2011 Texas Better Newspaper Contest - News Writing
Monday, 20 June 2011 12:59

Division 2
Dailies 7,000 to 99,999
1. Beaumont Enterprise, “Tape tells all” by Amy Moore and “A sinister echo” by Amy Moore and Beth Rankin: No comment.
2. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, “Bright lights, big debate in city” and “City shelter euthanized illegally” by Elliott Blackburn: No comment.
3. The Galveston County News, Galveston, “Similac recall” and “22 cars derail” by Chris Paschenko: No comment.
4. New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, “’So bizarre’” by Greg Bowen and “CEO got $1 million payment” by Chris Cobb: No Comment.

Division 3
Dailies Less Than 7,000
1. Henderson Daily News, “SE Rusk County residents report multiple area crimes” by Matthew Prosser: Well researched. “Lawsuit alleges Martin Lake power plant pollution violations” by Matthew Prosser: Clean, concise, balanced.
2. Taylor Daily Press, “Taylor stunned by TC decision” by Mike Eddleman: Interesting story, well told, about higher education facility dispute.
3. Mineral Wells Index, “Ex-jailer turned jailee” by Christin Coyne: Great research and well written. “Putting Salvador to rest” by Christin Coyne: Heartbreaking, but not manipulative. A real pro at work.
4. San Marcos Daily Record, “SMART team saves life of trapped river kayaker” by Anita Miller: Great writing and a good story to tell. “Swarmed” by Anita Miller: Good coverage of terrifying story and the good news aftermath.

Division 4
Semiweeklies 4,001 or More
1. The Williamson County Sun, Georgetown, “Fatal flight began at Georgetown airport” by Esther Robards-Forbes: Top-notch coverage of a story with an endless stream of sources. You put them together expertly here, starting with a solid lead and well-researched narrative. “Hermine hits city hardest” by Rachel Slade and Jamaal E. O’Neal: Same as above. Great lead, compelling stories, well researched. Kudos.
2. The Highlander, Marble Falls, “Divisive issue” by Miles Smith: Nice work. Well researched, well explained, sorted and mapped out well with plenty of voices for balance and the numbers box is a bonus.
3. The Boerne Star, “Inquest hearing” by Dave Pasley: Solid background work, compelling story. Well researched and good use of quotes. Explanation of what an inquest hearing is should be moved up, but it’s a small point. Well done. “Police cooperation” by Dave Pasley: Another strong thoroughly researched piece. It’s clear you have an eye for detail. One suggestion: for these 35-inch-plus stories, use subheads inside story or break them up a bit. Helps readers get through the story. Excellent.
4. El Campo Leader-News, “Cotton, soy farmers” by Brenda Sommer: Important story for the region, but only one source/voice here? I’m sure it’s affecting more farmers. Needed more here. “Fireman’s widow” by Barry Halvorson and Shannon Crabtree: Perhaps the strongest story in the whole bunch, but a great job sorting through it all. Well researched with few stones left unturned. Wow!

Division 5
Semiweeklies Less Than 4,000
1. Copperas Cove Leader Press, “Email sparks controversy” by Jennifer Holden: Fun turn of a story that at first glance looks innocuous. Nice work to play up more than two sides. Nice job. “Phone book Fracas” by Tim Orwig: Nice lead, fun first quote, enterprising story. Well done.
2. Kilgore News Herald, “Arson suspects arrested” by J. Louise Larson: Solid piece of reporting here. Like a lot of these kinds of stories, though, it feels like a lot of back-slapping and hand-shaking, and little news. “Lawsuit” by James Draper: Well-written piece here. It gets the nuts and bolts up front and follows with appropriate balance, then delves deeper. Even though one side is willing to talk, it feels fair and yet gives clarity and voice to what’s going on. Well done.
3. Lampasas Dispatch Record, “Truck strikes bridge” by Jim Lowe: Solid, straight lead. The whole story, however, is a police report. It feels like Trooper Washko wrote this, not the reporter. Not a single quote beyond the report seems to be here. Good follow of a big event though. “Boater arrested” by David Lowe: Solid lead. Nice. Solid work here on what I imagine is the talk of the town. Would have liked to see more information about the victim, but you may have covered that in a previous story. Consequences of being convicted should be up higher in story.
4. The Mexia News, “Lockdown at Sims” by Michael Dillin: Solid story with pertinent details. “Breaking the silence” by Michael Dillin: Compelling. For a straight news story, I’d indicate who the “Moon brothers” are closer to the lead; they are called “Moon brothers” in the third graph, then named in the ninth. First person kind of works here. Feels like this should be in Features category a little, but very compelling.

