2014 Elkhart Truth 11th Annual Awards Banquet Recap

Invitation to the 2014 Elkhart Truth Awards Banquet
Invitation to the 2014 Elkhart Truth Awards Banquet

Each year, we take time to recognize the hard work of our talented staff here at The Elkhart Truth. What follows is a recap of a fabulous evening at The Lerner Ballroom in downtown Elkhart, Ind on Thursday, March 13th, 2014.

We serve dinner after an hour of cocktails and mingling. The food was fantastic. I had salmon with the most wonderful glaze. We were fortunate to have a wonderful MC, our own managing editor, Marshall King. He started with a joke and a selfie reenactment inspired by Ellen.

Marshall King, recreating a pop-culture event made popular by Ellen the week prior.
Marshall King, recreating a pop-culture event made popular by Ellen the week prior.

Marshall then introduced Truth TV, a video created in-house every year that has become feared by some, but loved by many.

The video stars the talented employees of The Elkhart Truth, and contains various parodies of popular TV shows, movies, music videos, viral media and commercials. This year’s edition included:

  • Stills of our staff mimicking the actors in Duck Dynasty, Mad Men, Real Housewives and the The Hunger Games
  • “Truth Honors” –  Several parodies of the Sprint TV Commercial with James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell from late 2013
  • “Priceless” – A parody of the popular MasterCard commercials from the mid 2000’s
  • Lip syncing to “What Does the Fox Say”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “What Makes you Beautiful”
  • A parody of  “LIVE with Kelly and Michael”
  • A “Top Ten” list done in the style of Dave Letterman, poking fun at the pain we have gone through recently installing a new content management system named Libercus.

After the video, Greg Halling, editor, took the stage. Here are a few things he said:

“I was talking to someone in the industry — I need to be a bit circumspect here — and he told me that the leaders of a major newspaper in the upper Midwest were frustrated because they were looking for a hybrid CMS.”

“They want a content management system that starts with print content and repurposes it for digital.”

“I was stunned. Here at The Elkhart Truth, we grasp a basic truth about journalism, business and community that the Chicago Sun Times fails to understand — there is no such thing as a hybrid. There is only journalism in the service of those who need you.”

“Everything else flows from that.”

“If you understand your community, if you connect with it and care desperately about its welfare, you cover it with a sense of urgency.”

“You deliver news as quickly and effectively as you can, in as many forms as possible. Then you develop new products and business models to support that mission.”

“Essentially, you do what we have done over the last year.”

Greg went on to recognize all departments of our organization, having them stand, and thanking them for their contributions to our mission.

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Brandon Erlacher, publisher (me) then took the stage. Here is what was said:

“Now, let’s take a look into the story telling of the past year.”

“We have tried to break into video for almost 8 years now. At one point, we created daily video updates akin to what one would see on the evening news on TV. Bill Beck had a fantastic wardrobe, and I think he even wore make-up daily.”

“But we have evolved. We have learned. The videos we produce now provide depth and insight into the stories impacting our community. It just is not a roundup of the latest headlines. There is no talking head. It is about the content and the connection to the viewer. We need to be proud… journalists have always done this correctly, especially those that are part of The Elkhart Truth family, and they put the spotlight on what is important, not themselves.”

“So please take a moment to watch these pieces we produced. Our community has watched, engaged and shared them too.”

These four videos were then played for the crowd:

I then continued, “We also tell stories through photos. Here is a tribute to our talented staff relating the stories of our community through pictures and video…”

We then cued this powerful video highlighting our visual work as journalists in the Elkhart community:

The three videos featured in the above “Home” video are:

I then had a few more words to say, and our gracious Marshall was more infatuated with the cupcakes than what I was saying…

Cupcakes or a speech? Marshall's FB post during the banquet.
Cupcakes or a speech? Marshall’s FB post during the banquet.

I finished with the following:

“Damn it, we have been publishing for 125 years! Remember those videos we just watched. Who will document life? Google? WSBT? Fox28? Who will be the independent voice for those who have none? Who will hold government accountable? Who will champion a great life here in Elkhart County? I need you all.”

“I have never felt more excited about our future and the amazing people we have with passion, ideas, intelligence and endless energy. Our path to success is in your hands. Every one of us must continue taking steps forward and enlighten not only ourselves, but also our community with the enormous opportunities that are ahead.”

“Thank you all for your dedication to our great mission and company. I am honored and proud to work with each and every one of you.”

Next came the awards portion of the program. We present seven company awards every year. This year, a special one time eighth award was added labeled “Above and Beyond.”

Following, you will see a description of each award, the nominees for the award, and the introduction of each award recipient.

