2001 Better Newspaper Contest — Feature Story

Division 2, Dailies 7,000 to 99,999
1st. The Beaumont Enterprise — “Africa,” by Shane Graber. Great story. Nice enterprise for an over-worked topic. You draw me in with good but restrained detail and hold me there. Good work. “Small-town dusk,” by Jim McElhatton. Interesting story with solid description. Would like to have known perhaps fewer people better. It all poses the question: How do you make a long story about a dying town riveting all the way through?
2nd. The Galveston County Daily News — Writer Heidi Lutz. “Camping with cancer” Pretty well done with nice description but instead of hearing from the counselors, I wanted to hear from the kids. Really, aren’t they the story? “When Mother’s Day comes early” Very nice story. Strong description that mingled nicely with facts and statistics. This writer has a nice style.
3rd. Odessa American — Writer Sharon Denning. “Gift from the heart,” I liked this story a lot. Dramatically wonderful quotes. I wondered throughout, though, where was the donor in all this? Your lead is strong but misleading. This is really about one man, not two. “Rebuilding his life” Nice, but your need to make me care about this guy before the jump. His art isn’t all that interesting, but the problems that got him to it might be.
4th. Victoria Advocate — “Behind the wheel,” by Lisa Rosetta. The story is a good impulse that could have been handled a bit better. What do these people look like? Do you need all the click, click, click repetition? But nice art for the story and some interesting moments. “A work in progress cut short,” by Jason Collins and Scott Willey. Pretty much gets to it and stays with it, which is good. You give me a sense of how people saw him, which is also good. But is there a deeper story to tell behind the good-kid-goes-bad thing?

Division 3, Dailies Less Than 7,000
1st. Waxahachie Daily Light — Writer Neal White.  “A promise carved in stone” Very nice storytelling on a subject that could be deadly. I especially liked the sense of voice mingling with some very evocative description. Good job. “A home for Christmas” Very strong story. You take a subject that could be overly sweet, make me care about these people, people who for most of us are just a statistic.
2nd. Athens Daily Review — “Faces in the crowd,” by Eric Finley. Great package with interesting page treatment. Very well-written. Good description, nice quotes, fine pacing. My biggest criticism: don’t be so cryptic in your nut graf. I had to read the deck to know what the story was about. “A whole new leash on life,” by Elise Mullinix. Very nice story. You’ve culled a lot of style and character out of what could be a pretty deadly tale. The pacing kept me (reading) to the end. Good job.
3rd. Terrell Tribune — “Ride of their lives,” by Alison Walker and Gayla Baker. Nice job. Stylishly written with a solid sense of character. “Not just one of the guys,” by Gayla Baker. Good storytelling. I like that you set me up to wonder what she was going to wear. But I wonder if the picture doesn’t give away the punchline.
4th. Vernon Daily Record — Writer Joyce Ann Ashley. “Survivors memories” Strong way to lead into the reunion. It makes me care about the event because Ashley has drawn a tangible picture of this man. “Korean War” Nice story that could have been better by starting with some more vivid scene setting and by giving us a clearer sense of this man — not just his voice.

Division 4, Semiweeklies 4,001 or +
1st. Williamson County Sun — Writer Babara Nordby. “Baby Alexis makes 100 for Argie Burnson” Straightforward telling of local living history. “WWJD” Inspired writing and delightfully offbeat subject matter backed by strong action visuals and uncluttered layout.
2nd. Hood County News — Writer Kathy Smith. “Taking aim on life” Brings combination of good human interest writing and colorful layout and design together in a nice balance. “A cut above” Good lead and relaxed storytelling style combines with eye-catching photo/layout.
3rd. Cedar Creek Pilot, Gunbarrel — Writer Barbara Gartman. “For the love of Kayla” Quality, compelling writing in both of these pieces. Could have more photos/layout support here. “These folks can talk to the animals” Great color/photo support.
4th. Wise County Messenger — Writer Scott Mahon. “Swap meet weekend” Good color/design layout. Work on writing, build up, organize. Raise intensity. “Whittling away time” Interesting photo support.

