2012 Texas Better Newspaper Contest - Column Writing
Monday, 18 June 2012 21:33

Division 2
Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. Corpus Christi Caller-Times: “End of paddle” by Tom Whitehurst Jr. – This strongly makes its case against excessive punishment. I feel for the school official’s children, as well. “Political” by Tom Whitehurst Jr. – Not as personal as the other column, but interesting.

2. The Galveston County Daily News: “A debt of gratitude” by Heber Taylor – I love the kind of stories/columns that exemplify what is special about some journalists. This falls into that category. “Notion” by Heber Taylor – Brave stand – One more of us should be taking up.

3. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: “Half-dugout” by Ray Westbrook – Both remembrances well told in a way that doesn’t make the stories feel dated or make me feel old. “Don Garnett” by Ray Westbrook – Ironic that both columns begin with: “When - - was 12…”

4. Midland Reporter-Telegram: “Goin’ to hell” by Shanna Sissom – Nice job capturing the end of a long dry spell. “Bin Laden” by Shanna Sissom – I didn’t connect as personally with this one as with the drought-ending rain column.


Division 3
Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. Greenville Herald-Banner: “Life of dignity” by Carol Ferguson – Glad you were able to share this man’s story. “Two days” – I learned something new here!

2. Taylor Daily Press: “Zodiac” by Mike Eddleman – Nice tongue-in-cheek piece. “Newspaper” by Mike Eddleman – Never let the public take what we do for granted.

3. Athens Daily Review: “Close to home” by Rich Flowers – The subject of too few brain cells does hit close to home for many of us. “Memories” by Rich Flowers – You had me at Mr. Magoo.

4. Athens Daily Review: “Closure” by Jeff Riggs – Good subject, but didn’t quite connect as personally as it might have. “Homecoming queen” by Jeff Riggs – This one established a more personal connection.

Division 4
Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Hood County News, Granbury: “God” by Kathy Cruz – Clever handling of a politically sensitive topic. “Class of 2011” by Kathy Cruz – Good advice dispensed with humor.

2. Beeville Bee-Picayune: “Assimilation” by Bill Clough – No comments. “Mares’ tails” by Bill Clough – Shocker at end of column.

3. Levelland & Hockley County News-Press: “Marfa” by Stephen Henry – No comments. “Keys” by Stephen Henry – No comments.

4. Boerne Star: “Spanking” by Elena Tucker – Sensitive handling of topic that never disappears – to spank or not to spank.


Division 5
Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. Round Rock Leader: “The truth, elusive” by Brad Stutzman – Finally, personal columns about something (other than the writer). Easily the best in category. Excellent piece of journalism coupled with poignant commentary. “The only question” by Brad Stutzman – Obviously an editor that is in touch with the beats the newspaper covers.

2. Moore County News-Press, Dumas: “…Honor a hero” by Michael Wright – Nice treatment of a happening of local significance and nice to read a columnist who writes about something other than himself. “Mission accomplished” by Michael Wright – Prefer local subject matter, but well written.

3. Round Rock Leader: “Time for Armstrong” by Jon Garrett – Difficult for sports column to place in this category, but quality writing that is not self-absorbed. Would prefer local subject matter. “All Penn State” by Jon Garrett – Nice approach.

4. The Perryton Herald: “We told you so” by Jim Hudson – Great job of writing about relevant issues rather than personal meanderings. “Long weekend” by Jim Hudson – Not as strong as other entry.


Division 6
Large Weeklies

1. The Azle News: “Chronicling one life” by Mark K. Campbell – Clear winner in this category (both columns). Great sense of humor and essay style. “Highway” by Mark K. Campbell – Beautiful. So sad. So well done. Can’t believe you ever had a career in anything but writing.

2. The Rockdale Reporter: “Traffic ticket” by Bill Martin – Nice sense of humor, essay writing style. “Fathers’ Day” by Bill Martin – Poignant but funny.

3. Citizens’ Advocate, Coppell: “Baseball” by Jean Murph – I worry when you have to announce in the lead that your subject is tongue-in-cheek. It should speak for itself. “Stripping” by Jean Murph – Hilarious lede on this one.

4. The Wylie News: “Electronics” by Judy Truesdell – Nice role-reversal piece. “See better” by Judy Truesdell – Made me smile. I always liked seeing Christmas lights with my “blurry” eyes.


Division 7
Medium-Large Weeklies

1. Hays Free Press, Kyle: “Attack of the Tighty Righties” by Brenda Stewart – Good writing, entertaining. I love your fearlessness in putting your thoughts out there. “Religious animal” by Brenda Stewart – See above.

