2006 Better Newspaper Contest — Feature Story


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


Feature Story

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. The Beaumont Enterprise - "Victimized vs. Romanticized" by Becky Bowman. "Victimized vs. romanticized" is a compelling story about sexual relationships between teenage boys and woman. The reporter did extensive research and conducted numerous interviews before writing with style and grace. Great job. "Lost songs of the big bopper" by Ron Franscell. This is a charming, nostalgic walk down memory lane into the life of Jay Richardson, who sings the songs of rock 'n roll great Buddy Holly, the father Richardson never knew. Great writing about an interesting subject.

2. Port Arthur News - By Ashley Sanders. "Surviving Katrina" This is a heart warming story about a woman who saved herself, an elderly neighbor and others during Hurricane Katrina. Interesting and well written. "A former POW" Well-written story about a survivor of a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Good job.

3. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - By Ray Glass. "Bolstering self esteem" Excellent, well-written story about building self esteem. Good lead, good quotes, good examples. Good job! "Laying down the law" Interesting, well-written story about a policeman-turned teacher.

4. The Galveston County Daily News - "Towering achievement" by Laura Elder. Laura Elder proves that a good writer can write a compelling story on a difficult topic. "Transitional living" by Kelly Hawes. Interesting story about a transitional home for teens. Good job.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. Alice Echo-News Journal - "Don Juanito gets a new home" by Paul S. Martinez. Good job of humanizing immigration issue. Good use of detail to help reader identify with subject. "FCA group makes Thanksgiving possible" by Ofelia Garcia Hunter. Good lead, lets reader identify with subject immediately. Photo reinforces the lead, good.

2. Brownwood Bulletin - By Candace Cooksey Fulton. "Talkin' turkey" Good use of detail to make story more interesting. Expectations for a story about kindergarten students are low, and this story exceeded them by taking the story in an unexpected direction. "Local couple returns home with a 'true' big fish tale" Expansive use of quotes helps establish vivid pictures of Phyllis Waller, good.

3. McKinney Courier-Gazette - "Princeton veteran recounts capture" by Krystal de los Santos. Good use of detail in telling his war experience. "Another country" by Danny Gallagher. Interesting story, good layout.

4. Plano Star Courier - By Amy Morenz. "Experiencing new life" and "County joins to help area man" Good use of detail to present challenges facing his wife, too. Helps reader appreciate the situation this couple faces more thoroughly.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Wise County Messenger - By Brian Knox. "Faces of Hope" Nicely written. Reporter tells heart-breaking story without getting sappy. Very nice layout. "Judy's story" Fine piece of work. I appreciate the sensitivity, also to the fact that the dying woman's "life partner" was a woman. Issue handled nicely.

2. Williamson County Sun - "Undercover at the high school" by Rafael Mittlefehldt. Clever story idea. Nicely written. Good use of photos. "County's last dairy cows are moving out" by Amy Burroughs. Important story. Well done. Nice presentation.

3. Round Rock Leader - "A church to call home..." by Brad Stutzman and "Are you ready for some hippos?" by Mistie Householter. Nice layout. Great lead.

4. Beeville Bee-Picayune - "Building bridges across the world" by Chip Latcham. Interesting story. Nicely written. Layout weak. "From Beeville ... ... to the edges of the universe" by Jeff Latcham. Very good story idea and writing style. Nice selection of photos.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. Lamesa Press-Reporter - "Tor jubilee reunited brothers" by Russel Skiles. Wonderful story, nicely told. "Local veteran recounts days as POW in Korea" by Thad Miracle. Well-written, powerful story.

2. Lampasas Dispatch Record - "Last call" by Bobby Simons. Great story and nice presentation. "When the levees broke" by Lisa Carnley. Compelling reading. Good job of bringing a national story "home."

3. The Canyon News - "Healing touch" by Karla Abernethy-Thetford and Greg Jaklewicz. Moving story. Well-written. "The graduate" by Greg Jaklewicz. Nice story and good layout.

4. Andrews County News - "Sudden loss leads to life for others" by Gay Ragland. Important story and great community service for getting word out on organ donation. Good job. "Local couple uses new home as haven for animals" by Sherilyn Brown. A winner of a story for animal lovers.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Houston Business Journal - "Firefighter grilling champion fanning the flames" by Jim Greer. Interesting guy. Story was well written, though a tad long. Also, the nut graph needs to be higher. But still a good effort. "Rice alliance co-founder takes care of business" by Mary Ann Azevedo. The first few graphs failed to pull me into the story. But the firefighter story is strong enough to warrant a first place in what was a weak category.

2. Duncanville Today - By Angel Jenkins Morris. "The eyes have it" Good lede and well written, if a bit long story. Excellent layout. "Home sweet home" Again, well written but too long. Still a standout, though.

3. Wylie News - "Chess mates" by Susan Ervien. Neat story and a standout in the category. Good layout and pullout box. "Wine brings friends, family, history together at San Martino" by Jennifer Miller. Good lede and an interesting topic, but the story was too long.

