MARYVILLE, Mo. — The Maryville Forum received numerous awards in the Missouri Press Association 2021 Better Newspaper Contest, including the annual Gold Cup Award given to news organizations with the most awards in its division.

The Forum competed in the division of weekly newspapers with circulation under 2,000 and won awards for written stories, editorials, photography and design produced during 2020.

The awards were announced during the Missouri Press Association’s 155th annual convention held in-person at The Elms hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

“It is an honor to be recognized, especially for the staff’s hard work during such a difficult, pandemic year,” said Skye Pournazari, managing editor. “From gathering police reports and community news to writing in-depth, analysis pieces and intense sports coverage, it is a team effort. These accolades from fellow journalists throughout the state shine a light on the careful, consistent and thorough work of Forum staff members. I cannot thank them enough for their dedication to telling the stories important to our community members.”

In addition to awards for 2020 news and sports coverage, Forum reporter Geoffrey Woehlk was honored during the award luncheon with the presentation of the 2021 William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist Award.

Named after the late James — publisher of the Cass County Democrat-Missourian in Harrisonville from 1985-2000 and the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal from 2007 to 2013, who served in numerous leadership positions in MPA and was a director of the National Newspaper Association from 1999-2001 — the award is given to those who have demonstrated excellence in the field of journalism and maintained the quality, ethics and standards of The Journalist’s Creed.

“Having worked for Bill in Warrensburg, I know he would have been keen on Geoffrey’s aptitude for truth-seeking and holding accountable those in power,” said Pournazari. “He would become more and more animated listening to the details of an upcoming in-depth piece, while standing outside his office having a smoke.”

James was inducted into the Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001. The Outstanding Young Journalist Award was named in his honor in 2013.

“I am humbled and honored to be recognized by my peers, and more importantly, by my colleagues at The Forum who thought my work was worthy of nomination,” said Woehlk. “The Outstanding Young Journalist award is a reflection of a newsroom at The Forum that allows us all to do our best work for the community we serve, and, as we saw this weekend, measures up to any in the state. I’m fortunate to be a part of an organization that is dedicated to our mission of bringing the news to our community, and I look forward to the opportunity to compete for Outstanding Middle Aged Journalist in the all-too-soon future.”

In addition to The Forum receiving third place for the MPA General Excellence Award, it received 37 other awards for its sports and news coverage during 2020.

“First and foremost, Traci and I are extremely proud of the awards that the staff of the Maryville Forum received this past weekend,” said Forum owner Ken Garner. “Although none of us entered this profession to receive awards and recognition, it is nonetheless extremely gratifying on a professional and personal level. You as a community should also be proud of your local newspaper as you the readers and members of the community drive our coverage each and every week as it is the stories and photos of the people, places and faces that enable us to produce award-winning content on a weekly basis.”

First Place Awards

The Forum received nine first-place awards including the prestigious Tilghman Cloud Memorial Weeklies Editorial Award.

