Under Pressure award

This photo of Town of Oregon resident John Brown in his compressed basement led off the Fitchburg Star’s coverage in August 2019 of stormwater problems on its south side.

A story about the effect of flooding and the difficulty of containing it in the area around Lake Barney has won an award from a national newspaper association.

“Under Pressure,” by Unified Newspaper Group reporter Kimberly Wethal, took third place in the category of Best Original Writing — News Article in the 2020 Association of Free Community Papers’ Best of the Best Awards.

The story, which appeared in both the Fitchburg Star and its sister newspaper, the Oregon Observer, also won two awards in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association contest, which the Star is not eligible for as a free publication distributed to all of Fitchburg.

The AFCP award was judged against other publications with 25 percent or more editorial content (in contrast with shoppers). The awards, which covered the calendar year 2019, were announced June 24 in a virtual presentation.

Wethal’s story involved exhaustive research into problems residents of the village and town of Oregon and the City of Fitchburg were having with flooding around Lake Barney and the difficulty of finding solutions with seven different governmental units involved.

Shortly after the publication of that story in August 2019, Wethal was promoted to a role that included handling coverage of Fitchburg government. She followed up the piece with a story about flooding on the other side of the city – near Goose Lake – in March.

The Star took second place in general excellence – the AFCP’s signature category – in 2017, and it won five awards in 2016 and four in 2015. The Star began publication in its current format in 2014.