2005 Better Newspaper Contest — General Excellence


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

General Excellence

Division 1 Dailies 100,000 or More

1. Austin American-Statesman - An attractive paper particularly on page one, showcasing good stuff, photos and vibrant writing (although anecdotal lead after anecdotal lead gets tedious.) Lots of investigative and enterprise reporting, and the paper isn't afraid to run long stories when length is needed to tell the whole story. Kudos for staff stories from around the world - Africa, Mexico, Haiti -- when otherwise wire. The Insight section is a major disappointment. It lacks the intelligence and drive of the news pages, substitutes tired news reports disguised as columns for real insight and is much heavier on syndicated work than the news side. And no editorials in the highest readership day? What a shame.

2. Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Editorials are a real strength. You're not afraid to arouse controversy with well-argued crisply written commentary. Local news coverage is another strong point but too much of your main news report is farmed-out to syndicates. The stories on page one are worthwhile, but in a 30- and 28-page section, there are just three staff news stories. Readers find your work in business, sports and the regional section.

3. Houston Chronicle - Local stories on page one and in City and State are a real strength, but the proportion of syndicated news reporting is very high. One reason your business section was the best among the papers I judged was that it varies that ratio and shines a valuable spotlight on local regional news of importance. The Dec. 26 follow-up on our reporting on civilian deaths at police hands was impressive. It's good to see six pages of opinion in "outlook," but the editorials are grey - neither forceful nor very interesting.

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. The Galveston County Daily News - Inspiring front pages, incredible headlines, and great staff photogs. Seven-star rating (out of seven criterion) love the "no-pain no-gain" features. "Inside Today" front briefs are just enough info to draw the reader in. Good investigative reporting. Very exciting, locally in-touch and nationally in-touch paper.

2. The Beaumont Enterprise - Beautiful layouts on front. Writing is personal yet concise. Specialty pages reach all generations. I like the break down on "plenty left." Good local and national coverage.

3. Odessa American - Excellent writing. "Homegrown Heroes" is great idea. Maybe too sensational though - D1 is a little too much for some readers, though tongue-in-cheek. I have to admit, I wanted to read it, first page to last.

4. The Facts, Clute - Love the reporter e-mail addresses. Well-balanced stories on front. Great writing, investigative reporting. Some fuzzy pictures.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. Hereford Brand - Clean, strong layout, great news coverage. Lifestyles section is informative, clean ads, senior section a plus and super clean classified section!

2. Plano Star Courier - Great front pages, strong classifieds - specialty pages well done! Professional ads nice design, great photo reproduction.

3. Taylor Daily Press - Strong community section, good use of color - great use of knockouts in photos and good page designs. Editorial is above average!

4. Seguin Gazette-Enterprise - Consistent, clean design, large dominating ads, strong usage of color. Great design and typography - news coverage is great!

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Wise County Messenger - Photos and stories are compelling. A great mix of the serious and the silly. Sports photos show a different approach than many other papers take. The story about the convicted police officer was riveting. Photo of his child's mother tells it all. Best I saw!

2. Hood County News - This paper's specialty sections earned it second place. Good lede on Nims' fire story. "Girls gone wild" shows paper is willing to tackle sensitive material.

3. Williamson County Sun - Consistency in writing helped this paper earn honors. "Tall Texan" and "Heartbreak" photos great.

4. Wharton Journal-Spectator - Writing separates this paper from the pack. Ledes wanted to make me read more.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. The Gatesville Messenger - Engaging front page with quality photos. Well done specialty pages. Excellent variety in stories.

2. The Canyon News - Good use of graphics/color. Lifestyles and opinion pages feature excellent layouts.

3. Lamesa Press-Reporter - Great photos make for an interesting front page and beyond. Easy to follow layout, well-written headlines and stories.

4. Lampasas Dispatch Record - Headlines are clear and concise; good mixture of content.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Rockdale Reporter - Just a good, solid newsy newspaper. Good writing, good coverage, nice sections, readable layout.

2. The Cameron Herald - This newspaper proves solid news coverage, a readable design, clear headlines and good specialty pages can trump trendy design and four-color photos. Nice use of black and white photos. Still works.

3. Port Aransas South Jetty - Both bylined reporters good writers - nice ledes. Good layout. Good specialty pages. No editorial from newspaper? Not sure about Christmas section as section A but what the heck it's Christmas! Visitors' guide was more than an advertising section - useful info. Nice paper all-around.

4. Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post - No doubt a much-appreciated newspaper in its community. Seems to be light on government/school management meeting and enterprise reporting. However, it certainly has plenty of community and people news. Layout good - not sure about the flush left - flush right "reverse" kicker heads. Good photography.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. Westlake Picayune - Great look and loved the monthly arts supplement. Both supplement and regular issues made people and arts stories interesting instead of rote.

2. The Community News, Aledo - Tasteful use of color and nice crisp layout. Easy to read. Well done special section too.

3. Lake Travis View, Lakeway - Nice balance between sections. Very readable format. Better writing than most!

4. The Free Press, Buda - Great job keeping readers informed. Plenty of important stories here. Photo reproduction a bit hazy in places.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. Pilot Point Post-Signal - Well-written, good layout! I especially like running the photos larger, my photographer would be jealous.

2. The Frisco Enterprise - Good all-around job, nice variety of coverage.

3. Rockwall County News - Clean, easy to read, well done.

4. Hill Country News Weekender, Cedar Park - Love the Community page!

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. The McGregor Mirror - Great headline (subhead on Dec. 23 issue). The display on that issue brings the reader in so they don't even need a lot of story on the front. Excellent use of color.

2. The Leonard Graphic - Excellent use of photos. Images are clear, creative and oh-so colorful! Overall layout is great, draws the reader with photos and decent headline.

3. Lexington Leader - Great photography, very clear images with plenty of action. Very effective use of color on section fronts. Headlines could use a little more creativity to help draw the reader in the same way the photos do. Once drawn, though, strong writing keeps the reader engaged.

4. The Clarendon Enterprise - A little too much magenta in the 2/19/2004 issue front page photo otherwise the large cover photo drew readers in. Headlines are, for the most part, interesting and stories are varied. Overall, good display but needs to "beef up" content for an overall excellent paper.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. The Morton Tribune - Gorgeous front pages. Cut down and spread out "Looking Ahead," I would say. Good mix of stories on both fronts. Photos outstanding.

2. The Eldorado Success - Good investigative reporting. Creative layout techniques. Varied topics.

3. Anna Melissa Tribune - Some of the writing needs more pep - less leads beginning with "the!" Great layouts, well-balanced, good use of a chart and a supplemental article (alcohol on the ballot), supporting investigative reporting.

4. Princeton Herald - Good mix of local news. The news in brief works the way you have them (on A1).