2008 Better Newspaper Contest — Feature Story


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

Feature Story

Division 2 Large Dailies

1. Odessa American — by F. A. Krift. “The heart of Valentine: High school football returns to West Texas town after 41 years” Quality writing drew me through the story. Excellent treatment of this story opportunity. Presentation appropriate for story. “A mother’s burden: Kermit teen overcomes challenges to top her class” The writer has a gift for making the most of this subject matter. Very descriptive. Clever choice of words and presentation within the story. Only entry where both stories blew me away.

2. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — “Unbreakable: Wounded soldier recovering after harrowing experience in Iraq” by Marlena Hartz. Great depth. You made the most with the access this family provided the reporter and photographer. Lots of photos and extras. “‘Reclaiming the Beauty of the Battlefield’ Photos show soft context with which time has framed the violence of World War II” by Ray Westbrook. Quality writing. Nice presentation. Lots of extra info. Interesting reading.

3. The Beaumont Enterprise — “One pitch: When Jasper’s Jaylon Clotiaux made a cameo appearance in an 18-1 blowout of Lufkin Hudson, fans and family choked back tears” by Christopher Dabe. Touching story. Well done. Presentation not as compelling as competition in this category but writing was excellent. “They didn’t bury the Big Booper” by Ron Franscell. Very interesting subject. Respectful treatment/presentation.

4. Victoria Advocate — “Bad arrest? Victoria case raises questions about justice system” by Tara Bozick. Nice use of timeline, documents, poll for presentation. Interesting read. “Why did she die?” by Sonny Long. Lots of information. Very complete job on reporting. Gave readers their money’s worth on this subject.

Division 3 Small Dailies

1. San Marcos Daily Record — by Jeff Walker. “Together forever: Leroy and Mabel Griepentreg reflect on the trials and triumphs in their 66 years of marriage” Writer does a tremendous job of delivering this sentimental tale of the Gripentregs. Wonderful use of photos and heads, especially the fading letters of the word “forever.” Good planning, writing and layout makes this package stand out. “Warriors of the unknown: Two year trip to Kazakhstan changes the Kings’ lives forever” Very informative feature with solid lead. Any photos of the Russian visitors? That would have added to this story in addition to the photos featured.

2. Mineral Wells Index — “The price of their service: Local servicemen among those who have returned from Iraq fighting to overcome the emotional scars” by Lacie Morrison. Excellent, excellent piece. Writer is able to take an intimate look into the soldiers’ post-deployment lives and deftly illuminates the impact of PTSD. Nice cutout made of soldiers, eye-catching layout. Nice overall job. “Mineral Wells man muscles up for win” by David May. Punchy lead. Well-written, perhaps an action photo versus posed photo could have spoken volumes more?

3. The River Cities Daily Tribune, Marble Falls — “Local skaters craft wish list for new park — Veteran skatepark designer weighs in on MFalls project” by Chris Porter. This package has a lot going for it: great story content and writing style; eye-catching and interesting photos (especially the cut out) nice use of breakouts for those not familiar with sport. “Western Swing Hall of Famer still loves music — Buddy Ferguson basks in glory after nearly five decades as a professional guitar sideman” by Raymond V. Whelan. Writer has an engaging writing style. Would have loved to have seen an action photo versus posed.

4. Brownwood Bulletin — by Candace Cooksey Fulton. “Takin’ Cover: The cowboy hat is good-lookin’, darned useful, and the stuff of legend” Great lead pulls reader right into story. Entertaining writing style keeps readers engaged throughout. Nice layout and photos. Who knew hats were so interesting? Nice job. “U.S. veterans honored at Wall’s opening ceremony” Writer deftly weaves the memories of the event’s attendees, providing a great impact element. Subhead quote a nice touch.

Division 4 Large Semiweeklies

1. Round Rock Leader — “Jarrell remembers: A decade ago, tiny Williamson town was devastated” by Brad Stutzman. Maybe because I’m from tornado-strickened area, but this made for good reading. “Last letter home: Newsweek publishes Westwood grad’s final letter home” by Marcial Guajardo. Poignant.

2. Polk County Enterprise — by Valerie Reddell. “We will not forget: Livingston soldier recalls Iraq combat experiences” Veterans — always a good subject. “Heart transplant offers new lease on life” Nice way to tie the three lives together.

3. Uvalde Leader-News — “Longtime sheriff Kelley recalls fighting the bad guys unarmed — Served as driver for General Patton in WWII” by Margaret Palermo. Interesting reading. “Valedictory streak runs in family” by Andrea Gonzalez. Makes one wonder how competitive they truly are.

4. Fayette County Record — “Father Christmas coming to Winedale on Sunday — Frontier style holiday didn’t include iPods” by H.H. Howze. Good tale. “Life, Love and Monica’s gazebo” by Larry Jackson. A story with heart. Well documented.