  • Geoffrey Woehlk – best coverage of government, for his continuing coverage of the Maryville water system issues. “Great, in-depth coverage of a city’s work in developing solutions for water system issues, including building new facilities ... graphics, technical details and other sidebars gave taxpayers great information,” noted a judge.
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports news story or package, for his sports news story about the Maryville High School girls volleyball team’s “Titletown Milestone.”
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports feature story – for his sports feature story about Maryville High School senior football players supporting a rival team’s mom during her battle with cancer. “The emotional impact made this story the winner. It shows how competitors in sports can show solidarity as people,” wrote a judge.
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports feature photograph, for his photo of Nodaway-Holt’s Shaina Culp after a winning moment. “For quality, many entrants in this category tend to rely on the emotion seen on the faces of photos’ subjects,” wrote a judge. “That means your photo’s emotion had better be pretty strong to beat out other entries, and this photo has done the trick. The joy we see on the face of the player in the middle of this photo is palpable. The facial expression. The hand over the mouth. And then there are the reactions evident with the other players. Photo simply has a heart-tugging feel about it. Doesn’t hurt that it’s lit well, sharply focused and well-composed, for sure. Good work!”
  • Andrew Wegley – best feature story, for his story on the 70th Elmo Fourth of July celebration. “Lovely writing, lovingly written,” wrote a contest judge. “It made me ache with sadness and fill with hope. These are good people, I kept thinking, and you introduced me to them.”
  • Skye Pournazari – best feature photograph, for her photo of a father installing a sign celebrating his daughters graduation as a member of the Class of 2020. “Perfect shot that is not that easy to get,” a judge wrote. “Even though everyone driving past that display probably thought it would make a great photo, This photographer had the skill to do it right. The person in the photo gives perspective. Perfect illustration of the pandemic’s long road to normalcy.”
  • The Forum – best page design, for a large cutout photo blending into the text of a story about former Northwest Missouri State University Bearcat basketball star Chris-Ebou Ndow. “Nice use of a big photo/cut out to anchor the page design,” noted a judge.
  • The Forum – best overall design. “Good use of photos in special sections,” wrote a judge. “Consistent layout among all pages. Progress and Winter sports flow seamless with publications. Eye-catching from front to back of all 113 pages.”

Second Place Awards

The Forum received 11 second-place awards including best news or feature special section for the 2020 Fall Sports Preview that provided introductions to each of the fall teams.

  • The Forum – Best COVID-19 Coverage
  • The Forum – Best Sports Pages
  • The Forum – Best Page Design
  • The Forum – Tilghman Cloud Memorial Weeklies Editorial Award
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports news story or package, for a story about 2020 Northwest Missouri State University’s women’s basketball team and Molly Hartnett.
  • Skye Pournazari – Best Story about Education - Second place for a story about Maryville High School’s seeing a decline in suicide referrals.
  • Skye Pournazari – best health story for a story about the Nodaway County Ambulance District using a UV light to clean equipment and facilities.
  • Geoffrey Woehlk and Skye Pournazari – Best News or Feature Series, for stories on local election previews.
  • Skye Pournazari – best Feature Story, for a piece titled “Help is available” illustrating the need for and availability of domestic violence assistance in the area. “A powerful story, and much more so, because two women had trust in the reporter,” wrote judge. “Hope this was read by many.”
  • Skye Pournazari – best story about the outdoors, for a story about snow geese flocking to town during migration.

Third Place Awards

The Forum received 11 third-place awards including best news or feature special section, for its Nodaway County Graduates special section featuring each graduating member of the 2020 class.

  • Geoffrey Woehlk – Best Columnist – Serious.
  • Jon Dykstra – Best Sports Feature Story, about a Northeast Nodaway student supported by his team during his illness.
  • The Forum – Tilghman Cloud Memorial Weeklies Editorial Award
  • Geoffrey Woehlk – best news or feature series, for several stories following the change in administration at the West Nodaway R-I school district.
  • Skye Pournazari – best story about the outdoors, for a story about a young Maryville angler who broke a fishing record.
  • Skye Pournazari – best business story, about a local group of people “Leading the Charge,” in downtown revitalization by opening a new brewery.
  • Skye Pournazari – best military story, about a Purple Heart finding a new home at the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum.
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports photograph for a Maryville High School football tackling photo.
  • The Forum – Best Front Page.

Honorable Mention

The Forum received seven honorable mention awards in this year’s contest, including for best online newspaper or website located at

  • Geoffrey Woehlk – best health story, for “COVID-19 vaccine arrives”
  • Skye Pournazari – best feature story, for “A full service life,” a story about an area auto repairman and his path from youthful handyman to community steward. “Spare writing that suits your subject,” wrote a contest judge. “An abundance of comments from others, that shows you did the work. Great tribute to a good man.”
  • The Forum – best news or feature special section, for Progress 2020.
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports news story or package, for “Rocket Man.”
  • Skye Pournazari – best military story, about a local WWII veteran turning 102 and getting a birthday parade during the pandemic.
  • Jon Dykstra – best sports feature photograph, for a Platte Valley softball photo.