Osage News wins Best Newspaper from Society of Professional Journalists OK chapter for fifth time

The News won Best Newspaper First Place for the fifth consecutive year in the Newspaper B division, which is a category for mid-sized newspapers in the state with a circulation of less than 10,000

The Osage News offices are located in downtown Pawhuska at 604 Kihekah Avenue and are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

LAWTON, Okla. – The Osage News won five honors from the Society of Professional Journalists Oklahoma Pro Chapter which were announced Oct. 15 and awarded to various news outlets across the state.

The SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter hosted its 2022 awards banquet at the Apache Casino Hotel, which is the organization’s first in-person awards gathering held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are happy that you have joined us to honor some of the state’s best journalists and to celebrate the dedication and skill it takes to be in this business in today’s world,” said Heide Brandes, a travel journalist, who is the current SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter president.  

The News submitted entries for the annual award contest from its 2021 coverage.

Among the 2022 award recognitions, the News won Best Newspaper First Place for the fifth consecutive year in the Newspaper B division, which is a category for mid-sized newspapers with a circulation of less than 10,000. The News currently has approximately 1,800 subscribers to its monthly print edition. This year’s contest was judged by the Connecticut SPJ Pro chapter.

News Editor Shannon Shaw Duty won Third Place in the Newspaper B Education Reporting category for her story “Herman ‘Mogri’ Lookout to receive honorary doctorate degree from Kansas State University.” In her story, which ran in the October 2021 edition, Duty shares highlights of Lookout’s professional tenure at the Osage Nation where he served as the first Language Department director and led team efforts that developed the Osage orthography. 

News Page Designer Sherry Stinson won Third Place for Page One Layout & Design in the Newspaper B division. Stinson’s award is for her work on the April 2021 front page titled “Thank You Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center!” The entire front page featured photos of the clinic staff with a “Thank you” message from the News for the clinic staff’s work serving the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Online – Column Writing category, News Columnist Ruby Hansen Murray won Third Place for her November 2021 column titled “Generational Memory.”

Former News Photographer Cody Hammer won Third Place in the Best of the Best contest for Best Photographer in the state, finishing behind Nathan Poppe from the Curbside Chronicle and Bryan Terry of The Oklahoman.

Also that night, the SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter recognized Duty with three separate awards for commentary articles she wrote for outside news outlets in the Newspaper A division, which includes wire services and newspapers with a circulation of 10,000 or more. Duty swept the Newspaper A division’s Editorial/ Commentary category by winning all three top places.

Duty won First Place for her editorial, “We are part of the culture. We will not be erased,” published online by Indian Country Today in April 2021.

For Second Place, Duty was recognized for her editorial, “Osage Nation citizens seeking peace, respect for ancestors going into next year,” published by the Tulsa World on Nov. 24, 2021.

Duty won Third Place for her editorial, “My Osage tribe is swimming in vaccines — but the people won’t take them,” published by The Washington Post on March 30, 2021.

“We are humbled and thankful to the SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter who continues to support our work and provide us with the resources we need to do what we do,” Shaw Duty said.


  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.