As we begin the charge toward a year of ambitious goals and focus on building a bigger, more loyal audience of subscribers, I wanted to make sure we paused for a moment to celebrate the impressive journalism that came out of our newsrooms in 2021.

Our best work improved over the year before, and we’ll look to get to a new level again in 2022 by doubling down on what works. In 2021 we introduced new analytics tools to help journalists better understand digital user behaviors and interests. In many newsrooms we rolled out video and interactive solutions to tell stories differently. We recruited editors and reporters who brought new skills to improve digital performance while continuing to serve our most loyal audience, the print reader.

We know our print readers are migrating to the e-edition, and we’ll be working in 2022 on a strategy to better serve them.

We know we have great opportunities to grow and sustain subscribers with better search and social strategies, and we have training available to improve there.

We know the print newspaper must keep its place as an elite part of our product portfolio, and the new pagination center structure will ensure that.

Our news teams will work strategically around all of this, but the most important ingredient for success will be relevant and credible local journalism of the highest order. We’ll bring it in 2022.

For now, enjoy a look back at the wild year that was 2021 and how our team rose to the challenge.

Mark Adams

President & CEO


Community Journalism:  

We Showed Up For A Big Job, Close To Home 

We approached 2021 with hopes for a better year. Around the globe, better would mean striving to defeat the pandemic. Across the nation, it meant getting to the other side of an election and the aftermath that followed.

APG journalists brought both of those issues and many other world and national stories home with local context and perspective. Our jobs were much bigger than two behemoth issues that hundreds of journalists worldwide were covering, however. Our focus was on Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Boise, Idaho, and Athens, Ohio, and the hundreds of other places where APG journalists keep watch, tell compelling stories and help our communities navigate what’s going on closer to home.

If you settle in with this Best of Adams 2021 collection of journalism from our newsrooms, you’ll find some common threads. A widespread lack of affordable housing. Environmental concerns at critical levels around our rivers and lakes, basins and forests. Flooding in Skagit Valley. Drought for Idaho ranchers. Social justice issues around race and tolerance and civil liberties. All of these topics required explanation in communities that relied on our newsrooms for coverage, perspective and public forums.

National media swooped in on some of our local stories: There was the weeks-long coverage of the Gabby Petito murder case and search in Florida, and the passing of Mayberry’s Thelma Lou in Mount Airy, North Carolina, also Andy Griffith’s hometown. We covered stories of impact to individual communities, such as Smith & Wesson’s plans to bring jobs and development to Maryville, Tennessee, a scoop for the Daily Times.

We were there for celebrations, too. The East Idaho Business Journal and the Blowing Rocket in Boone, North Carolina, introduced their communities to artists who are finding great success in trying times. In Anoka County, Minnesota, a neighborhood rallied around the rescue of two great horned owl babies. Adorable.

The journalism submitted for this year’s Best of 2021 focused on stories that matter — both big and small. As big as a special report on the Klamath Basin that’s been in the works for more than a year, as small (yet thrilling) as a high school winning a regional championship for the first time. The most common thread was that the work promoted here was submitted by editors who were proud of what their teams accomplished in the spirit of serving their communities.

It is with pride that APG presents them here as a small example of a tremendous body of work completed in 2021.

Reason to be proud indeed.

Traci Bauer

APG Vice President of Content

Features Articles

Edward Miller, Evansville’s Long-Lost Airman, is Coming Home

Coverage from Janesville, Wisconsin: The Gazette

Eagle Eye: Passion, Patience Help Local Photographer Capture Rare Wildlife Images

Coverage from Eau Claire, Wisconsin: Leader-Telegram

‘Step’-Dad: For More Than 25 Years, Educator-Coach Has Helped Kids Find Their Footing

Coverage from Greenville, North Carolina: Daily Reflector

Artist In Residence: Lee Harper Vason

Coverage from Boone, North Carolina: Blowing Rocket

Local News

North Port Remembers Gabby Petito

Coverage from Port Charlotte, Florida: The Daily Sun

Smith & Wesson Moving HQ To Blount County After 169 Years in Massachusetts

Coverage from Maryville, Tennessee: The Daily Times

Escapes Reported Sex Abuse, ‘Cult’-Like Family

Coverage from Athens, Ohio: Athens Messenger

Motorist Charged with Two Felonies After Striking Two Protesters With Vehicle During Brown-Shooting March