Division 5 Small Semiweeklies

1. Lampasas Dispatch Record — by David Lowe. “Chaplain uses horse curriculum in retreats for military families” and “Storm brews over wind turbine plan” Both of these stories were in-depth and fully developed with good visual appeal.

2. The Highlander, Marble Falls — by Melissa Kanz. “‘Bizarre dream’ rearranges life” Particularly good details in this story convey the loss in the flood. “Mother’s Day means family — Her faith has built strong ties”

3. The Light & Champion, Center — “D.V.: Victims need a way out — Women need support from family, friends to find a better life” by John Krueger. Both stories show initiative and offer a glimpse into the human subject. “A very special mother: Parenting is trial and error, but Murphy never feels alone” by David Danley. The oval photo could have been positioned better so that the text is not broken. This became difficult to read.

4. The Monitor, Mabank — by Pearl Cantrell. “Teaching with distinction… Local resident teaches medical transcript to the disabled on the Internet” Both stories were interesting. “Morse quads to graduate” I wondered how the parents would plan that graduation party — whew.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Hays Free Press, Kyle — by Jen Biundo. “King Cotton: Family enjoys bumper crop on local land” Great headline and spacing the article in sections with subheads. Writing created imagery of working cotton fields with balanced photos. I especially loved the up close shot of the cotton bud and the photo with use of shadow. Great job! “Club 21: Legendary Uhland honky tonk changes hands” The writer grabbed the reader’s attention immediately with a question and continued with having background of the history of Club 21. The use of photos complemented the stylized writing.

2. Port Aransas South Jetty — “Cat coverage: Kitty cries for equal space” by Trixie Trout (Dan Parker.) The on the job viewpoint from Trixie Trout was unique, creative, and attention-grabbing. The use of photos/layout/color were very effective as well. “Channel watchersbid farewell to tall ship” by Phil Reynolds. Again the words painted a picture in my head of the event. The large photo made me want to see more so I loved the layout of 6A with headline. The subhead on each photo was also a great way to reinforce the words of the feature.

3. Mansfield News-Mirror — by Amanda Rogers. “Making memories: Mary Orr students mark fifth-graders life” The opening sentence made me get a sense of who the little boy was to show how special the event was. Great presentation of details through writing and use of photos on the front. “Timeless love: Couple meets, marries in nursing home” The headlines and leads were fantastic to make me as a reader want to keep reading. The content was unique and the large photos balanced the feature.

4. Wylie News — “Family’s tradition a slice of history” by Donnita Nesbit Fisher. For this feature the photo is a great action shot in making of the apple butter. The writing used great background to show me as a reader how this family kept the tradition alive. “Wylie grad brings gift of language, history to Pacific island classrooms” by Judy Truesdell Mecca. The layout on this is powerful, from the colorful palm tree and side photo album, photos pull my eye to the page. I like the font and bottom box as well to give the reader more. The lead was stylized and creative to keep me reading about her experience.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. Westlake Picayune — “Gently down the stream: Carrie Graves has pioneered a new path in the world of rowing” by Laura Hensley. I absolutely loved the lead. It instantly drew me in. And the writer’s description of her subject and attention to detail made it clear she spent a lot of time on this. Great story, great subject and great layout. All around complete package, necessary for first place! “The man with Austin’s plan: Austin, The Live Music Capital of the World and a high-tech success story, owes a debt of gratitude to Lee Cooke” by Dane Anderson.

2. Aransas Pass Progress — by Eloise Martin. “No place to call home” This is a difficult topic to write about. Mainly because the homeless don’t tend to want to call attention to themselves. The author obviously gained the trust of her subject. The story was well-written and the lead was strong. I thought the design/layout was a little lacking, however.  “Bike serves as talking tool.”

3. Cleveland Advocate — by Vanesa Brashier. “Hayes measures up: Former Rocket completes LCSO law enforcement academy” It was a good lead, interesting subject matter and the story was well-written. It held my interest through the end. However with such an interesting piece, it would have been nice to see it packaged better, perhaps not cramming it onto the front page with four other stories. “Wishes do come true: Non-profit group helps send veteran to World War II memorial”

4. Clay County Leader — by Matt Kelton. “Milk cow blues: Liggett Dairy ceases production, marks end of an era for southeast Clay County” The decline of the family farm is something certainly timely and relevant. Good, strong lead. Overall, well-written story. But I get a little overwhelmed in the middle with so much background/history crammed in. I lost interest at little, which is why this is fourth. “’Tis the season… Outreach helps many in Clay County”

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. Refugio County Press — by Kenda Nelson. “Remembering Pete Hughes and his band of brothers — Refugio’s only Congressional Medal of Honor winner” Well-written and compelling story and good ending. “Penny Herring brought Italian flair to Refugio” Very touching story with terrific writing.