4. Bandera Bulletin - By Jessica Hawley. "Learning lessons while saving dragons" Lede was a bit long, but nut graph was well crafted. The name of the game should be higher in the story. Still, this was a refreshing entry. "The never-dying resolve to live" The lede on this story seems like editorializing. I pretty much stopped reading after that. The story looked way too long. Still, the "Learning lessons" is what earned the award.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. Westlake Picayune, Austin - By Dane Anderson. "Quiet crusader" Missed the lede. Story with a lot of potential for insights into life lessons. Reporter worked for great material and wrote well but lacked confidence to summarize -- wouldn't accept losing, overlooked but not bitter, stayed balanced, now moving on. Great stuff. Just needs focus. Keep working. "Full throttle" Again, reporter inserts herself in lede of story inappropriately. Good ear for quotes. Work on writing a high "nut graph" in your stories.

2. The Big Bend Sentinel, Marfa - By Sterry Butcher. "Judges name April as Big Bend's most beautiful ass" Stories that make readers laugh or smile are all too rare! Well done here. "Polo arrives in the Big Bend" Good writing but reporter needs to cull out the best material for the story and be a little more disciplined in self editing. I wanted to her from Tommy Lee Jones!!

3. Colorado City Record - By Tommy Wells. "Breaking barriers" Good local angle on a national story. I'm wondering if others in the community acknowledge Molina's place in local civil right history ... needs more reporting. "Finding their roots" "More memories that pieces left" nice! A dead sister in an unmarked grave - wow - a lovely story idea that needed a little more focus on the heart, the emotional center of the story.

4. The Cameron Herald - "Mike Peck, camera guy" by Richard and Tia Rae Stone. This tribute would have benefited from a couple more community voices about his role in Cameron. Would've liked to see an award-winning photo of his. "Bridges thru time" by Tia Rae Stone "Instruments that demanded fidelity" nice! Good angle on nostalgic story that needs a sense of this landmark's importance beyond this one woman. Nice work.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. The Springtown Epigraph - By Carolea Hassard. "A passage to India" and "The Indomitable Bernice" Lots of photos and graphic elements like pull quotes and maps overcome lack of color in both stories. "The Indomitable Bernice" is a great example of a personality profile, with anecdotes and quotes to flesh out her character. Reading about the minister's missionary trip and what he saw after the tsunami was interesting and a great way to localize international news. A more modular format would have made reading the story easier, though.

2. Lancaster Today - By Steve Snyder. "Jenkins is short in stature but soaring in spirit" and "Purpose: 20-year cancer survivor finds sweet purpose with candy" Both stories have snappy leads, good photos - one an action shot and the other a creative environmental portrait - and reader-friendly explanation of technical terms. Nice to hear from several different people in the Jenkins story.

3. Frisco Enterprise - "Back on the beat" by Mike Raye. Very nice, solid story. How is the town and department dealing with having two officers so seriously injured almost at the same time? Quotes were very good. "Could it be king?" by Corina Miller. Great presentation on the front, fell apart on the jumps. Fascinating story, though. Well written, but I would have liked independent combination of Fernwood's history, if at all possible.

4. Tri County Leader, Whitehouse - "Prom priorities" by Roger McKenzie and Randy Bruton. Good layout, fun story. "Ford remembers excitement, patriotism of service" by John Verser. Good interview with some funny anecdotes and good use of quotes.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. Leonard Graphic - By Bethany Russell. "Julie Johnson" I've never met her, but I feel like I know Julie Johnson. Excellent profile! "Locks of love" A beautiful story about a gift that doesn't cost a thing!

2. The Canadian Record - By Laurie Ezzell Brown. "Denise Lee's next big race" What an inspiring story! Emotional, insightful. "POW MIA" Great angle! Story paints a picture of love, the pain of not knowing what happened to a loved one, and the relief when he is finally laid to rest.

3. The Citizen, Clear Lake - By Chuck Hlava. "Lucky family" An insightful look at over-seas adoption. "Unexpected experiences" Great tribute to a great man.

4. Farmersville Times - "Where the wild things are" by Joey Kirk. Great job capturing the subject's love of big cats! "Eubank celebrates 97 years with September birthday" by Matthew Riley. Heartwarming.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. The Little Elm Journal - By Corina Miller. "The Boneman cometh" Interesting character! Nice lead. "Local writer remembers Texas folklorist, friend" Nice lead.

2. The Freer Press - By Sue Fleming. "Tastes like chicken" Great subject matter! I wish you had focused on Raines and the snake meat in the lead and put festival info in a lower "nut" graph. "Shadow in the window" Nice quotes. Good storytelling.

3. Overton Press - By Charlotte Heldenbrand. "Making people laugh" Interesting personal tale. "Heavy metal" Interesting topic, good personal details.

4. Keene Star - By Paul Gnadt. "Rescued animals, special needs children share love in Egan" Nice piece, good info about the founder's sister. (It would have been good to get other sources in your story. Everything here came from one person.) "A time that tested faith" Moving story. Very timely.