I snag the Pioneer Press ‘news hero’ prize

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This bizarre-looking trophy is the St. Paul Pioneer Press newsroom’s “News Hero” award.

It is awarded weekly to a news worker or workers — such as reporters or copy editors — for awesome journalism.

I hadn’t been anointed thusly until recently, when I jumped on the Pokémon Go craze and wrote a series of stories about it.

An editor noted:

During a couple of weeks of angst-filled news of police shootings, Black Lives Matter protests, presidential politics, etc., some people took a break from the paying attention to the issues to hunt for Pokemon characters around their cities.

It may seem frivolous for the newspaper to pursue such fluff when there’s so much more important stuff going on, but that’s just the point — Pokeman provided a rare shared experience for people that was distinctly not negative, and the stories Julio wrote captured that important counterweight for our readers as well.

The Pokemon trend went viral over the weekend and Julio was all over it on Monday. He produced two stories about it right away, the main story capturing the phenomenon of a video game actually drawing its players out into the world — discovering parks, trails and landmarks — instead of holing them up in a dark mancave on a nice summer day; his second story, in Q&A format, explained the game from its beginnings and also “Augmented Reality,” a technology Julio has written about in the past, but now given its first wide real-world example.

In subsequent days, Julio also wrote a first-person piece about how playing Pokemon has given him and his son a summer of bonding before college begins; a local story about how campaign operatives are using Pokemon to get voters registered, and a third story about how businesses are using Pokemon to attract customers. That last story, already posted online, will be expanded to become this Sunday’s Business section front.

Julio’s stories during the past week remind us that the newspaper and website can and must reflect more than just the things that people worry or get angry about; it can and must be as varied and colorful as all of our lives.

Our mission: Engaging our communities with compelling content that sharpens the mind, touches the heart and connects our audience at the speed of life.

This was shown for a time on newsroom video monitors:

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