2. Hill Country News, Cedar Park — “Show biz dog entertains Giddens Elementary students” by Charles Wood. Well-told story. Nice details in slice-of-life cowboy story. “Local kids may finally get a break — Proposed bill would provide insurance coverage for autistic children” by Amy Fowler. Very compelling story with concrete, real-world example of why this autism bill needs to be passed. Nice to have seen break-out quotes or more photos on the jump.

3. The Springtown Epigraph — by Carolea Hassard. “Lifers: Relay for Life draws hundreds, raises thousands for ACS’ battle against cancer” Catchy lede. “Growin’ up country: Hard work created good memories for the McKay sisters” Interesting slice of life in small town Texas the ‘60s.

4. Cedar Hill Today — “WWII vet ends 60-year plus wait for medals” by Steve Snyder. Interesting story. I would have liked to see more information higher in the story as to why the medals were delayed. Nice details about life but beginning was confusing. “Cedar Hill athlete made of great medal — Thomas sticks up for DeSoto athlete when he falls” by Loyd Brumfield. Emotional story well-crafted and good lead up to the point with Thomas handing over his medal.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. Lake Cities Sun, Lake Dallas — by Marcia Rios. “Double decker bus creates interest” Unique topic and interesting story, held my interest all the way through. Well-written. However the headline is a little lackluster for a main story and the “packaging” could have used a little more flair. Well done overall though. “White shares breast cancer experience” This subject has been done time again but the writer draws you into the story, wanting to know how this particular woman coped with her illness. Again, though frumpy headline almost made me not want to dive in. The story was well-written and made me care, though.

2. The Citizen, Clear Lake — “R2D2 mailbox, stamps land in area” by Chuck Hlava. Great lead, unique opportunity to capture well-written story. My only complaint is that the were a few too many clichés used throughout story. “Pelican roost: Pelican flock needs new feathers” by Dana Burke. Nice lead, neat topic. Well-written. Overall great job.

3. Mart Messenger — by Bill Reynolds. “Ailing child’s family bolstered by broad support” A story on a child’s illness is a fixture in community weeklies, so they have to be done well, and this one was, for the most part. I do not like the font/size used though it made it difficult to read. “Panther ace hurler draws pro interest” Great lead, instantly drew me in and kept my interest throughout, even though I don’t follow sports much. Well done. The packaging was a little dull and overshadowed by large photo above it.

4. Joshua Star — by Daun Eierdam. “Making the world safe” The lead is a little lacking and many stories have been done on local soldiers. So, the story has to be told well and overall, that is accomplished here. But I felt like something personal was missing from the story. “Family mission: Stop slaughter of horses” This story was a little more compelling than the other. I liked it because I’m not sure too many people know about horse slaughter for human consumption! Calls attention to an important matter. However the lead could have used a little more jazz to ensure people would read this all the way through.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. Princeton Herald — by Jennifer Miller. “Sparring for a cause: Princeton man takes love of boxing to community” The lead is a little long but it’s good. I loved the subject and you can tell the author took her time with the details. I wish the photo didn’t seem to be cut off though, you can barely see the trainer — the main subject! “Teacher, veteran lives for students’ ‘light bulb’ moments — Elementary kids need more ‘good men’ to teach, says former Air Force man” I loved the lead. It was interesting reading how the teacher transformed his military skills into being able to teach elementary kids! Great quotes. The subject was captured nicely.

2. Sachse News — by Patty Montagno. “Teens learn fashion industry skills” Great lead, very descriptive. Felt as though I was there. Good use of photos and well-written story. Neat opportunity for students. “It’s ready, set, read at Sachse High” Great initiative to cover. Great use of photo and layout. The lead could be a little more creative perhaps.

3. Alvarado Star — by Michael Rayburn. “Picking up the pieces: After a wicked spring storm destroyed their home, a local family is struggling to rebuild” I liked this story and the lead but I felt overall something was lacking. More detail about how the family survived, some detail about emotions, descriptive language to paint picture better. i.e. I wanted to know more. “Restoring history: Graves of ‘notorious’ outlaws receive headstones” The story was written well but the lead could have been tighter. Good photo, neat topic. Nice community coverage.

4. Freer Press — by Sue Fleming. “From Benavides to World Champion to Las Vegas — Bonnie Palacios” I loved this story but felt it could have been better, i.e. with creative lead and better packaging. Overall well-written and an unusual topic. “‘Life is greatest gift’ de los Santos survived two transplants” A topic like this is covered a lot, which I almost hesitated on but the author delivered the story well. I think a better lead could have been tacked on to what was there.