Coverage from Elizabeth City, North Carolina: The Daily Advance

Woman’s Disappearance Still a Mystery After 40 Years

Coverage from Florida Keys: Free Press

Betty Lynn, Mayberry’s Thelma Lou, Passes Away

Coverage from Mount Airy, North Carolina: Mount Airy News

Community Divided: Cache County School District Says Anti-Racist Video Shown During Sky View Assembly was Inappropriate

Coverage from Logan, Utah: The Herald Journal

Sports & Outdoors

The Kid with the Megawatt Smile

Coverage from Venice, Florida: Venice Gondolier

3 Magic Words, 1 Magic Title

Coverage from Anoka County, Minnesota: Union Herald

Mount Airy Captures Regional Tennis Championship

Coverage from Mount Airy, North Carolina:
Mount Airy News

A Man And The Leaf: Darby Carlson Has Been With Maple Grove Since the School’s Founding

Coverage from Coon Rapids, Minnesota: The Press & News


1918 to Now: How Idaho Weathers Pandemics

Coverage from Nampa, Idaho: Idaho Press

The Lost Year: Looking Back at a Year of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Coverage from Boone, North Carolina: Watauga Democrat

Covid Survivor Focuses On Recovery After Long Journey To Stay Alive

Coverage from Stanwood, Washington: Stanwood Camano News

Local Restaurant Owners Express Frustration at State’s Handling Of Closures and Restrictions

Coverage from East Central Minnesota: Forest Lake Times

Local Enterprise

Cattle Conundrum: High Feed Costs Heading into Winter, Promise of Better Prices to Come Have Ranchers in a Bind

Coverage from Idaho Falls, Idaho: Intermountain Farm & Ranch

2 Skagit County Mothers Sound Alarm On Fentanyl

Coverage from Mt. Vernon, Washington: Skagit Valley Herald

Where is the Owner Of Flight School That Trained 9/11 Pilots?

Coverage from Venice, Florida: Venice Gondolier

Finding A Home: Community Prevails At Bozeman Pond, Despite Misconceptions

Coverage from Bozeman, Montana: Daily Chronicle

Priced Out of the Market: Tight Local Housing Market Leaves Buyers with Few Options

Coverage from Pocatello, Idaho: Idaho State Journal

Struggling to Find Candidates as Police Officer Hiring Crisis Sets In

Coverage from East Central Minnesota: Forest Lake Times

Family, Friends Still Grieve Disappearance of Young Boise Woman 27 Years Later

Coverage from Nampa, Idaho: Idaho Press

Is Wyoming’s School Funding Model About to Fail?

Coverage from Cheyenne, Wyoming: Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Data & Investigations

Fields of Change: An Investigative Series Around the State of Public School Athletic Facilities

Coverage from Pocatello, Idaho: Idaho State Journal

Watauga County Sees More Deaths In 2020 Than Any In Previous 20 Years

Coverage from Boone, North Carolina: Watauga Democrat

Restoring the River: Groups Chart Complicated Path Forward for Stillaguamish Salmon

Coverage from Stanwood, Washington: Stanwood Camano News

Missing $41k in Jail Money is Simply Gone

Coverage from Ashland, Wisconsin: Ashland Daily Press

Special Reports

Project Klamath Saving A Watershed in an Era Of Climate Change

Coverage from More at Klamath Falls, Oregon: Herald and News | Reporter: Alex Schwartz; photographer: Arden Barnes; editor: Tim Trainor.

9/11 One Day, Twenty Years

Coverage from Athens, Ohio: Regional collaboration

Participating sites and contributors: The Athens NEWS (Editor Corinne Colbert), The Athens Messenger (Alex Hulvalchick), The Logan Daily News (Jim Phillips and Keri Johnson) The Circleville Herald (Emily Moore), the Vinton-Jackson Courier (Will Meyer), and the Pike County Watchman (Patrick Keck). Cover design by Laura Zielinski, Athens.