2. Frio-Nueces Current, Pearsall: “Make quiche” by Marc Robertson – A very close second place here. Hard to decide between it and the first-place winner. Loved the “guy”, tenderness of this column. “Bendy bits”  by Marc Robertson – Fun subject for anyone who has tackled DIY plumbing  -- and those who haven’t.

3. Hays Free Press, Kyle: “Pool” by Clint Younts – Best sense of humor in the bunch! “Summertime” by Clint Younts – No comments.

4. Lake Travis View, Lakeway: “On the move” by Charles McClure – Nice way to personalize the trials of the biz. “Thermerstrock” by Charles McClure – A little harder for me to connect to…may be a regional thing.


Division 8
Medium Weeklies

1. The Springtown Epigraph: “Jump off the train” by Bob Buckel – No comments. “The Web” by Bob Buckel – No comments.

2. Meridian Tribune: “The Hunter Within” by Brett Voss – Nicely descriptive and excellent defense of hunting. “Using our head” by Brett Voss – Well-researched piece about an issue that athletes and parents still don’t take seriously.

3. Glen Rose Reporter: “Correction” by Kathryn Jones – A very transparent, candid look at a newspaper’s editorial side. Lots of anecdotes that were telling and excuses offered. “Jack Kilby” by Kathryn Jones – Great piece about a cutting-edge guy told at a time when all attention is on Jobs. Great timing for a really good read, giving Kilby his due.

4. Refugio County Press: “LZ Joe” by Kenda Nelson – Good topic and heartfelt, but more observation instead of quotes would have made it better. “Painful farewell” by Kenda Nelson – A great, albeit sad story about a beloved dog, two cuts above the typical pet column.


Division 9
Small-Medium Weeklies

1. Deport Times-Blossom Times: “Hubby” by Cindy Baker Burnett – Very descriptive and great use of language. Very carefully written and shows she paid close attention (even if not good for hubby). “Mama a work of art” by Cindy Baker Burnett – Her columns read “quickly” – very smooth, humorous and poignant. Nice touch.

2. Muleshoe Journal: “Tell-tale cup” by Larry Thornton – The Edgar Allan Poe reference perfect for this “mystery”. Says a lot in a few words. “Pastry Party” by Larry Thornton – Great sense of humor.

3. The Albany News: “Alamo Tour” by Kathryn Stapp – Column starts strong and stays pedal-to-the-metal. Great storytelling. “Jesus is coming” by Kathryn Stapp – The best-written retrospective on Camping’s misfire I have read. Funny and original, and I love the headline.

4. DeLeon Free Press: “I have a dog” by Jon Awbrey – Personal columns about dogs are a dime a dozen, but this one truly was funny. No punches pulled in telling about this dog does. “Texas Independence” by Jon Awbrey – Very informed, well-researched (and deserved) take on Texas Monthly’s PC take on a state history. Refreshing.



Division 10
Small Weeklies

1. Pflugerville Pflag: “Thanksgiving” by Brad Stutzman – One of the best personal columns I have read in years, regardless of newspaper division. A wonderful, revealing look at decades of family get-togethers. Very effectively written. “Louie” by Brad Stutzman – A powerful endorsement of old-school work ethic that hammers the point home with plenty of humor that is fresh and original.

2. Anna-Melissa Tribune: “First 5 decades” by Rodney Hays – Hays takes a fairly common theme – aging as it relates to health – and makes it fresh, funny and cautionary all at once. He makes both “good” and “bad” sound true. “Gabardine” by Rodney Hays – Now I know what “gabardine” is thanks to this undeniably manly yet insightful look at fashion. My wife keeps suggesting I consider buying some clothes at a thrift store, and now Hays has talked me into it.

3. The Bay Area Citizen, Houston: “It’s beer” by Dana Guthrie – Guthrie takes a niche industry and makes a terrific opinion piece about it, offering a nifty by-the-numbers examination of how state laws work when it comes to minutiae.  “TCEQ” by Dana Guthrie – I am not an environmentalist per se, but Guthrie makes a compelling, well-researched case for citizens to know what the heck is going on with their water supply and usage.

4. The Liberty Hill Independent: “Girlfriend Day” by Renee Morgan – Before I started reading this, my first thought was “Great, a column about food. ZZZZ…” Instead, I got a delightful, anecdotal and fun look at what turned out to be a day not to be forgotten. Felt like I was there with her and her pal. “Meal good to go” by Renee Morgan – What a great way to offer another take on scouting and outdoor cooking. Morgan is funny in her own original way and I love her ability to improvise when it comes to food prep. Yes, this is a food column by a food expert, but it’s really a column more about people than what we eat.