2008 Better Newspaper Contest — Column Writing


Division 2 Dailies 7,001 to 99,999
Division 3 Dailies 7,000 or Less
Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More
Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less
Division 6 Large Weeklies
Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies
Division 8 Medium Weeklies
Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies
Division 10 Small Weeklies

Column Writing

Division 2 Large Dailies

1. Amarillo Globe-News — by Jon Mark Beilue “A face full of joy: To a stranger, 12 years later, he mattered” Excellent moving column. Beilue’s writing style and storytelling ability draws the reader in and holds them captive to the last word. “Panhandler for a day: Time spent on street humbling, eye-opening” Hilarious and insightful. Great breakout.

2. Amarillo Globe-News — by Lance Lahnert. “A mother-son love story: Family shares emotional story of life and death” Lahnert does an excellent job of telling this tragic yet heartwarming tale of this mother/son relationship not your typical sports column. “Panthers give all for coach” Great read.

3. The Beaumont Enterprise — by Jane McBride. “Community’s kindness helps Beaulieu’s family deal with tough times” McBride is able to convey eloquently the outpouring of a community touched by a young woman’s death. “Daughter and father understand value of family” A unique look at a unique relationship. McBride’s writing style allows readers to ‘feel’ that special connection.

4. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — by Michael Duff. “Be wary of any offer that sounds too good to be true, monkeys included” An entertaining but informative read. “DefCon hackers teach a ‘Dateline’ reporter just how deep the deep end is” Duff has a quirky writing style that elicits laughs from readers while delivering a serious agenda. Good job.

Division 3 Small Dailies

1. The River Cities Daily Tribune, Marble Falls — by Seth Green. “What we leave behind” Interesting topic. A creative way to write about a familiar topic. “Two for the ‘prize’ of one” Brave column and funny. Left me a little depressed though — journalists are so cynical!

2. Daily Commercial Record, Dallas — by John G. Browning. “Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s bringing a lawyer” Creative column! Went on a little long though. “Every rose has its legal thorns” Interesting topic. I like how you explained legal cases in terms everyone can understand.

3. The River Cities Daily Tribune, Marble Falls — by Daniel Clifton. “The value of stories and storytelling” I loved this topic, but it took too long to get into it. The lead was a bit generic. “One witchy woman and the witch warranty” A creative, cute approach.

4. Vernon Daily Record by Joyce Ann Ashley. “Memories resurface in funny ways” I like the way you brought the close back to the lead. “Sometimes worth hard to recognize” Took a familiar subject and turned it around. Well done!

Division 4 Large Semiweeklies

1. Hood County News — by Roger Enlow. “Father of the bride” and “Sorry, doctor’s orders” The strong writing and cohesiveness sets this columnist’s works apart from the others. I enjoyed reading these and admired the craft.

2. Round Rock Leader — by Jon Garrett. “I’m a man I’m not a kid, call me” and “Columnist experiences ’roid rage — Garrett: Steroid testing in public school is idiotic” This was a very close second. This writer has a strong compelling voice.

3. The Bay City Tribune — by Shelly Gormey. “Renaissance Festival attractions reveal junior high boys’ interests” and “Graduation: When moms reach status of ‘officially’ old” These themes express universal themes well.

4. Uvalde Leader-News — by Craig Garnett. “This mother may be hard to locate on her special day” and “Old dog’s final journey painless and stylish, too” These columns offer a real sense of place and the people. These are at their strongest when not bogged down with too many details.

Division 5 Small Semiweeklies

1. Lampasas Dispatch Record — by Jeremy Heath. “Let’s try the glass-half-full approach this week” and “If Hill Country’s all right by Daily, it’s all right by me, too” Nice job. An easy read.

2. The Wimberley View — by Dan Kleiner. “Day of prayer brings back that lovin’ feeling” and “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found my crusade” Solid column, very straight forward.

3. The Highlander, Marble Falls — by Nick Talbot. Manzano’s Olympic aspirations” Nice description of Manzano’s youth. “Nick 1, cancer 0 — the battle of a lifetime” Nice view of figures to hammer home the point of a very personal battle.

4. The Sealy News — by Mike Eddleman. “The things I hope for you” Very heartfelt, honest. “Time to take responsibility for all the independence” Nice work, makes a good and personal argument.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Houston Business Journal — by Bill Schadewald. “Skeptical readers can take sensational test” Well-written and compelling approach to topics that are uncomfortably embarrassing to probably a few folks. Yet the commentary takes a “here’s the problem as I see it — here’s the solution as I see it — take it or leave it.” Very snappy writing. “New movie bill features scary short subject” Quick wit and sharp assessment of a situation that is local, but hints at more typical to most places that would become a must-read for me.

2. The Rockdale Reporter — by Mike Brown. “I watched the class of 2007 closer than most” Well-written and familiar. I related because there was no names used so I could put myself into his place and connected to the writer. “Cancer statistics are faces, not numbers” What a great approach to dealing with a topic we all try to discuss at one time or another in our columns.

3. Mansfield News-Mirror — by Brian Hernalsteen. “Gotta love a great rivalry” Very compelling and engaging lead on this one: a confirmed I-hate-sport girl like me never gets beyond the first sports column paragraph. I read this to the end. Good job. “Sharing the black and blue” Every sports columnist could take a page from this guy’s playbook, make it readable, funny and engaging and even non-sports readers will stay hooked.

