2005 Better Newspaper Contest — News Writing


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

News Writing

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1st The Facts, Clute - "Homes go up in flames" by Michael Baker. The writer captured the human side of this story like no other fire story I've read. Before the jump I was nearly in tears. "A day to mourn" by Michael Wright. Again, the grief. It takes a strong writer to capture this kind of pain and sorrow and then present it in a way that grips the reader. These writers have a special gift!

2nd Kerrville Daily Times - "Behind locked doors" by Glenda Taylor. Perfect example of the power of the media -- something may be done because of the knowledge you gained first. "Man dead, police unhurt in shooting" by Gerard MacCrossan. Good lead and recap of an eventful traffic stop.

3rd The Galveston County Daily News - "Man's missing finger cut off month before disappearance" by Scott E. Williams. Narrative touch to the lead makes reader want to keep going. "Hospital by default" by Scott E. Williams. This could have been a story about reduction in county funding. Instead, the reporter took the time to look at the big picture and where reduced funding could lead the system. Nice work!

4th Port Arthur News - Meghan Vital. "Independence Day murders solved" This story captures the real meaning of the holiday - not the cook-outs and fireworks but independence, something this woman has yet to achieve. "Meth busters" An extensive look at a "new" drug that was informative, narrative and interesting.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1st Taylor Daily Press -"Anatomy of a search warrant" by Kurt Johnson. Is this how a search warrant is supposed to work? This has amazing news value to the residents of the area, everyone should know their rights. "Harder to find a good kolache" by David King. Nice spin, instead of writing a straight lead (construction on ... has slower business there). You actually found a business to fit your hypothesis.

2nd Waxahachie Daily Light - JoAnn Livingston. "A matter of inches" Great narrative journalism. You found a person and let them tell the story. "Murder suspect speaks out" Ditto on the narrative journalism. Instead of using police reports and general official quotes, you tell an entire story.

3rd Plainview Daily Herald - "Cheney's visit record fund-raiser" by Richard Porter. Goes beyond a typical politician visit story and shows the events through the eyes of a local person. Way to go above and beyond! "Student helps office with defiant suspect" by Kevin Lewis. Great human interest piece. Took the obvious near-deadly encounter and found the "hidden story."

4th The Pampa News - Marilyn Powers. "Unknown victim buried" Story captures emotional turmoil of the situation. "I-40 murder victim identified" Way to follow-up. Despite eight months going by you still remembered the story wasn't finished.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1st Hood County News - Stan Weinberg. "Judges berate commissioners" Story definitely gets all sides of complicated issue. "Cheers for beer: Dry spell over; brew sales brisk in Tolar" Great analogy lead on a business story.

2nd Round Rock Leader - Marcial Guajardo. "Jaroszewski file testing" Story required a good deal of research and ended up as a strong piece that really got to the heart of the issue. "Firings rock department" The person in the lead gives the impact of this series of firings better than any straight news lead ever could have.

3rd Burleson Star - Sally Ellertson. "Police, FBI seek suspect who robbed armored truck driver at Wal-Mart" Straight lead carried through with strong writing. "Orr said he didn't leak opponent's cross dressing pictures to the media" I don't know what's going on behind closed doors in Texas, but it certainly gave this reporter a great story. Strong lead and writing throughout.

4th Beeville Bee-Picayune - "Grief over deaths of former Ranger, wife" by Gary Kent and Cori Stewart. Great description without being too graphic. A story suitable for all audiences. Strong lead and overall writing throughout. "Beeville loses a beloved teacher" by Charles Steward. Strong writing allows even an outsider to see the impact made by this community member.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1st The Sealy News - "Storms saturate area" by Jim Webre. Told me all I needed is two short paragraphs and expanded with eye-witness accounts to keep me interested to the end. "Beach trip tragedy hits home" by Bobby Horecka. Excellent story telling, weaving the first person account into the details of the tragedy.

2nd Mansfield News-Mirror - Nicholas Sakelaris. "City, landowner in Big League struggle" and "Solutions sought for storm runoff" Strong leads tell me why I care. Good sources beyond the obvious. Solid background helps develop story.

3rd Moore County News-Press - Steve Ramos. "Homeowner insurance highest in nation" and "Valero sues: DISD could lose millions of dollars in tax revenue" Solid reporting of issues directly impacting readers.

4th The Canyon News - Greg Jaklewicz. "City manager: I didn't recruit" and "WT graduate dies in Iraq attack" Complete package. Gives quotes that help advance the reader and make stories come alive.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1st Jackson County Herald-Tribune - "Skeletal remains found at Simmons boat ramp" by Chris Lundstrom and Sheila Miller. Thorough piece retelling story from beginning with a draw-me-in lead. "Crowd turns out for hospital tax hearing" by Chris Lundstrom. Took a story with an easy "last week, residents showed up ..." lead and made it sing. You want to read this story about taxes.

2nd Cedar Creek Pilot, Gun Barrel City - "Fighting the good fight against cancer" by John H. Cox. Nice narrative journalism, drawing the reader into the story. "Bloody last stand" by Jayson Larson. The PIO comment is what really makes this piece. Nice work!

