Hot Corner: WNA Awards
By Rich Palzewic
I grew up wanting to be a teacher, because my mother, who passed away in 2006 from breast cancer, wanted an educator in the family.
Being the second youngest of seven children, it was my youngest sister and I in the house in the late 1980s before graduating and deciding where to attend college.
None of my older siblings went into education, and I enrolled in Northern Michigan University in Marquette in the fall of 1990.
Five years later, I completed my student teaching in Marinette and substitute-taught for a year.
I landed a job in 1996 in Rhinelander, where I mainly taught social studies, language arts and reading.
At the same time, I began writing sports stories on a volunteer basis for the EagleHerald newspaper in Marinette.
I did it because I wanted the experience and enjoyed sports – I wasn’t looking for awards.
I mainly covered my old high school’s (Stephenson) football team.
I learned the ropes from the sports editor at the EagleHerald, Tom Kaeser.
He was an excellent writer, loved his job and we became exceptional friends.
Sadly, Tom passed away several years ago.
I meandered my way along in Rhinelander until 2007, not doing any more writing, but it was always in the back of my mind to return.
Moving to Green Bay in 2007, a chance email to the sports editor of another publication led to me covering Green Bay Gamblers hockey and St. Norbert College athletics.
That lasted until 2014.
I’m grateful for both of my first writing tutors – they taught me to mostly keep things simple and not overthink things.
I used to agonize over how to start my stories, staring at the computer screen trying to think of something catchy to grab the reader’s attention.
Though that’s still important, it comes much easier to me now, and I don’t spend much time worrying about it.
When in doubt, I think back to my roots – keep it simple.
One time covering a Gamblers game, the team had a 5-2 lead halfway through the third period.
I began feverishly writing my story from media row high above the ice.
The next thing I remember, the other team scored three goals in succession to tie the game and eventually won in overtime.
My whole story was shot – lesson learned!
In 2015, I reached out to Annette and Mike Aubinger, the former owners of The Press, and soon I was a freelancer covering sports again.
After Mike passed away in 2017, MMC (Multi Media Channels) took over and rebranded the paper into The Press Times.
I first covered Bay Port and Ashwaubenon high schools for the Aubingers, but now, we’ve expanded all over Brown County.
I’ve learned a great deal of writing by trial and error, looking at other writing examples, reading tutorials and from my current editor at The Press Times, Ben Rodgers.
The Press Times competed in Division D, the category for weekly newspapers with a circulation of 4,000 or more, the highest weekly newspaper category.
I was notified I won two first-place awards, and the paper won three first-place awards overall.
The first was for my story on the Bay Port football team’s 42-28 victory over Kimberly in the Division 1 state semifinals in 2019.
It was a back-and-forth affair, and one of the most exciting games I’ve witnessed.
I was down on the field with the team, snapping photos and (secretly) cheering with them.
The victory was made more special because Kimberly came into the game winners of 84 of its last 86 games and had won five state titles during that span.
The Pirates would lose in the state title game a week later, but it was still a memorable moment.
I also won first place for a sports feature I wrote on Larry Zambrowicz, an unofficial and uncompensated employee of the Green Bay Packers since 1953, working in the press box.
I went to Zambrowicz’s house about six blocks away from Lambeau Field and chatted with him, his wife and two of his children.
He was more than happy to talk and show me some of his most prized Packers memorabilia, including a chunk of the goal post from the Ice Bowl.
In 2019, I also won two first-place awards.
Having said this, I look back at some of my earlier writings and say to myself, “That article stunk. What was I thinking?”
I still make mistakes in my writing I’m not happy about.
One such example occurred last week.
I was playing a game with my daughter Feb. 24, the day last week’s paper went to print.
The story, “Faith, Hope and Grace: Notre Dame’s sister trio,” was about the Barington girls who all played on the varsity girls’ basketball team.
I received a text message from one of the sisters, Faith, a senior.
Her message read: “Just saw the article, and it looks great! Not a big deal to us, but in case you wanted to fix it before it gets printed, Barington is spelled with one ‘r.’ Thanks!”
My heart sank, and I sat for a minute upset with myself.
Faith made me feel better by saying, “It happens all the time.”
Maybe it happens all the time, but I don’t like it when it happens in a story I write.
It’s a good lesson for me to pay more attention to details.
I was able to fix the online version, so I was happy about that.
My sister’s boyfriend, Tony, said I should invite the entire Barington family over for supper to make up for it.
He suggested “Taco Tuesday.”
I received some nice comments from people on Facebook about the awards, and it was much appreciated.
It reminded me of a time when I was a youngster living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I entered my duck, a not-so-good-looking creature, into the Menominee County Fair.
After the judging was completed, I was happy to receive a red ribbon for second place.
My happiness turned to sadness when I realized it was the only duck in the category I entered.
I guess the only duck in the category wasn’t worthy of a blue ribbon.
If you have story ideas that might be worthy, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d be happy to take a look.
As always, thanks for reading.