2006 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

1. The Beaumont Enterprise - "Brutal blow" By Jacqueline Lane. The clear winner. This news staff did what journalists must do in times of catastrophe. And they did it well. "How bad will it get" by Jacqueline Lane, Christine Rappelye and Dee Dixon. When the newspaper ran this headline, the staff was unknowingly preparing for Rita.

2. The Baytown Sun - "Who's responsible for Texas Avenue" by Ryan Culver. A very nice job of making an important local issue crystal clear. "With board OK, it's up to voters now" by Keri Mitchell. It's always difficult to make a school administration interesting, but this reporter brought the significance home.

3. The Courier, Conroe - "Can Entergy fix its problems?" by Howard Roden. This is the type of enterprise that makes newspapers so important to communities. "Wetlands shock" by Nancy Flake. Clear writing on a complex and confusing issue.

4. Lufkin Daily News - "Family mourns student's death" by Gary Bass. Bass made Jared Stanley's death and life a personal experience. "Victim carries emotional and physical scars" by Ashley Cook. A shocking story that the reporter allowed to write itself.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. Alice Echo-News Journal - By Ofelia Garcia Hunter. "Facing illegal immigration" This reporter gives her readers a close-up feel for what it's like to chance everything and fail. "Kingsville housing evacuees" A nicely done look at what it's like to be an evacuee.

2. Waxahachie Daily Light - By JoAnn Livingston. "Time for decision" A better lead could have made all the difference for this well organized look at this mess. "Fatal collision" A very nice job of finding clarity in a confusing situation.

3. San Marcos Daily Record - By Anita Miller. "Life, death or the other?" This writer knows how to write clearly and how not to overwrite. This is a nice look at an important public policy issue. "Off track" Again, good, tight, clear writing.

4. Plano Star Courier - By Amy Morenz. "A home away from home" A very nice writing job that brings home the plight of those who fled Katrina. "Political foes challenge SH 121 leadership" A good look at an all too common problem.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Burleson Star - By Sally Ellertson. "Internet is easy way for predators to get to your child" Excellent story with lots of good details on the scary issue of Internet predators. I particularly enjoyed the story on the coffin manufacturer. "World War II POW kept his silence for 38 years" This is an example of a long story that works. Lots of interesting stories about a POW's experience in Japan. Camera image was good bookend for story.

2. Williamson County Sun - By Trey McLendon. "We've lost everything" I really liked the writer's use of quotes. Nice job of including details on local efforts to support people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. "Bee attack: Man stung 100 times" Good story that had some unintentional humor in it. I liked how the writer included medical information in this unusual bee attack story. Good job.

3. Boerne Star & Recorder - "Acevedo convicted in Cascade Caverns murder" by Kurt Mogonye. This story got stronger as it went along. I liked the courtroom accounts and explanation of the defendant's state of mind. "SPCA seizes 223 cats in Comfort" by Jessica Sanders. Good use of quotes. This story is an example of details speaking for themselves.

4. Wise County Messenger - By Angie Tyson. "Tragedy at the pool" Good lead and account of incident. "Lives forever changed" Writer does good job of painting a picture of how story unfolded. Good job of presenting all sides.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. Mansfield News-Mirror - By Nicholas Sakelaris. "Widening Broad Street stirs controversy" Good lead and intro helps put story into context from the outset. Also, detailed and fair examination of the issues and emotions involved. "Fight with city threatens home" Good job stating the central conflict in the lead.

2. The Gatesville Messenger - "City tax freeze fails on third reading" by Larry Kennedy. Inclusion of several viewpoints is well done here, gives a nuanced understanding of issues at stake. "Fort Hood eyes 'buffer zone' land" by Marshall Day. Important story presented well. Good depth of research.

3. The Canyon News - "Canyon man, 18, arrested in child porn investigation" by Greg Jaklewicz. "CHS academic top 10 tension" by Amanda Gragert. Off the beaten path of education stories - good. Well researched.

4. The Wimberley View - By Kaycee Kendall. "Wimberley bypass breaks ground" and "City clarifies signage rules" Good job humanizing what could have been a more bureaucratic, stiff story.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Park Cities People, Dallas - "Teachers, students offended by HPHS Spirit Week Costumes" by Jessica Hoover and Paige Phelps. Writers went the extra mile on this story. They covered all the angles from both sides. A very impressive piece of work, they should be congratulated by their readers. "Unmasked bandit" by Jessica Hoover. Very good background into a subject not common in many parts of the country. Writer did her research and explained how Robin Hood - a state plan - was impacting her local readers. Good job.

2. The Jasper Newsboy - By Julie Webb. "Considering all options" The writer went beyond the normal meeting story coverage of a complex issue. Nicely done. "Push vs. shove" The emotions reported aside, the writer brought the complex issue of consolidation to a resolution.

3. The Free Press, Buda - By Jen Biundo. "Kyle prison contractors allege violations" There's not a whole lot sexy about this story, but the writer did what she's paid to do - she explained what is going on in a way the readers could understand. "Fishy fellows head to California" She might have been tempted to write this one light-hearted, but the writer played it straight down the line with a wealth of research.

