A while back we used this space to describe the daily paper as something of a jigsaw puzzle. Each day begins with the basic space known and the ads marked out. But virtually everything else has to be put into place one element at a time.

It requires communication in a half-dozen directions, often simultaneously. Does this feature’s writing excellence give it priority over this news story? That’s a question for the afternoon budget meeting. We have some amazing photography to go with a story, can we hold it and get some extra space to show it off? Better ask the folks who handle page assignments and coordinate where the ads wind up. What editorials should we be writing? That’s addressed at a meeting with the publisher, editor and assistant editor every Monday morning.

Newspaper is a team sport. It takes coordination with different departments in different buildings. While most are at our downtown office it’s never a good idea to spring a surprise on the folks who actually print the paper, and they’re at a separate facility in Lake Hallie.

We also work with other papers in our group and corporate figures who create new initiatives and readers. Your letters and submissions help make this a community paper and ensure the newsroom is exposed to new ideas.

We know how fortunate we are to be able to deliver the product we do in this environment. We know how lucky we are to not be owned by a hedge fund interested only in siphoning off money, rather than investing in quality. And we’re blessed to be in the Chippewa Valley, where people remain engaged with us to a far greater degree than is true of many communities.

All of that allows us to put out a paper that, in all honesty, is pretty darn good.

Friday evening we were able to post the results of this year’s Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation’s awards. They’re in today’s print edition, too. The Leader-Telegram brought home two dozen awards, including 11 first-place finishes. They honored our editorials and the breaking news coverage of last year’s arrest of Altoona’s former superintendent. Our features drew praise and plaques, as did the photography that has long been a hallmark of our paper.

Even Sawdust Stories won awards, with two authors taking first and second places in the local column category.

We were named the best paper in our division. There’s no way that happens without a lot of work from a lot of people. It doesn’t happen without dedicated employees in multiple departments, without readers who are willing to both subscribe and to let us know when they think something needs improvement. And there are always things we can improve.

For today, though, we’re going to allow ourselves to brag just a bit. We’ve earned it. It’s not something Midwesterners do often, and it’s not something we’re going to do again for a while. But after an unusually tough year, a year that saw our employees displaced to protect against a pandemic, a year that included tornadoes and task forces, uncertainty and excellence, we’ll take it this once.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also say thank you. We couldn’t do these jobs we love without subscribers who buy the paper, without advertisers who stand by us and believe in our product as much as they believe in their own. We couldn’t do this without the community’s support and criticism — while it’s more fun to hear the former, both are important.

The Chippewa Valley is a remarkable place, and we’re fortunate to be living and working in it. We try hard to remember that our job is to serve the community, to put out the best paper we can with information that can help people make decisions that affect their lives and those of their families.

By the time you read this, we’ll be working on the next paper. Few things matter less than the previous day’s edition in a newspaper office, at least most of the time. A newspaper’s operations are, fundamentally, a collection of forward-looking jobs where you have to think at least a day ahead.

So we’re looking at Tuesday’s paper right now. We’re figuring out what stories belong, which deserve front page placement and which fit elsewhere in the paper. By mid-morning we’ll have a good idea of what the pieces are.

New day, new jigsaw puzzle.