South Dakota News Watch won a first-place award and three finalist citations in the annual Great Plains Journalism Awards for work produced in 2020. News Watch competed against newspapers of all sizes in an eight-state region that includes the Dakotas, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Content Director Bart Pfankuch and former reporter Nick Lowrey won a first-place award in Business Reporting for two stories on the coronavirus outbreaks at U.S. meatpacking plants, including at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls. One article was about lax regulation at meatpacking plants that allowed the virus to spread freely, and the other was the follow-up article on the reissued, watered-down CDC report on the Smithfield outbreak. News Watch beat out finalist entries from the Omaha World Herald and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in that category.
Pfankuch was a finalist in three other news reporting categories:
— In News-Single Story for “Missing Girl Mystery: Hunt for Serenity Dennard One Year Later”
— In Business Feature Story for “Grain Bin Death Devastates S.D. Family”
— In Beat Reporting for five articles on South Dakota agriculture.
The judge in the Beat Reporting category called Pfankuch’s work “well-researched” and the judge in the News-Single Story category said the Serenity Dennard story “required a level of sensitivity and personal touch in the reporting that must have been extremely difficult. You don’t typically get this level of nuance and depth on a story.”
The Great Plains Journalism Awards are hosted by the Tulsa Press Club. News Watch, founded in 2018, is the only non-profit journalism organization in South Dakota and provides all its work to other media at no cost. News Watch also recently won three top awards from the North American Agricultural Journalists association for work produced in 2020.