Division 6
Large Weeklies
1. Port Aransas South Jetty, “Bullies, be gone” by Dan Parker: Good lead, thorough examination fo subject, well-timed localization of national story and plenty of voices. Nice work. “Shooting death” by Dan Parker and Phil Reynolds: Well done with the delayed lead. Solid construction of timeline inside the story, with good quotes following the essentials. Nice job.
2. The Silsbee Bee, “Lumberton PD arrests” by Gerry Dickert: Interesting story with a nice, delayed lead. A solid piece. “That’s McNasty” by Gerry Dickert: Great headline, solid delayed lead and nice way of finding the impact on readers.
3. Hays Free Press, Kyle/Buda, “Chatleff sends jobs south” by Jen Biundo: Solid lead, well-covered piece about the loss of a hometown business. Nice tie-in of U.S. statistics at the end. “Child dies” by Sean Kimmons: Would have liked to see a quote moved up here, but otherwise a solid piece of reporting with good information about home daycares to give perspective. Nice use of quotes and quite balanced.
4. Park Cities People, Dallas, “Club events” by Josh Hixson and Dan Koller: Well done, taking a strong look at a single incident with several players involved. Good to look beyond the facts - a 15-year-old with alcohol leve of 0.40 - and putting it in perspective (10-11 drinks). Nice.

Division 7
Medium-Large Weeklies
1. The River Cities Sunday Tribune, Marble Falls, “Devoe from death row” by Thomas Edwards: Compelling story, well researched, shows all sides. “Judge sentences” by Daniel Clifton: Great info. Solid story.
2. Freestone County Times, Fairfield, “Sexual assualts” by Mary McDonald: Good take on court story. A bit too much personal feeling from reporter. “Masked burglars” by Nora Carroll: Interesting story on what may have ended up just another part of police log.
3. The Big Bend Sentinel, Marfa, “Mexico’s violence creeps close” by David Rigoberto, Reynoso Atayde and Sterry Butcher: Compelling, lacks singular voice and style. “After second Marfa” by Sterry Butcher: Great story on how smaller communities tend to live and let live.
4. No Award Presented.

Division 8
Medium Weeklies
1. The Springtown Epigraph, “‘Spy pen’” by Edwin Newton: Good news reporting, great use of quotes. “Group protests” by Carolea Hassard: Solid well done story of a boring, boring subject.
2. The Canadian Record, “Home sweet slum” by Laurie Ezzell Brown: Good story. Seems more like a feature. “Report from Haiti” by Laurie Ezzell Brown: Ditto.
3. The Ellis County Press, Ferris, “Local biz” by Megan Gray: Good reporting of local day-to-day news. “District 4” by Megan Gray: I guess local government officials are just as crazy in Texas as in Washington.
4. Lake Country Sun, Graford, “Boy, 9” by Mark Engebretson: Wow, good job handling a touchy subject. “Over 100” by Mark Engebretson: The other story made up for the failings of this one.

Division 9
Small-Medium Weeklies
1. West Kerr Current, Ingram, “Besieged county budge nears vote” by Irene Van Winkle: Very good lead! Sense of urgency to story. Thought jump was unusual, but that’s not writer’s fault. Would have liked to have seen direct quote sooner in story. “Rescues” by Irene Van Winkle: Good narrative and storytelling. Direct quote was eight paragraphs deep into story. Very thorough account of event.
2. The Ozona Stockman, “Judge rules in favor of county” by Melissa Perner: Missed which district the judge was from, but otherwise, solid story and reporting effort. “Ozona citizens file federal lawsuit” by Melissa Perner: Very good story. Very thorough job in explaining the issue of the lawsuit. Good quotes and use of sources.
3. The Albany News, “City, VFD, work through conflict” by Melinda Lucas: Good story but lead could have been clarified. Source of conflict was not fully explained until later in story. Good quotes. “TAKS tampering results” by Melinda Lucas: Another good story. Still had to read deep into the story.
4. The Farmersville Times, “No raises for city employees” by Wyndi Veigel: Direct quote is seven paragraphs in. Should be sooner. Otherwise, solid reporting. “Citizens show support for dismissed librarian” by Wyndi Veigel: Interesting story with good quotes.


Division 10
Small Weeklies
1. The International, Presidio, “Border partrol” by Tom Haines: Well done. Captivating reading for those of us that don’t live along the border. A great service to those folks, your readers, that do.”Shipping season” by Tom Haines: Colorful storytelling, good padding and great quotes. Another great service to your readers.
2. Pflugerville Pflag, “Plane crash” by James Rincon: Wonderful job of finding a local thread to tell a larger story. “Anthony Graves” by James Rincon: Fascinating story that can’t help but grab hold of readers and not let go. Ripe for multiple follow-ups!
3. The Big Sandy & Hawkins Journal, “Senator visit” by Seria Dassing: Great lead. Writing helped hold readers’ attention to an otherwise routine visit by a politician. “Truck overturns” by Seria Dassing: Another great lead that brings the reader into the story and keeps him or her reading until the end.
4. Keene Star, “Wayne Tomblinson” by Paul Gnadt: Nice tribute story. Solid writing. “Huguley considers a partner” by Paul Gnadt: Great lead! Nice job of explaining an important issue for readers.