2005 Better Newspaper Contest — Feature Story


Division 2, Dailies
Division 3, Dailies
Division 4, Semiweeklies
Division 5, Semiweeklies
Division 6, Weeklies
Division 7, Weeklies
Division 8, Weeklies
Division 9, Weeklies
Division 10, Weeklies

Feature Story

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. The Galveston County Daily News - "Over their heads" by Sarah Viren and Carolina Amengual. Excellent writing and reporting on a tough story. You obviously put a lot of thought, compassion and hard work into this. Very nice. "New hope for the tiniest" by Carolina Amengual. This writing is spectacular - great, great job! Wonderful art work too.

2. Kerrville Daily Times - "On the trail of Hill Country Wines" by Liz Kellar. Written in a great familiar tone. Fun to read. The writer knows her stuff and the photos make a nice presentation. "Making Life more Bearable" by Louise Kohl Leahy. So well-written and full of emotion, including the prayer made it solid. Nice job.

3. The Baytown Sun - "Back on track" by Heather L. Nicholson. Nice positive story, descriptive and interesting. Super sidebar. "Baytown's calendar girls" by Keri Mitchell. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. I love it! Great photo but I wish there was one from the calendar. Quotes are hysterical!!! Stories like this are what give a paper character.

4. Beaumont Enterprise - "Requiem for Columbia" by Jacqueline Lane. Touching and emotional. A nice remembrance piece, not too long or overdone. "Glory Day" by Vanessa Everett, Jane McBride and Sarah Moore. Something many people can be proud of. Very fun feature. Excellent job.

Division 3 Dailies Less than 7,000

1. Henderson Daily News - "Boys of Summer '46" by Robin D. Best. Great detail and color. I felt myself in the baseball diamond, reliving the game. Brought us back to '46 right along with Slick. "Serial burglar tells tale of drugs, redemption" by Alexa Duke. The lede got me. Story is well-rounded. Presentation is a bit cluttered for these entries but the writing is good.

2. Waxahachie Daily Light - "The other half of me" by Sandra McIntosh. Good subject matter and detail. Reporter does a nice job finding the unique in what would be a "regular" friendship. "Promise kept" by Neal White. This story was compelling - reliving tragedy of wartime with an amputee veteran who made a promise to serve God. More "show don't tell" and more color may have moved this to first place.

3. Athens Daily Review - "Amazing feet" by Jayson Larson. Tight, well-written story on an interesting person/athlete. Lede shows sense of surprise. "Finding a new 'normal'" by Elise Mullinix. Good reporting on a sensitive topic.

4. Seguin Gazette-Enterprise - Bryan Kirk. "Moving on, Moving up" A well-researched story on a public figure's career move. Tight, good writing. "Strong force" This was the weaker of the entries. Nice lede. It gave us senses of time and place. A more in-depth look at the officers in the past would have strengthened this.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Williamson County Sun - "The last dairymen" by Ben Trollinger. A great read. It's everything a city slicker would want to know about farm life and the farm owners are well-represented in their quotes. The clean layout complemented the story nicely. "Church renovation is double blessing" by Rebecca Robbins. Photos and layout really did the job on this one. And once I started reading, the quotes kept me until the end.

2. Wise County Messenger - Brian Knox. "The joy of J.J." Everything about this package was well-planned and well-executed. You really feel for this child. "Quintin O." A great read - the photos and writing did an excellent job in conveying this boy's hardships, but it doesn't leave you feeling sorry for him. It leaves you with hope, which is the greatest service this newspaper could have done for him and his family.

3. Polk County Enterprise - Vanesa Brashier. "Reclaiming the past" While the layout need improvement (the captions were very squeezed) the subject matter and photos made for a very compelling read. "Waterlogged dreams" The research here was very well done, as was the newspaper's attention to this. It should have been played above the fold and given more prominence.

4. El Campo Leader-News - Jason Gibbs. "Dog day afternoon comes to happy end" A great approach, you skirt going over the top with the puns but it works with the subject matter. Great photos. They really told the story. "Danevang's weather eye hasn't blinked in 100 years" Your writer did a great job in elevating this man's hobby into something more, weaving a story about a local curiosity into a commentary on the importance of having deep roots in a community.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. The Canyon News - Greg Jaklewicz. "Yard Wars" This fresh approach to the perennial story of local elections blossoms with colorful quotes in much the same way as residents' lawns are a-bloom with campaign signs. The reporter is to be praised for finding a creative frame for a story about politics. "Andy and Matt: A story of Struggle and Friendship" Effective application of many of the classic conventions of creative nonfiction, the feature story provides readers with the kind of intimate view of the lives of their neighbors that can only be granted them by an accomplished storyteller/writer. By writing in scenes, using present tense, creating dialogue and using chronological order, the writer produces a feature story that enlightens readers about the depths and value of friendship.

