Bismarck Tribune journalists Mike McCleary, Blair Emerson, Jessica Holdman and Jason Heupel were honored Friday with a community service award during a joint conference of the North Dakota Newspaper Association and the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

A series on the future of the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton, published in December, provided a framework for statewide debate on whether the institution should continue. Critics advocated that clients with disabilities should be provided care in their local communities. "In Transition," can be found at bismarcktribune.com/transition/. A judge described the project: "This five-part series on institutionalized care in North Dakota, including a multimedia component, rises to the top of many very strong entries. Heartfelt personal stories, detailed examinations of critical issues and compelling photography/videography make 'In Transition' a powerful piece of journalism."

Caroline Grueskin, who was hired by the Tribune in March 2016, was awarded rookie journalist of the year. Writing as the cops and courts reporter, Grueskin previously worked at The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the criminal justice system. Since then, she has reported on the anti-DAPL pipeline protest movement, officer-involved shootings, numerous changes to the court system in North Dakota and followed the movements of moose in Bismarck. A judge said: "Caroline Grueskin rises to the top of a very strong crop of rookies, mostly on the strength of her pursuit of objective reporting on pipeline protests."

Tom Stromme took the photo of the year of a North Dakota Highway patrolman offering Dale American Horse Jr. a drink of water at a protest site along North Dakota Highway 6 south of St. Anthony in August. American Horse secured himself to the construction digger at about 7:30 a.m. Aug. 31 and was freed and placed under arrest at about 1:10 p.m. The photo was also awarded top news photo of the year. A judge described the photos as an illustration "that even in emotionally charged conflict, humanity rules the day." Stromme was also awarded an honorable mention for his feature photo, "Huff Hills back flip," and, in the spot news photo category, Stromme took third place with "Law enforcement arrest people protesting DAPL." In the pictorial photo category, Stromme took second place with "Three birds on a cross."

McCleary took first place in the spot news photo category with "Law enforcement stand in distance as fire/smoke billows." He took first place for his feature photo, "Kateri Thoof stands on a tree limb," first place for "Teepee sunset protest camp," in the pictorial category and first place for "Mounted shooters" in the outdoor recreation photo category. McCleary's "Al Fisher reflected in glass case" was awarded second place in the portrait photo category. He took third place in the news photo category with "Christine Kujawa fights back her emotions," and third place in sports for "Carson Wentz fist bump." 

The Bismarck Tribune's website at bismarcktribune.com was awarded first place for Best Web Site.

In the reporting category, Emerson took second place for "State delves into issues of restraint, seclusion" and honorable mention went to Tribune reporter Lauren Donovan for "Rockefeller trust fund kid protests oil."

In the feature reporting category, Donovan took first place for "Last speaker of Mandan occupied lonely place," Grueskin took second place with "When police officers shoot," former Tribune reporter Jenny Schlecht took third place for "1851 treaty resonates in pipeline discussion."

In the spot news category, Donovan took first place for "Protests shift along Dakota Access pipeline route." She also took second place for "Good from the ground up" in the category of agricultural coverage.

In the government series category, former Tribune reporter LeAnn Eckroth took third place with "$75K assessment floors couple."

Tribune reporter Steve Thomas was awarded first place for a sports series on "Century High School volleyball."

The Bismarck Tribune Editorial Board took honorable mention for "GOP Contest will define election."

Heupel was awarded honorable mention for his informational graphic, "Missouri River Flood."

Finally, The Bismarck Tribune placed second in general excellence.

Get the latest local news delivered daily directly to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.