Yankton County (S.D.) Observer's Brian Hunhoff wins Cervi Award

Jul 1, 2019

Brian Hunhoff (right) of the Yankton County (SD) Observer receives the 2019 Eugene Cervi Award from Gary Sosniecki of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. ISWNE is a group of 300 journalists from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia, Nepal, Ireland and other countries.

Brian Hunhoff of the Yankton County (South Dakota) Observer received the 44th annual Eugene Cervi Award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors June 22 in Atlanta.

The award recognizes “a career of outstanding public service through community journalism and adhering to the highest standards of the craft with deep reverence for the English language.”

The Cervi winner is decided by a vote of past presidents of the international editors group. The award is named for the crusading editor of the old Rocky Mountain Journal.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Mitchell of Point Reyes, California, was among those nominating Hunhoff. “Brian is a first-rate journalist and eloquent defender of open government,” Mitchell said. “He is recognized as a champion of a free press.”

Former Mobridge Tribune publisher Larry Atkinson also nominated Hunhoff. “I have known Brian nearly 40 years and long admired his incredible writing skills and undying devotion and love of newspapering,” Atkinson said. “He is the epitome of what it means to be a community journalist.”

Roxann Hunhoff noted her husband’s lifelong passion for newspapers. “Brian eats, breathes and sleeps newspapers,” she said. “It’s what he is talking about more often than not at home, on the phone, in the car — wherever.”

Kentucky journalist Al Cross wrote in The Rural Blog that the Cervi is given to an editor “who consistently acts in the conviction that good journalism begets good government.”

Cross, who attended the Atlanta conference, said, “In his typical self-effacing way, Hunhoff said little about his own work in his acceptance speech, but talked about some of the previous winners of the award.” Hunhoff never met Eugene Cervi but has met 16 previous Cervi winners. “They are giants of our profession,” he said.
Hunhoff, 59, is a former Observer publisher who now serves as Yankton County Register of Deeds. He still contributes columns, editorials and other features to the paper.

A 1977 graduate of Yankton High School, Hunhoff’s journalism career began at 18. He has received over 300 state, national and international writing awards since 1978. He is a two-time winner of ISWNE’s Golden Quill for editorial writing. In 2018, he was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Former Observer writer Dan Merritt called Hunhoff “a natural-born journalist.” Merritt said, “Brian set the tone at the Observer with his upbeat, positive, can-do attitude and general cheerfulness, making the paper an experience to produce each week. It wasn’t just a job. Brian had ideas for stories in mind a week, two weeks, three weeks down the line. An excellent editor, he took rough copy and tightened it, made it snap, polished it, making it shine in print.”

On April 13, Hunhoff was installed in the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s “Heroes of the 50 States” Open Government Hall of Fame in Dallas. NFOIC Executive Director Daniel Bevarly said, “Brian Hunhoff has been a community journalist for 41 years and a county official for 23 years. He has fiercely defended open government in South Dakota in both roles.”

“Heroes of the 50 States” is an honor that recognizes “a long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.” Hunhoff is the first inductee from South Dakota.