting for our team to be honored by peers from within the field of journalism as well.”

News Watch is a non-profit, online public-service journalism group whose work is available for free at and on social media, and which is also provided at no charge to traditional media across the state.