2004 Better Newspaper Contest — News Writing


Division 2, Dailies
Division 3, Dailies
Division 4, Semiweeklies
Division 5, Semiweeklies
Division 6, Weeklies
Division 7, Weeklies
Division 8, Weeklies
Division 9, Weeklies
Division 10, Weeklies

News Writing

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1st. The Facts, Clute - "Claudette hits hard" by Yvonne Mitz. Good lead-in, perfect opening quote. "5 children perish in fire" by Velda Hunter. Great details, good handling of a sensitive story.

2nd. The Beaumont Enterprise - "Not again (Columbia)" These reaction pieces really capture the experiences of the region during a historic event, good tight leads and good quote selection. "Time to go: Former public servants sentenced to serve 20, 33 months" by Beth Gallaspy. Lead is clunky because sentences are complicated - try using 20 months instead of 1 year and 8 months. Numbers in attendance are too high in the Gallaspy story.

3rd. Kerrville Daily Times - "Juvenile detention residents could impact district's rating" by Jeff Raymond. Pertinent topics, good quotes. "Complaints at juvenile detention facility investigated" by Glenda Taylor. Well-written, very newsworthy, too bad more officials were not available.

4th. Amarillo Globe-News - "Freedom may be near for 13 in Tulia drug sting" by Greg Cunningham. Very interesting story, use of unnamed source not great, but backed up by nation. "Lengthy vigil ends in tragedy for pilot's family" by Jim McBride. Good detail, should give an earlier hint of news.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1st. Alice Echo-News Journal - "Reign of Terry over ... for now" by Michael A. Perez. Important news story, told clearly and fairly. "In JWC, 65% of DWI cases go unprosecuted" by Nicole Perez. Excellent enterprise reporting, the kind of story that gets action.

2nd. Taylor Daily Press, Elizabeth Page - "Castons rebuilding after fire" Not just a fire story, but a family's story. "Family, friends mourn victim's death" Excellent effort to produce a story that asks why and how when a good young man is killed.

3rd. Seguin Gazette-Enterprise, Bill O'Connell - "Task force comes under fire" Through dogged reporting, this story is an excellent example of holding a public agency accountable. "Sheriff backs jail administrator amid resume questions" In Seguin, readers can count on the newspaper to be a watchdog.

4th. Brownwood Bulletin, Steve Nash - "Officers overcome violent outbreak" Storytelling lead. "Grand jury hands down charges on Sudderth" Straight, clear writing makes this news story strong.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001

1st. The Allen American, Jason Heid - "Hundreds welcome Vietnam  memorial" Excellent lead. Very well written!  "Financial problems led to suicides" Good job linking story of couple with the social service piece.

2nd. Wise County Messenger, Brian Knox - "A soldier safely home" Great story! Excellent quality of writing. "Murderer takes his own life" Good lead!

3rd. Houston County Courier, Daphne Hereford - "Fuller charged with capital murder" Excellent quality of writing. Fast-paced and to the point. Good job! "Magnitude of animal abuse stuns officials" Very well done! Horrible story - great writing!

4th. Levelland & Hockley County News Press, John Rigg - "County clerk Mary Walker killed in accident" Great lead. Sharp crisp writing style! "Anton burglars set fire to high school library" Excellent lead. Great writing quality.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1st. Lamesa Press-Reporter, Russel Skiles - "Man survives electrocution" and "One dies in deadly explosion" Ask for a raise. Great leads, wonderful stories. You obviously have put a lot of effort into relationships with emergency services. Great photos too!

2nd. The Canyon News, Greg Jaklewicz - "Staying S.O.B.E.R: Sheriff's Office program targets Randall County underage drinking" Not a fun way to spend an evening but it made for a great story. "5-0 for Wal-Mart" Great in-depth story.

3rd. The Wimberley View - "Citizen group looks at WISD" by  Charles McClure. No comments. "HC makes Walther administrator" by Mary Elizabeth Davis. Very solid in all areas.

4th. The Clifton Record - "States want to wrestle FUTA tax from feds" By W. Leon Smith and "TAKS test compromised" By Don. M. Fisher. Great in-depth coverage on both stories.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1st. Jewish Herald-Voice, Houston, Aaron Howard - "Dust and sprites: On board the shuttle with Israel's first astronaut" Great story! Very well-written and detail. The information was exceptional and educational. "Community mourns loss of heroes" Well-written and very moving. Good use of quotes and honored these fallen heroes.

2nd. Azle News, Edwin Newton - "Child, 6, left on Azle bus" Excellent story! It was well-written and all of the important details given. "Students face sexual assault charge" Very well-written and thought out story!

3rd. Wilson County News, Brian K. Murphy - "SA man gets 10 years for providing Suburban" Very well-written story! Was very captivated and it kept my attention. "State, federal agencies investigate chemical dumping" Good story, well-written!