Above and Beyond (special award for 2014):

Becky Fain- Winner of the 2014 Above and Beyond Award
Becky Fain- Winner of the 2014 Above and Beyond Award

“This is a special award. One that is not given every year. The recipient this year has deserved it every year they have been employed. She has always been kind and helpful. No is not in her vocabulary. She is one of those people that is always busy, always approached by others for help, and yet she always finds a way to succeed. Some of her additional traits are:

  • a calm and positive attitude even through difficult times
  • a determination to get things done accurately and on time
  • always willing to assist where needed and take on new responsibilities
  • often stepping in to work with customers when the primary contact is unavailable
  • taking the lead in long range planning and scheduling
  • a go to source of information for practically every element of our business
  • assumed the duties of other positions during a year of extensive volatility”

“During the past year, she emerged as not only our safety net, but as a leader, trainer and inspirer.”

“It gives me great pleasure to present this special Above and Beyond Award to Becky Fain!”

Customer Service Award:

Mishanna Cramer- winner of the 2014 Customer Service Award
Mishanna Cramer- winner of the 2014 Customer Service Award

The winner of this award makes serving others a first priority and practices the golden rule.  This is a person that consistently sets high standards and lives by them.  This person will do whatever it takes to help the other members of the team and is a positive influence.

Nominees-  Mishanna Cramer, Joe Kuharic, Carol Reid

“This year’s customer service award winner demonstrated leadership and consistency during a very difficult year of change.”

“She continually identified areas of need and stepped up to make things happen. She is extremely competitive and makes the extra effort, whatever it takes to meet goal. She is fiercely dedicated to customer results and return on investment, and will stop at nothing to make sure obstacles are removed for success. She mentors her team members to develop and instills in them the same work ethic necessary to achieve outstanding results.  This year’s Customer Service award goes to – Mishanna Cramer.”

Leading Change Award:

The winner of this award develops a vision, communicates, establishes a sense of urgency, and empowers employees to achieve a change in major process in culture.  He or she builds on short term wins to provide a foundation for a permanent organizational change.

Nominees-  Anne Christnovich, Lydia Sheaks, Natasha Tucker

Anne Christnovich, winner of the 2014 Leading Change Award
Anne Christnovich, winner of the 2014 Leading Change Award

“To effectively lead change requires more than simply doing things differently on an individual level. It requires scrapping the old systems entirely so you can approach your job — and your mission — in an entirely new way. Even more important than that? It requires working across disciplines and across departments to help others change just as quickly.”

“This newsroom staffer does all of that. She collaborated with the advertising department to build new engagement opportunities on elkharttruth dot com. She worked with other newsroom staffers to use new forms of storytelling. She even built a new way of covering news that’s happening in real time, which is the blueprint that was used for coverage of the Martin’s shooting, Lami-Plast fire and other major news events of the past several months.”

“And she started making an impact on her first day. Given what she’s accomplished in her short time at the Elkhart Truth, it’ll be exciting to see what will come next for the recipient of this year’s Leading Change award  — congratulations, Anne Christnovich.  

Newsroom Staffer of the Year:

Dan Spalding- Winner of the 2014 Newsroom Staffer of the Year
Dan Spalding- Winner of the 2014 Newsroom Staffer of the Year

The winner of this award is the top Newsroom performer.

Nominees-  Amanda Mitchell, Dan Spalding, Rachel Terlep

“This journalist is a leader in every way. He writes deep, well-reported stories that inform our readers and make an impact on policies and life in our community.”

“He’s one of the newsroom’s most prolific bloggers and has gotten national attention for a blog post in 2013.”

“He live-tweets meetings.”

He holds city officials accountable, but has established good relationships with them so that they keep working with him even when he’s shined a light where they wish he wouldn’t.”

“But he also works with others to add layers to his stories online. His collaboration makes this hard-working journalist an even better one. He has developed the tools a modern journalist needs and wields them wisely.”

“This year’s Newsroom Staffer of the Year is Dan Spalding.”

Outstanding Achievement Award:

Natasha Tucker- Winner of the 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award
Natasha Tucker- Winner of the 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award

The winner of this award demonstrates ingenuity, determination and innovation.  He or she seeks results using their drive and passion while breaking down barriers to achieve success.

Nominees-  Rachel Terlep, Natasha Tucker, Sarah Welliver

“With very little training, this person was given the task of almost single-handedly forging the way toward a new digital opportunity. She spent countless hours researching, testing, and experimenting, while juggling her everyday duties. As the year progressed, she started to teach her co-workers the tips she had learned along the way.”

“The digital publications she has developed have become an integral part of the company’s future, opening many doors and ideas for new exciting products. She keeps calm and carries on no matter what is happening around her – and she does it with great creative flair.:

“That’s why this year’s Outstanding Achievement award winner is Natasha Tucker.”

Outstanding Sales Performance:

The winner of this award is our top sales performer.

Nominees-  Kelli Bienz, Mishanna Cramer, Minnie Hutch

“Kelli Bienz had an outstanding sales year in 2013 exceeding goal for the year. Kelli is a strategic thinker and develops integrated marketing solutions to deliver business-building results for her clients. Internally, she manages her account base with advanced planning, always working several months ahead. She has developed great working relationships with her accounts and is dedicated to being on time for every appointment. Kelli is a true role model for sales success. We are grateful for her continued success. Once again, this year’s Outstanding Sales Performance award goes to Kelli Bienz.”