Working Waterfront Lovric’s Sea-Craft Survives Windstorm, But Other Challenges Remain

Coverage from Anacortes, Washington: Anacortes American | Story and art by Richard Walker

Reaching For Representation Prompted By Inequities, Local Campaign Efforts Strive For Change

Coverage from Cheyenne, Wyoming: Tribune Eagle | Reporters: Margaret Austin, Kathryn Palmer, Niki Kottmann, Hannah Black


We All Have Work To Do To Achieve Equal Representation

Coverage from Cheyenne, Wyoming: Tribune Eagle

Transparency In Local Government: Officials Should Show Their Work

Coverage from Eau Claire, Wisconsin: Leader-Telegram

Desantis Needs to Take Lead on Vaccination

Coverage from Port Charlotte, Florida: The Daily Sun

Civics Might Soon Be Required In School – Hear, Hear!

Coverage from Watertown, Wisconsin: Daily Times

More Noteworthy Stories of 2021


East Central Minnesota: Sun Post
New Hope seniors remember pandemic: ‘We’re gonna make it through this’

Janesville, Wisconsin: The Gazette
‘We’re not animals:’ Half of Rock County Jail inmates test positive for COVID-19

Bozeman, Montana: Daily Chronicle
Through their eyes: Life in Bozeman long-term care facilities during the pandemic

Southern Wisconsin: Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent
Deerfield school music classes move through pandemic

Maryville, Tennessee: The Daily Times
‘Elvis has left the building:’ Blount Memorial’s Tom Cunningham died after hospitalization with COVID-19


Greeneville, Tennessee: The Greeneville Sun
Fire And Iron: Forging The Future With Tools From The Past

Antigo, Wisconsin: Antigo Daily Journal
Dinsmore has seen it all in his 105 years

Watertown, Wisconsin: Watertown Daily Times
Watertown’s Marchant enjoys dream job with Packers

East Idaho Business Journal
Longtime Pocatello artist takes big risk, finds big success

Waverly, Ohio: Pike County News Watchman
It’s never too late to graduate

Southern Minnesota: Waseca County News
Waseca mourns the loss of its first — and only — female mayor

East Central Minnesota: Burnsville-Eagan Sun Thisweek
Author hit wall, found life on other side

Circleville, Ohio: The Circleville Herald
Keeping it clean: Custodian takes pride in his work

Gladwin, Michigan: Record & Clarion
Strong Roots: Govitz family of Gladwin County

Anacortes, Washington: Anacortes American
Town crier leaving after 14 years of operatic pageantry

Marinette, Wisconsin: Eagle Herald
Chad Francour continues to defy the odds

Lake Mills, Wisconsin: Lake Mills Leader
Caring for the passed: Sexton raises headstones, provides flags at Lutheran cemetery

New Lexington, Ohio: Perry County Tribune
Fighter touches gloves with fans

Ashland, Wisconsin: Ashland Daily Press
Weaving her own story

East Central Minnesota: Anoka County Union Herald
Raptor Rescue

Local Enterprise

Port Charlotte, Florida: Daily Sun
A sex scandal: One victim’s fight involved coach, congressman

Boise, Idaho: Idaho Press
Family, friends still grieve disappearance of young woman 27 years later

Idaho Falls, Idaho: Intermountain Farm & Ranch
Drought shaping growing season for Idaho farmers

Athens, Ohio: The Athens News
Where is Ohio University CFO Deb Shaffer? Nobody will say

Owatonna, Minnesota: People’s Press
Medford officials discover treatment plant in disrepair following state investigation

Southern Wisconsin, Deforest Times-Tribune
The Fuzzy Language Around ‘Conservancy’

Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin: Daily Jefferson County Union
Firefighter series: They answer the call, but who answers their call for help

Local News

Elkton, Maryland: The Cecil Whig
Cecil Solidarity protests to show support for inmates seeking better conditions at Detention Center