3rd La Feria News - Mary Beth Wright. "Downtown Harlingen loses historic buildings to suspicious fire" Great lead that really tells a story. You go beyond the traditional 10-inch fire story, and put a "face" on the building as well as its history. "Cameron County Sheriff's Department continues surveillance of Rojas residence" Strong writing throughout this piece. From the lead to the last paragraph the reader is drawn to the story and looking for a follow-up.

4th Park Cities People - Brent Flynn. "Trapped against her will: Granddaughter puts Highland Park woman in Alzheimer's unit" Anyone with a penchant for white-haired old ladies read this piece after seeing the photo and the story continued to hold the readers' interest. Looking for part II and III of the series ... "Contractor's debts cost homeowners thousands" Good narrative journalism.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1st The Progress, Three Rivers - Scott Reese Willey. "Bees kill dog, injure horses, attack people" Detailed, well-reported account of harrowing news event. Reporter clearly took his time to do the story right and retell drama of massive and bizarre bee attack. "The perfect Christmas" Snow seems to be big news in Texas. This story is full of community voices, many sources. Reporter showed initiative in gathering voices for this.

2nd The Community News, Aledo - Thomas Peipert. "AISD bond issue turned down by voters" and "Council ratifies ordinance calling for paid fire department" Both stories are tightly written, well-written and clear. A job well done on issues that affect the community. No holes here. The fire controversy is an interesting read and the story does a great job portraying the conflict among town leaders. The tone is right.

3rd The River Cities Tribune, Marble Falls - Shana Chester. "Plea shocks court" This story includes everything the community wants to know about the accident and charges. Reporter gives in-depth, well researched insight. "Man presumed dead is arrested" In-depth, well-researched.

4th Medina Valley Times, Lytle - Bobbie Nance. "Man charged in rape of care home resident" This is the first of what's likely several stories to come about alleged abuse. Good enterprise, story-telling and insight into the family riffs that affect the community. "Mourners pack cemetery as Baby Hope Medina laid to rest" This is a well-written story packed with telling details of a tragic and sad event. Good job making readers feel as if they are at the funeral too. 

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1st Iowa Park Leader - "No child left behind in breakfast line" by Dolores Hamilton. Story important to all parents in your readership, includes a strong lead and a writing style that keeps reader interested. "Taylor faces federal charges" by Sherrie Williams. Story sends a message, but also includes news hooks that make it an important story, not just a message form a politician.

2nd Bandera Bulletin - Jessica Hawley. "On the run from the law" Nice job tying in a song most people are familiar with in the lead. Certainly beats the traditional police chase lead. "Parents concerned after school bus drives past flood barrier" Good narrative on a piece that holds interest of every parent in your coverage area.

3rd Rockwall County News - Jessie Progar. "Medicare drops needy Royse City woman" Excellent human interest piece with a great news peg. Reporter did homework, noting denial of access to Jones' records. "Board awards EMS contract" Keeps news high. This is not just and awards story, it's a strong account on award in spite of problems.

4th Lancaster Today - Steve Snyder. "Good faith of truck companies to be put to test" Confusing lead in this one. One not familiar with the issue has a long way to read to figure it out. "Flooded: Disaster strikes area again" Good lead, strong writing throughout.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1st The Citizen, Clear Lake - Mark Evangelista. "Bush opens door to cosmos" Great space analogies in the lead. Strong overall writing. "Missing boater now in North Texas jail" Water tie-ins were also great writing. Obviously this writer put a lot of thought into his leads and his strong writing style carried the rest of the stories.

2nd The Leonard Graphic - Beth Anderson. "Incident in Blue Ridge leads to players arrests" Nice job using the sports "news" in the lead before giving the real reason the team was being watched. "Family struggles with red tape" Great narrative journalism.

3rd Yorktown News-View - Mari Gohlke. "Shattered dreams" A great lead on an annual story. Shows the reporter took the time to go there, not just make some calls and quote a release. "Yorktown wakes up to once-in-a-lifetime White Christmas" Nice perspective on a weather story.

4th The Dublin Citizen - "Local water treatment delivers better product than before" by Chelsea Behymer. Strong straight news coverage. No frills. "What happened to my check?" by Kattie Lisso. This piece carried the entry. Humor in a news story! The lead draws the reader in and gives way to a clear, concise story about a confusing issue.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1st The Eldorado Success - Randy Mankin. "Corporate retreat or prophet's refuge?" and "About face ... FLDS officials retreat on YFZ hunting retreat story" The story of a polygamous community trying to sneak into Eldorado with a home tale about how it would use a huge tract of land is as fascinating as it is explosive. The clear winner.

2nd Burnet County Citizens Gazette - Rick Espitia. "Man rises from the ashes of a fiery car crash" You have a great tale to tell, and you tell it well. "A stunning debate: Burnet sheriff wants to buy tasers for county" Nicely balanced story about an important issue.

3rd Overton Press - Charlotte Heldenbrand. "Proposed propane tank ignites ire of resident" An important subject, and you do a good job of getting many voices into the story, though I think the storage tank manager should have been higher up. "Overton city manager contract not renewed" Fairly routine reporting, though the story is important. P.S. Stop running stories (across) three columns wide. They're very hard on the eyes.

4th The Gulf Coast Tribune, Needville - "T-shirt controversy draws family's lawsuit" by Becky Toney Hutchinson. Interesting piece that could have more punch if it were better organized. "Theft of Methodist church funds being investigated" by Anthony Maenza. Too much just a string of quotes.