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The Lake County News-Chronicle awarded, thanks to you

The Lake County-News Chronicle received two awards at last week’s Minnesota Newspaper Association convention. Reporter Lareesa Sandretsky holds her third place award in the Human Interest Catergory. Editor Tammy Francois received first place for coverage of local breaking news.

Two stories about Lake County residents earned awards for excellence at last week’s Minnesota Newspaper Association convention in Bloomington. The events that prompted the stories occurred decades apart, but nonetheless left their mark. 

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Last November, Lake County News-Chronicle reporter LaReesa Sandretsky spoke to Marilyn Peterson of Silver Bay, whose father was one of the men lost when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, Nov. 10, 1975. Peterson recalled watching television news reports and the long, difficult hours spent waiting for information about her dad.

“I just kept thinking they were going to find survivors,” she said.

Sandrestsky said that it was Peterson’s candor that gave the story heart.

“It was a story that could have been run of the mill,” she said, since stories about the now famous shipwreck have been written each year since the tragedy occurred, “but just having (Peterson’s) perspective made that story what it is.” This year’s judges apparently thought so, too.

Making an impressive showing in her inaugural year as a reporter, Sandretsky received third place recognition in Human Interest, the MNA’s most competitive category, for “Remembering the Fitzgerald.”

Taking first place honors in the category of Local Breaking News, was editor Tammy Francois’ story published in the News-Chronicle’s Feb.23, 2013, issue. Reported were Dan Murphy’s recollections of the train derailment that still haunts his memory.

On Sept. 30, 2010, Murphy, of Two Harbors, was the engineer on a northbound Canadian National train that collided with a loaded southbound train. The incident occurred on a stretch of track a quarter-mile south of Highland siding outside of Two Harbors. Murphy and his crew rounded a corner to find the other train, operating without authority, on a collision course with them.

Following the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board performed an investigation, releasing its findings over two years later and indicating that cell phone use by the trains’ crews had been a relevant factor in the collision.

Murphy adamantly disputed the finding.

“I took my job seriously,” he said emphatically, adding that there was no cell phone service within many miles of the crash site, “If I had been on the phone at the time of the crash, there would have been dead people.” As it was, the crash left Murphy, his conductor and the engineer on the southbound train with ongoing medical problems. Murphy also lives with the nightmarish memories of that day – the realization that there was nothing he could do to avoid the collision, his frantic efforts to mitigate the harm to his men and himself and the terrifying, surreal moments during and after the crash.

Both Peterson’s and Murphy’s stories took readers back to places and times, revealing the human side of previously reported events and the myriad emotions they experienced.

The Lake County News-Chronicle is pleased to have received awards for these stories. It is a greater privilege, however, to be allowed into the lives of others and entrusted with the memories and events that make up their lives.