Retailers get creative to deal with product shortage as consumers shop in earnest

Star Democrat (Easton, MD)
Talbot Boys’ days in Easton on courthouse lawn could be numbered

Southern Wisconsin: Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent
Newspaper files second fire and EMS open meetings complaint

Athens, Ohio: Athens Messenger
Republicans leak audio of Patterson bashing progressives at private GOP lunch

Waterloo, Wisconsin: The Courier
Waterloo superintendent calls t-shirts ‘insensitive,’ says wearers have been ‘dealt with’

New Lexington, Ohio: Perry County Tribune
‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author, Senate candidate visits Perry County

Gladwin, Michigan: Record & Clarion
Restoring the lakes following May 2020 dam breaches

La Plata, Maryland: Southern Maryland News
St. Mary’s redistricting board revises draft map; board chair and county attorney argue

Owatonna, Minnesota: People’s Press
Blooming Prairie man watched as protest turned to riot at Capitol

Greenville, North Carolina: The Daily Reflector
Cryptomining project officially withdraws from Belvoir area

East Central Minnesota: Sun Sailor St. Louis Park/Hopkins
After 52 years, St. Louis Park Roller Garden reaches its last laps

East Central Minnesota: Sun Post Brooklyn Park/Brooklyn Center
BC leadership change follows Wright killing

East Central Minnesota: Edina Sun Current
Edina park renamed in honor of Black pioneers

East Central Minnesota: Sun Post
BC leadership change follows Wright killing

East Central Minnesota: County News Review
Search continues for missing 32-year-old

Logan, Utah: Herald Journal
County clerk’s office exodus includes $97,000 settlement

Newland, North Carolina: Avery Journal-Times
Search warrant application, execution includes explosive details in Taylor investigation

Wyoming: Wyoming Business Report
LHS students walk out of class, protest mask mandate

East Central Minnesota: The Gazette
May Township woman aiming to become first with Down Syndrome featured in the Sports Illustrated Swim edition

East Central Minnesota: UnionHerald
Looking to survive: Anoka restaurant sued after defying governor’s orders

East Central Minnesota: Forest Lake Times
Anoka County administration tells libraries not to use Pride, Black Lives Matter messaging

Southern Wisconsin: Waunakee Tribune
A year after racial incident, transformative justice completed

Athens, Ohio: Athens News
Council rejects attempt to expedite APR director hire, cites frustration with process

Southern Wisconsin: DeForest Times
DeForest Board Asks For Village Representation in Wisconsin Redistricting

Jefferson County, Wisconsin: Daily Union
‘He died a hero’: Neighbors, friends react to loss of boys in Fort house fire

Elizabeth City, North Carolina: Daily Advance
Womble: Deputies’ fatal shooting of Brown justified

Mount Airy, North Carolina: Mount Airy News

Pilot Mountain ablaze: Smoke, fire keeps hearts racing

Laramie, Wyoming: Laramie Bommerang
Standoff over face mask results in lockdown at Laramie High School 

East Central Minnesota: Stillwater Gazette
Craft brewers hindered by ‘growler cap’

East Central Minnesota: Press and News
Anoka-Hennepin to require masks for grades K-6

Skagit Valley, Washington: Skagit Valley Herald/
A week later, Hamilton still feeling effects of flooding

Southern Wisconsin: A year after racial incident, transformative justice complete


Greeneville, Tennessee: Greeneville Sun
Tri-Cities Thunder Looking To Raise Profile Of Women’s Football

Boone, North Carolina: The Blowing Rocket
Ryan Fox signs to play baseball at Catawba College

Southern Wisconsin: Lake Mills Leader
WIAA Division 3 girls basketball: Relentless L-Cats beat Blugolds for state championship

East Central Minnesota: Stillwater Gazette
Boys lacrosse: Destinty delayed for Ponies

Florida Keys: Key West Citizen and Free Press
A Keys man enters Hall of Fame

Beloit, Wisconsin: Beloit Daily News
Sky carp flock to Beloit

East Central Minnesota: Forest Lake Times
Kivlenieks touched hearts in Forest Lake