Division 5, Semiweeklies 4,000 or -
1st. Quanah Tribune Chief — “Fighting the dragon: Bettina Wade’s cancer survivor story,” by Amy Overby. Nice touch on a person tragedy; victim was very forthcoming in talking about it. “Western swing with a big band sound,” by Carol Ann Whitmire. Perhaps a bit winded, but well-written.
2nd. San Benito News — Writer Ray Quiroga. “The power of education” Interesting story, great “rags to riches” type local story. (p.s. I think it’s ‘Cesar’ Chavez.) “She’s a real life-saver” Good story would have been timelier when the accident occurred, considering her role.
3rd. Gonzales Inquirer — Writer Charles Wood. “Youths learn life lessons from golf” Short and to the point. Could use kids’ comments! “Circus performers remember days in Gonzales” Nice piece of history presented, well-written.
4th. Lamesa Press-Reporter — “From prisoner to preacher,” by Lynn Beck. Could use anecdotes on why he went bad as a teen-ager, what he was incarcerated for. Change the names and we’ve all read these stories. Story rambles too. “We must never, ever forget,” by Russell Skiles. “Schlinder’s List” opens in Lamesa story — Story, I think, would be timelier on an anniversary of WWII’s end, or a new Anne Frank exhibit, or Holocaust-related date. Why was she talking to eighth-graders — by invitation, etc? Nice incorporation of historic photos.

Division 6, Weeklies 3,001 or More
1. The Mountain Sun, Kerrville — Writer Bonnie Arnold. “Honduran homes rebuilt with Kerrville aid” Great! An international story with a local angle, plus the bonus of discovering that church contributions do work. This is what community-conscious papers should print. “Ladies of baseball played for love of the game” This subject matter always makes for good stories, and Bonnie Arnold has captured many. Excellent piece!
2nd. The Navasota Examiner — Writer Tom Turner. “Unconventional justice comes to Grimes County occasionally” Great! Interesting character, classic finish to the article. “To love and to cherish” A sad, but very nice story.
3rd. Port Aransas South Jetty — Writer Camilo Ruggero. “Amateur hermit ridge carves out Island life” Nicely done! A relevant look at a still-relevant artist from the formerly “nascent Texas art scene.” Who would have thought? (kidding) “Island cowboy Randy Gartman is lone rider” An excellently put-together profile of a unique individual. Great!!
4th. Hill Country Recorder, Boerne — Writer Newton E. Renfro. “From the Hill Country to Hollywood ... and back” Wow. Interesting story of a Hollywood odd-jobs man. “Critters in crisis” I’d have liked to see the second two parts in this extensive and thorough piece.

Division 7, Weeklies 2,001 to 3,000
1st. Duncanville Today — “Emily’s garden,” by Kristi Crooks. Well-written. Good sense of style. The “Emily’s garden” logo was too dark. Good layout but the “People” logo at the top is too big. Nice use of white space. Nice use of pull quote. “Ben M. Farley,” by Robin Gooch. Great job of telling Ben’s story. Good clean style that uses detail to paint a picture. Fine descriptive writing. It is easy be maudlin in a story like this, but the writer uses restraint. Well done! Photos very good.
2nd. Pilot Point Post Signal — Writer Richard Greene. “Man on a mission” Well-written, good style. “Cattle-lac style” I love these type of stories! Writer did nice job of exploring this wacked-out vehicle and the guys who bolted it all together. Says Texas to me!! Wish I could get a ride in it! Writer shows fine sense of detail and style.
3rd. The Farmersville Times — “fishing at Lake Lavon can be ‘reel’ adventure,” by Kathleen Noble. Well-written. Informative with interesting sidebar. “Peter’s prairie land offers glimpse into native wildlife,” by Brandi Price. Fine, fine writing. Nice lead. Really captures the experience. Writer has keen eye for detail and capturing spirit of a place.
4th. Elgin Courier — Writer Patty Finney. “We spoke only Swedish” Well-written. Interesting to read about early Texas and Swedish immigrants. “This July marks 224 years of Independence...” The stories of WWII and Korea vets are so important to tell right now and this does a fine job of it. Nice eye for detail. Fascinating information.