Positive Mental Attitude Award:

Amanda Kolarich- Winner of the 2014 Positive Mental Attitude Award
Amanda Kolarich- Winner of the 2014 Positive Mental Attitude Award

The winner of this award encourages and coaches others to overcome obstacles.  He or she sees the “glass half full” and focuses on solutions, not problems.  Above all, he or she embraces change with enthusiasm and a smile and makes The Elkhart Truth a better place to work.

Nominees-  Amanda Kolarich, Christine Larson, Jen Price

“Even as a newcomer to the newspaper industry, this reward recipient has managed to hit the ground running. From her initial interview to her contributions on various committees and projects, she has exhibited a liveliness and enthusiasm that has helped energize many departments.  Determined to take customer service to new heights at the Truth, she focuses on solutions rather than problems, offers to help opposed to complain, and personifies service with a smile.”

“In her short tenure as the Customer Service Supervisor, she endured a most difficult winter, maintaining a professional and positive demeanor, while encouraging others to view the glass as half full when many times it was painfully obvious that it was completely empty.”

In the words of Winston Churchill: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

“And despite her small stature, she has made a big difference for us.”

“Congratulations, Amanda Kolarich.”

Newsboy (Employee of the Year):

Rather than a written description, we show a video:

Nominees-  Angelle Barbazon, Mishanna Cramer, Becky Fain

“We respond to breaking news more instinctively; we provide context and analysis more immediately; we use multimedia to illustrate our stories more extensively.”

“That helped create the largest audience in our history — and with it, new opportunities for financial growth.”

“Our newsboy led the way.”

“When we required staff to blog and promote their work on social media, she became an expert.”

Angelle Barbazon- 2014 Newsboy (Employee of the Year)
Angelle Barbazon- 2014 Newsboy (Employee of the Year)

“When we went digital first, she broke stories on a national crisis — the fungal meningitis outbreak — and used every tool at her disposal to provide valuable context.”

“She connected deeply with Sarah Crane and gently told a devastating tale of loss that helped unite an entire community.”

“If our newsboy had not gone first, no one would have followed — and we would not be poised today for the great things ahead of us in 2014.”

Our Newsboy for 2014 is Angelle Barbazon.

Open letter to Mr. Peyton Manning

Mr. Manning (Peyton? Not sure if I should call you that?)

We have not met in person, but I am a big fan from Northern Indiana. I have fond memories of your leadership in Tennessee and with the Colts. I have incredible respect for your abilities. You have incredible values, are a role model for millions and have a wonderful personality (love those commercials and humor!) 🙂 It was a very sad day when you left Indiana. We lost more than a football player… it was like the final episode of Friends. Miss you!

So… Last night was a really amazing night for you. Seven touchdowns! Congratulations! I think you tied some record or something. Anyway, I noticed that you decided to do an awful lot of passing, even when you were up by quite a margin. Well, I was thinking that your performance (really huge fan btw) was a little bit lopsided. I mean, the Broncos only had like 65 yards rushing or something close to that. So again, really inspired by your passion, I would respectfully suggest you and your coaches hand the ball off a few more times to your backs. NOT second guessing you at all (big fan :D).

Another suggestion? Well, if you feel the need to pass, how about Decker and Welker as your main guys? Really, really cool that Julius had a great first night. Inspiring. But, between us, you would not want that to go to his head right? Make him work and earn those looks! That is part of the good leadership you have exhibited in the past!

Oh, in fairness and openness, I happen to play in this fantasy football league. It really is not that big of deal and does not consume 40+ hours a week of my life. Here is the funny thing, you had all the analysts fooled. Who knew? We would not want them to feel poorly about themselves would we? They make their living doing the projections.  With your high value structure, I cannot believe that you would want to be a part of putting guys like Eisenberg out of work. But hey, that is just between us.

I really feel like this conversation is going well so let me show you where I stand at the moment in one league:

Really? Ouch?

Pretty crazy huh? Three players and 112 points. Wow. So, I was thinking that there may also be similar situations with other fantasy players across the country. Oh sure, those that have you and your receivers are doing a happy dance. I really want them to be happy and enjoy this win (yea!) Good team spirit and “its just a game” mentality… learned those from you! But here’s the thing. There could be a huge downside to this lopsided victory. I mean, the owners that have you may get some “unrealistic expectations” or even resort to hurtful trash talking and name calling to those they have played. That would not be good. We both agree on that I am sure…

So here is my solution. There is a game in November, the 19th, against New England. I was thinking that *maybe* you could run and kick more that game? I play Orange Crush again that week, and Mr. Manning, you would not want it to be unfair between us. I would even be willing to give you a free newspaper subscription to my hometown newspaper, The Elkhart Truth or, wait for it, be willing to host you at a Notre Dame tailgate and game of your choosing! USC is around the corner! And we have a pretty good QB in Tommy Rees… you could get a few pointers I am sure. Just a suggestion.

So again, great game! Keep it up! Remember to spread the love to your backs and kicker, and remember our “agreement” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) coming up in November.

Your biggest fan! Go Irish! Errrr, I mean Broncos! 🙂