2. Lampasas Dispatch Record - "Vault restoration reveals original artwork" by Adrian Jackson. In this feature story the writer strips away the complexities of a public work project in much the same way that the artisan is stripping away paint to reveal old treasures underneath: carefully and with respect for the work at hand. Solid reporting and good use of quotes make this a winner. "Molding a winner" by David Lowe. Well-chosen and gracefully integrated quotes make this story effective. The subject matter makes it interesting. Here is a writer who understands how to interview, observe and report in ways that inform and entertain readers.

3. The Gonzales Inquirer - "Moulton printer retiring after 60 years in trade" by Bob Thaxton. This story fulfills one of the major goals of community journalism: it conveys humanity inherent in those significant moments of life that every person faces. Here we see a tradesman at the nexus of his working years and the years ahead in retirement. His wit and wisdom, expertly conveyed by the writer, benefits readers and helps create a sense of shared experience. "That place across the river called 'special'" by Ida H. McGarity. First person works well here as a means of creating context for a story that could have slipped into textbook-like detail. The writer uses creative imagery and clever analogies throughout and she conveys vivid sensual details of her on-site exploration of an agricultural site.

4. Breckenridge American - Carla McKeown. "Business booms in Breckenridge" The business community is often short changed when it comes to local reporting. This feature rises above the standard "puff" piece to convey a sense of the renewed vitality in local commerce observed by the reporter. Good to see an effort to maintain local character in downtown. "Memories of surviving Khmer Rouge regime difficult for Breckenridge woman, family" Lest we forget: talented reporters can keep stories from history alive for these readers whose memories have waned and for those who never knew of the atrocities some people have endured. This story of a local woman who survived the Khmer Rouge reveals the life-long suffering she endures as visions of torture, torment and tribulations resurface even in her now-peaceful environment.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Azle News - Jeri Field. "After the flood" Excellent word choices, smooth style. I really understand what this family went through. Super job. "A soldier's story..." Great writing. This is good journalism. Don't ever quit.

2. Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post - "Living like he means it" by Lisa Treiber-Walter. A moving and inspiring story by a reporter who can write so well on a subject so important to her. Nice job. "Wishes granted" by Cathy Collier. The subject makes the story and the reporter tells it masterfully. Well done.

3. Park Cities People, Dallas - "2004 draws national attention to Park Cities" by Brent Flynn. Nice writing style, easy and fun to read. Good job on the follow-ups. This is more than a rehashing of the year's events. It's a real look back. "Are you raising a child with an eating disorder?" by Paige Phelps. Great style and reporting. One of the most interesting eating disorder stories I've ever read.

4. Wylie News - Donnita Nesbit Fisher. "Celebrating Sanden" Nice presentation. Positive community story, represents the company well. "Christmas color" Excellent combination of business news, history and useful advice, along with colorful, fun art. Nice work.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. The Community News, Aledo - "Panhandle Chick" by Susan Karnes. Fantastic work. This clearly emerged as one of the best entries. The woman's voice is so clear and quirky, it's befitting of her quirky life. "The ride of her life" by Thomas Peipert. An excellent overall package. Truly the author is a gifted journalist, as the story and photos - all of his work - are of the highest caliber.

2. Lake Travis View, Lakeway - Gary Dinges. "Hummer summer" Good subject! It's a great length, too, giving just enough details but still leaving the reader wanting more - even though the Hummer owner won't divulge it! A fun read. "Mission to Mexico" The details of the lives of the people are really what make this stand out. Photos, layout and writing really work well together.

3. Westlake Picayune - "Up with Tuck" by Dane Anderson. Layout, photos were first-rate, as was the writing. The storytelling could have done more to meld the man's passions. "Finding life's purpose" by Catherine Hosman. Sometimes it's best to step back and let your subject tell his/her own story. This was done well here, and the woman was treated with great respect.

4. DeSoto Today - Daphne Brown. "DeSoto couple gets generous Christmas gift" Such a tough life! This would have been better if the rest of the writing was as strong as the lede, but it was a good read nonetheless. "Wunderlin's passion, energy remembered at memorial" A great way to honor the girl's memory and another great lede. The packaging was well done.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. Leader News, Lytle - Greg McReynolds. "A gift of life and love" Great story. Good lead and great photos. I feel like I know this couple and understand the emotions and depth of feeling they have for one another. "Big dreams fit in small packages" Good story about a couple's lifelong dream of building a church and the trials and tribulations that brought them together. A "feel good" story that made me feel good!