4th. Burleson County Tribune, Roy Sanders - "Tunis woman kidnapped for helping plan vigil" Great story! Very detailed and well-written. "Robinson's grandmother seeks closure" This was better of the two. It flowed very well and sent a message to the reader. Very well-written.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1st. Wills Point Chronicle, Julie Vaughn - "One year after tragedy: Local firefighters recall fatal bus accident on I-20" Good work to cover the year after to start with. But use of survivor and on-the-scene accounts lifted the story. "Shooting probe continues" Solid crime reporting.

2nd. The Countywide, Karnes City - "County tax office at center of Texas Rangers investigation" by Joe Baker. Writer made effort to make readers relate and understand. "Dealing with Claudette's aftermath" by Jason Clay Jansky. Very comprehensive report, meeting readers' appetite for news on this big story.

3rd. DeSoto Today, Daphne Brown - "Two Dallas brothers killed in DeSoto gunfire; suspect arrested" Dramatic crime story done well. "DHS yearbook staff gets blessing" Sometimes, life is a do-over, and this reporter was sharp enough to see this nice, little story.

4th. Tyler County Booster - "Making a statement: Tribe sets off on march to Austin" by Mike Warren. Good enterprise but needed more complete explanation of ruling. "2 homes evacuated but no injuries in gas fire" by John Morrison and Mike Warren. Solid news report.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1st. San Jacinto News-Times, Shepherd, Martha Charrey - "DA's actions could spur FBI probe" Great story. I want the laptop graf higher but I looked for it anyway because of subject. Broad base of coverage and sources. "Removal of constable from office unravels conspiracy theory against county judge" Judge and Price comments great. Breaking gag order great.

2nd. Iowa Park Leader, Dolores Hamilton - "Cemetery plots center of controversy" Bodies on top of bodies. Morbid, grisly and a must read. Police on standby! Great-grandma has company in her grave and the board is devastated? Need family quotes. "Taxpayers get a 3-cent break" School board budget stories are 'he said, she said.' It was tough staying with it.

3rd. Leader News, Lytle, Shauna Lewis - "Southwest ISD: Toyota is worth $75 million tax break" Yes, it's a huge deal to the community but hard to make tax abatement story sexy. "Land dispute prompts fence-building" Great lead. Well explained and written, both sides covered fairly.

4th. The Bee, Daingerfield - "Gladewater man arrested in Cass County faces murder charges" by Marlene J. Bohr. Good lead but needed punching up. Good use of many sources. "Chase covers six counties" by Susan Taft. Great. You took me on the chase and I was on his bumper all the way. Good lead, you drew me in.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1st. The Citizen, Clear Lake - "Murder by Mercedes: Clara Harris chapter ends with 20-year prison sentence" by Patrick Reynolds. Great lead, drew me in. Explanation of her charges concise. Description of Harris superb. "Seabrook sends warning to Port" by Mary Alys Cherry. Great lead, lowered its guns. Made the controversy mean something other than plain opposition. Good bullets. Good banter.

2nd. Castroville News Bulletin, Michelle Mondo - "Unwanted withdrawals: Broadway bank robbed again, witness follows alleged suspect into San Antonio" Great story. Got witnesses to talk, as well as cops. She takes me on the chase with customer. Great quotes throughout. "Castroville airport impacted $5.4 million to its area economy" Took process story and made it impact to me.

3rd. The Leonard Graphic - "A.J.'s heart beats on" by Betsy Blevins and Bethany Russell. Nice feature. "Shooting leaves Leonard man dead, suspect admits to killing" by Beth Anderson. Great lead, drew me in. Comprehensive coverage. Good HS background. Need quotes from family.

4th. The Rosebud News - "Fire destroys Rosebud home" by Brenda Allison. No quotes. What about family? Neighbors? Little dry. "Council fires city manager" by Martha Killgore-Bray. Great lead 'lynch mob atmosphere.' Good quotes second graf. Balanced writing.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1st. Burnet County Citizens Gazette, Rick Espitia - "Daycare dilemma hits moms hard" Very informative and well-written. "Caught speeding - Meth labs cooking up trouble" Good story, covered the 'pros and cons' of the subject very well.

2nd. Hale Center American, Don R. Richards - "City manager proposal eliminated from budget" Straight and to the point, easy to read and understand. "Tragedy strikes! 3 killed, 3 injured in car-train collision" Well-written, easy to read. Lists all the events in a well-formatted order.

3rd. The Hart Beat - "Kerry George killed in motorcycle accident" by Neoma Williams. Solid, informative narrative of the events. "Transfers: A godsend to some schools, a death knell to others" by Rachel Wall. Well-written, shows both sides of the debate.

4th. Keene Star, Paul Gnadt - "KHS teachers in East Texas accident" Good story, easy read with facts well stated. "Brandom not for sale, will remain in Keene" Solid news story that answers a lot of locals' questions.