Division 8, Weeklies 1,201 to 2,000
1st. The Winters Enterprise — “Jacksons win $21 million!” by Jean Boles. Fun story! glad you let the winners’ character come through. “Not your average WHS graduate,” by Deb Pritchard. Definitely the “feel good story of the year.” Well done.
2nd. Benbrook Star — Writer LynDee Stephens. “Soaring through the skies” Interesting story and very well-written. “Living Life” Same as above. Good use of photos.
3rd. Jefferson Jimplecute — Writer Vic Parker. “A closing door opened a window of opportunity” Nice profile of an alluring subject. I’m grateful our shoed her humanity as well as her beauty. “They saw us and they bombed us” Letting Brantley tell her story in her own words made this story very interesting. It flows well and really gives a fell for the subject/.Nice job!
4th. The Clarendon Enterprise — “She’s no typical American,” by Lindy Helms. A genuinely interesting and well-written story with great layout. “The loving legacy of A teacher and a friend,” by Valerie Avery. Again, creative layout and page design, but this one was a bit too long to hold interest.

Division 9, Weeklies 1,200 or Less
1st. Alvarado Star — Writer Lisa Urban. “Leonard Rojan describes death row” Outstanding subject; really gives the reader a sense of what it is like on death row. I liked how early on we know what he’s in for. A riveting story. Excellent quotes. Great selection of interview subject. Only criticism: ended like a news story, not a feature. Layout was unimaginative. Good headline, good lead. Overall very impressive. “What dreams may come for one Alvarado native” I found this to be inferior to the death row story. This is a sports article, not really a feature. Standard journalism in terms of use of quotes, etc. Good quality. Lisa is a talented writer. Suggest choose more topics like political, important, etc.
2nd. Keene Star — Writer Paul Gnadt. “Oklahoma City memorial evokes emotions” Very nice choice of subject matter, moving. Great description of the memorial. Well-written, obviously fluent. Observant to interesting details, i.e., tone of “keep off grass” signs. Excellent article. What kept it from winning first place was the inappropriate and jarring paragraph 6 - details of “if you go” in the middle of the article. Better to have put such logistical info at the end. Otherwise excellent. Layout: Average design, great photo, so-so header, good lead.
3rd. The International — “Tour of shafter facility reveals the history and changing face of mining,” by Robert Halpren. The best part of this story is the subject. Bit it didn’t deliver as much as it could. Nice photo. I liked the “you are there” lead but no the use of “we” as the first word. So-so header. Didn’t like the change of tense from first to second paragraph. Too many unnecessary uses of “he explains,” “he adds.” Average writing. Some comma usage problems. The theme is its strength. Mining’s impact on a community. Colorful topic. “You say tomato,” by Jacob Silverstein. Excellent photo. Amazing height. Not a bad lead. Reads more like a news story than a feature. Important topic in terms of water conservation and pesticide use. Very interesting content. Average writing. But I really liked this article for what I learned.
4th. The Freer Press — “Lack of rain brings hardships to farmers,” by Nicole Perez and Pete Garcia. Layout: good photo, good headline, nice to see pull-quote, good content too. Decent lead. Style is straight news, not really feature. Kind of short to be a feature, more of a news article on the drought. Good quality, straight-up standard journalism. “Desire, dedication and discipline,” by Michael Perez. not a bad layout. Error in pull quote (‘aint rather than ain’t). Photo caption: “Holy Bible” is not standard AP style. Content appraisal: although writing is good, the point of view of the writer is a bit troubling. Supports fascist prison model, approves of “buzz cuts.” No sympathy for inmate. Sides with “the system.”