2. The Smithville Times - "For a good cause" by Fran Hunter. Complete coverage of a huge fund-raising effort by a local community. All the information needed either to help, participate or donate! "Even nurses fall ill sometimes" by Mark Gwin. Wonderful lead. A survivor's story told with compassion and humor. Layout was outstanding, very impressive. A story that I am sure will help others with a life-threatening disease.

3. Bandera Bulletin - Jessica Hawley. "Conquering a life of immobility" Interesting story about a rare disease, very well-written. Good lead and great quotes. I also liked the photos. "Desiray" Loved the lead. I could just picture a little girl "bouncing around her mother's waistline." A difficult subject but the writer never gets maudlin.

4. Springtown Epigraph - Vanessa Pham. "Full house" Emotional subject, well-written story. Writer captured the true feelings of parents and children without using cliches. "Six times blessed" Good lead, compelling story and great quotes.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. Midlothian Mirror - Floyd Ingram. "Mac's barber shop" An excellent story all the way around. Some of the quotes had me laughing out loud. Good beginning, excellent content and ending. I kept wanting to read on. In fact, this is the best and most enjoyable story that I've read in years. I love it. You make the character true to life. Bravo! Bravo! "It's good to be home" A good story that's well-written, but there's been far too many back from Iraq stories to make this one stand out.

2. Ingleside Index - "Investigators hope to learn more about 15-year-old case" by Janice Arnsdorff. Very good. It held my interest from beginning to end. You used great quotes and enough of them so that I know how Eliza's family feels as well as those trying to bring her body home. I liked the repetition ... somebody knows. "Sixth grader believes giving is the greatest gift" by Eddie Davis. Good beginning. Generally well-written with good quotes and nice insight into Brooke.

3. The Leonard Graphic - "Lessons from Mother Russia" by Bethany Russell. Very good. The first person account is nicely subjective and, at times, I did feel as if I were there, too. "Going solo" by Betsy Blevins. Good story with a nice ending. I would have liked getting inside Cody's head a bit more.

4. Muleshoe Journal - "Graves finds charity work fulfilling" by Davie Ann Browder. Generally good, but it seems to jump a bit from her illness to the food pantry and back. "Cowboy whips hats into shape" by Leah Bell. Very good. It was interesting to read about such a unique occupation. You told the story well, but I would have liked some more specific quotes from the "hat doctor" himself.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. Deport Times - Nanalee Nichols. "Wood family in a little donkey business" This writer is a generous and gifted teller of tales. Readers must have appreciated the humor (a quality too often missing from the pages of newspapers) and down-home quality of this feature. Writing like this goes a long way toward creating community. "Claude Tyler remembers the CCC 'Boys in Green'" What precious value there is in preserving personal histories in a community. This writer has listened carefully and written skillfully to convey one man's memory of a significant era in our common heritage. Every school teacher should share this story with his or her students in order to put a personal touch on American history.

2. Eldorado Success - Randy Mankin. "Mayor goes supersonic" Concisely composed with gracefully integrated quotes, this feature tells a story effectively with no wasted words. Readers must enjoy the glimpses of their community that are printed regularly by this talented writer. "Harris puts his Live Oak barbecue sauce on the market" Stories like this that portray people at specific crossroads in their lives are valuable components of community newspapers. This writer makes careful use of the English language and creates gracefully composed sentences.

3. Thorndale Champion - "Not quite Hollywood" by Marie Bakken. With an eye for an interesting event in town, this writer gets the details readers enjoy and she conveys those details in creative prose. Quotes are well-chosen and gracefully integrated in this piece. The writing is concise and careful. "A fond farewell to a hairy job" by Tia Rae Stone. Touches of humor are a welcome element in feature stories' it's a beneficial bonus when a writer can offer readers a chance to laugh. This story conveys a sense of personal story telling that helps solidify a sense of community. Talented writers.

4. The Little Elm Journal - Corina Miller. "Dear God" In telling a story, that brings the pain of war to the local level, this writer helps readers understand universal qualities of fear, suffering and loss. The reporter who conveys the spiritual strength of some soldiers' families who place their trust in prayer. Readers gain some level of understanding about how humans can cope. "Sharing a conviction" This writer's strength is her ability to seek thorough and complete understanding of her sources' underlying motivation and then, in turn, to convey those qualities to readers. In so doing, she goes beyond story telling to explore and explain some of the complexities of human behavior and action. Lucky readers get to understand why their neighbors do what they do.