4. Rockdale Reporter - "A 'rad' vote goes skateboarders way" by Ken Esten Cooke. Nice work on reporting something a "city council met Monday" story. "'This was a killing frenzy'" by Mike Brown. Good reporting, good photography, good presentation. The writer did his homework, collected all the relevant information and then wrote a well-presented story.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. The Big Bend Sentinel, Marfa - By Sterry Butcher. "Kinky Friedman wants to be next governor of Texas" This is an excellent story that immediately grabs the readers attention and makes you want to continue. Great use of words and story flow. I found myself smiling through the entire story. "Sheriffs diffuse congressman's account of Al Qaeda terrorists in Far West Texas jails" In a post 9-11 world it's important that the public stays informed of what's going on in the fight against terrorism. The writer did an excellent job of setting the record straight, giving both sides equal coverage.

2. Hill Country News, Cedar Park - "Cedar Park man convicted of murder" by Frank Flaton. In criminal trial coverage it sometimes becomes difficult to steer away from a hard news style. This story was interesting. It quickly grabs your attention and puts you right at the scene and the mindset of the killer. "CP under fire for meeting allegation" by Tamra Spence. This story shows what journalism is all about. Great job in keeping a watchful eye over your elected and taxpayer funded positions.

3. Lake Travis View, Lakeway - By Gary Dinges. "Sun sets on Oasis" Great writing style and lead. The story captured my attention. I was, however, left wanting to know more about this establishment and its history. "Breaking down barriers" This story was a great public service to its readers. The only element it was lacking was more color from the offices visited. I would have liked to have seen more reaction from those that were difficult in handing over public information.

4. The Schulenburg Sticker - By Beth Wiseman. "Tilicek's appointment voided by Attorney General's office" The news value of this story was amazing. The writer shows great dedication in this story. However, it was slightly bogged down with legal jargon that the every day reader might find hard to follow. "Rita's effects seen everywhere but the weather" I found this story to be very reader-friendly. This story gave you a good sense of just how chaotic the situation was. It also did an excellent job of showing the good nature of people in the town.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. San Jacinto News Times - By Martha Charrey. "Cape facing more than large deer herd" Explain diseases and whether human danger is a concern. "Fatal train crash prompts evacuations in Shepherd" Why were residents evacuated? Should've been high in story, along with voices of evacuees. Thorough job of reporting.

2. The Springtown Epigraph - By Edwin Newton. "Chamber's pulse stilled" Nice job. "Firestorm: Tax assessor's office erupts after 2 firings, 3 resignations" Story doesn't detail the five employees who left the office and assessor - who I assume has the right to hire and fire - was allowed to respond too late in the story.

3. Lindale News & Times - "This old house is here no longer" by Pat Turner. I'm sure this was a well-read story! Structure of story needed work but good reporting shows here. "LHS earns five Gold Performance awards" by Jack Stein.

4. Elgin Courier - "City manager terminated; finance director retires" by Patty Finney. Don't let public officials get away with vague explanations like "time for a change." The views of the majority were too low in the story. "Fudge perishes in house fire" by Glynda Schroeder. Good attempt to humanize the victim for readers who may not know him and his recent experiences.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. The Canadian Record - "The road to ruin" by Laurie Ezzell Brown. The kind of in-depth, helpful reporting needed in communities. Great detail and effort. "Riparian conservation and Lesser Prairie Chicken topic of daylong seminar" by Jenny Klein. Another stellar, in-depth piece.

2. Ozona Stockman - By Melissa Perner. "Remembering Felipe and Balia" Great human interest story, but tell me when/how they died somewhere early in story, not headline. "White apologizes to Gavel family before being executed" A little editorialized but poignant.

3. Castroville News-Bulletin - "A city in grief" by Gabriel Mejia. Excellent total coverage of tragedy. Good human interest. "Moving legal notices out of town" by Bobbie Nance. OK story, but not one of major interest to most readers, such as the killings story by Mejia.

4. Yorktown News-View - By Mari Gohlke. "Star finally shining bright for country girl from Weesatche" Thank you! A good human interest read. "Yorktown's newest K-9 officer 606 follows her nose in fight against drugs" Nice touch on a fairly "regular" story.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. The International, Presidio - By Robert Halpern. "Presidio City Council fires Tom Nance in split vote" Well written! I love that you talked to the former administrator in jail. Was a bit concerned when you categorically stated he's the city's number one supporter, but nice to see you addressed the question of whether he has a drinking problem. "Feds dismiss indictment against Presidio man" Engrossing. Story captured attention from start to finish. Excellent examination of the real people who are usually given only a few sentences in a government press release. Great effort to get the government to give some answers in this case.

2. The Little Elm Journal - "Local man stabbed in Frisco street fight" by Mike Raye. Great lead that sets the scene. Again, good work going beyond reporting what's in the police blotter to talk to witnesses and family to get a fuller account of events. Writing flows. "ATM axe man surrenders" by Devin Monk. Good job making this into a real story by getting the wife's point-of-view, rather than let it be an extended blotter item.

3. Alvarado Star - By Michael Rayburn. "A helping hand" Good lead, information on local agency. "Invasion of the termites" Great lead, great subject. You went back and gave us some history on those termites, explained why they're so much worse than the usual ones and gave a great example of the results. Good job getting the homeowner to talk.

4. East Bernard Express - By Benjamin C. Sharp. "Leedo reports thefts; 3 workers charged" Good job getting comments from the company as well as law enforcement. "Timewise robbed; teens charged" Great lede! I could completely picture the scene from those two sentences. Good, clean copy with all the relevant information.