4. Mineola Monitor — by Gary Edwards. “Grandchildren, sleep don’t mix” Quick and snappy and funny. Illustrated perfectly with the use of words. It was like sitting at a bar and hearing him tell it, shaking his head and laughing. Reader engaged and made to feel “in.” “Community comes together” Contrasted nicely with “grandparenting” — this was a written snapshot of home-town pride that drew reader in to feel proud if local, and a bit wistful if not local. Thank you for explaining what happened to the child. So many writers assume reader knows every back history.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. The Community News, Aledo — by Chuck Bloom. “What’s in a name? Plenty of color that’s what” Engaging, witty and well-written. Readers don’t need to be sports fans to delight in this narrative! “FORD tough: Hard as political minority in Texas” Thoughtful and genuine. Points scored in nearly every graph with reasonable arguments … effectively, and with humility, going against the political grain.

2. The Community News, Aledo — by Randy Keck. “Worth keeping” Topical narrative written with engaging memories. Readers are gently pulled through the story, which concludes with a common sentiment of many who deal with Alzheimer’s and other debilitating disease. “Community put to the test” Compelling conversation with the community. This is a column more newspapers should duplicate as underage drinking is a nationwide problem that too many shrug off. Excellent!

3. Leader News, Lytle — by Wanda Yost. “Meaning of words depends on who’s talking” and "Remember cold weather?” What may seem trivial to outsiders is truly the reflection of the community. These columns are a cross between Garrison Kellar-like lists of local personals and essential information local readers want. We don’t see this much in columns anymore. Exceptional writing — the must-have read of the week for readers, no doubt!

4. The Countywide, Karnes City— by Cletus Bianchi. “For the birds” Even readers who are not outdoor enthusiasts must be fans of these columns. The personality of the writer shines through a somewhat humorous and sometimes self-effacing narrative. “Chicks dig me” Story-telling with a purpose. Cleverly written, entertaining.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. Bandera County Courier — by Mikie Baker. “Dearly demented mom” Stunning personal narrative; well-written with genuine insider experience. Great technique to write “mom’s” take on popular issues. This one hits home for many. “Over technology hill” Your writing style carries this column. Universal truths are examined with humor and complete understanding.

2. The Springtown Epigraph — by Mark Campbell. “Funeral for a friend or love lies leaking” Engaging writing style connects with readers of all sort, not just sports fans or outdoor enthusiasts. Funny and informative. “Answering the (electronic) call of the wild” Entertaining! Again the writing is hard to resist, very reader-friendly.

3. Rockwall County News — by Kent Miller. “Real men don’t lie or cheat and they certainly don’t abuse” Thoughtful commentary on topical issues. Points are made without preachy-like narrative. Strong writing skills. “Summer’s luster eludes today’s kids” Almost over-written but not quite. Column is relevant to many parents. Again strong writing technique, guiding readers from start to finish. Very nice!

4. The Canadian Record — by Laurie Ezzell Brown. “Proceed with caution” Topical local issues examined in depth. “Journalism questions” Exceptional writing, tighten up a bit, it’s too long for most readers.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. The Clarendon Enterprise — by Roger Estlack. “Legislature should leave Pledge alone” This is a clever and well-written column taking image-minded (rather than issue-minded) politicians to task. The writer’s voice is colored by state pride but also makes a well-reasoned argument. “Dad’s wisdom still holds true” A sweet, personal column that is well-organized and conveys some thoughtful life lessons.

2. Joshua Star — by Daun Eierdam “Thank you for your service” This is a concise and thoughtful column that nicely ties together personal experience, national events and local issues. “Should we bite bullet or take one?” This column takes a bold position for a rural county — proposing a tax hike — but does so in a well-reasoned and locally significant way.

3. Pflugerville Pflag — by Chris Grant. “That old double standard” This column does a nice job of taking a national issue (athletes and performance-enhancing drugs) and giving it state and local meaning and perspective. The writing is sold with some interesting and unexpected metaphors (gladiators and coliseums). Good structure and overall a good column. “Waiting 101” Well-written and funny column about the trials of being a die-hard sports fan. The list was amusing but could have been tightened up some.

4. Van Alstyne Leader — by Jeremy A. Corley. “Learning the ropes of Sin City” This column was quite funny in its observations of the ridiculous details of Las Vegas. It would have read better without the section breaks and with a little more transition and narrative to fill in the spaces between observations. Overall, very good. “Ah, customer service” A very funny column about domestic tribulations. I’m sure readers got a kick out of it. Again, I think it would read better without the breaks and tacked-on extra topics — stick to one (funny) story and see it through.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. The Gazette, Alvord — by David Gregory. “Open letter to Hillary” Sounds like an idea worth thinking more about. Cute twist to the right! “Plaque of locust” Love the references to your youthful misadventures. Lucky for the neighborhood, this only happened every 17 years!

2. The Olton Enterprise — by Phillip L. Hamilton. “Put an end to the feud” Tell ’em, Hamilton. Our elected officials need a less flip attitude about their responsibilities. “It’s fun to watch Mustangs” Good, conversational focus on local events.

3. Wallis News Review — by Michael Griffin. “Listen but don’t hear…” Super reflection on that special mother-child relationship. Good observations. “When the weather…” OK, why struggle? Call the landscaper. A fun column on regular yard battles.

4. Alvarado Star — by Michael Rayburn. “Trustees shouldn’t play politics” Good column asking school board to do their work. “Did you remember to remember?” Nice column for Memorial Day.