2002 Better Newspaper Contest — Column Writing

Division 2 Dailies
1st. Jim Bishop, The Victoria Advocate – “What does a far away soldier dream of?” An eloquent, poetic Veteran’s Day piece. This is a moving tribute to vets and a fine piece of writing. “Tell him he’s not forgotten” Bishop hit a home run with this one. The writing is clear. The organization perfect and the tone just right. The conclusion is just right.
2nd. Ken Brodnax, Odessa American – “Odessa’s more than merely rough edges” This is a rather common subject treated in an uncommonly fresh way. The reader, even an outsider, is given a good sense of the town’s character and the stereotypes surrounding it. Solid writing shows the community something about itself. “’Dubya’ takes a nostalgic detour on his way to history” The personal treatment of the president-elect’s visit to Midland works. The folksy style is a bit obvious and overdone. The column gives the reader a sense of Bush and his relationship to the town.
3rd. Jim Finley, The Baytown Sun – “GOOTs make first year and no celebration” Finley takes the boys around the liar’s table topic and spins a witty and amusing yarn from it. He has a distinct voice, light and sharp. “Old injury ready to make a comeback” This is funny stuff. Though an apology to Walter Mitty is in order. Thoroughly entertaining treatment of a subject that all too often leads to hackneyed results. I bet the readers look forward to Finley’s musings. (By the way it’s Bob Gibson.)
4th. Doug Toney, New Braunfels Herald Zeitung – “City should not conduct public’s business behind closed doors” This has the makings of a strong column, but meanders too much. Did the council violate the open meetings law? If so, say so. If not, call for it to do matters in public any way. Don’t be timid. Stake out a strong position on this important issue. (Dropping the article before “council” and “city council” is annoying.)

Division 3 Dailies
1st. Neal White, Waxahachie Daily Light – “Where has the time gone?” OUTSTANDING JOB!! You did a great job of connecting with your readers on a personal level. Plus, your writing was clear and interesting. “Ashley O’Rear passes away” This is another great piece. I would have shortened it a bit (it was very long); however, it’s a really neat piece that made me feel really good about life and reading your paper.
2nd. David Lyons, The Huntsville Item – “Inventegrating words” Neat piece and something that I can relate to! This piece was very creative and humorous, entertaining. “Easy to spot Texas” Great piece! I enjoyed reading this. You’re a talented and creative writer.
3rd. Toni Garrard Clay, Athens Daily Review – “Better late than never” Neat piece. It was very funny and entertaining. It’s a subject that everyone can relate to. Great job on writing style and everything. “A letter to Madeline” ANOTHER great piece. It was very touching and you connected with your readers on a very real and personal level.
4th. Joyce Ann Ashley, Vernon Daily Record – “Did Pilgrims have these problems?” Humorous piece. Well-written and entertaining. A topic many can relate to. “Finding answers to tragedy not easy” Great piece. Well-written and excellent subject matter. You connected well with your readers.

Division 4 Semiweeklies
1st. Jerry Aulds, El Campo Leader-News – “Couch moves that make men crumble” Concise, painfully truthful (I’m a woman) and funny. “Son greets father while anthem plays” I felt a range of emotions in this column. You took me to the bedside.
2nd. Skip Nichols, Wise County Messenger – “On Mother’s Day, tell children how much you love them” You tell a great human-interest story. You take the reader through a range of emotions. Good job. “Memories of an alcoholic father” Pain, sorrow, gut-wrenching. You told your life’s story well. I liked the “phone #” at the end and the plea to get help. Great human story. Sorry it happened to you.
3rd. Craig Garnett, Uvalde Leader-News – “Donkey birth poses new set of challenges” Excellent lead. Humorous, yet informative. Gives me a new appreciation of grandmothers. “SWTJC is gambling on hospitality jobs” Again, very humorous. A great way to present local interest and your opinion.
4th. Ron Sanders, Wharton Journal-Spectator – “Was issue the man or the plan?” Straight and to the point. Liked the baby/bathwater analogy. Good editorial on local issues. “Personal convenience not a ‘right’” Timely. To the point again. A topic of conservation around the states brought to a great small article. Good job.

Division 5 Semiweeklies
1st. Brad Tooley, The Canyon News – “Fashion troupe invades Tooley household” Funny, well done column about a situation many readers can relate to. Overall by far the best in the field. Great work. “Christians provide a home sweet home” Terrific column on people who just decided to do something different and help people. We all need to write more stories like this.
2nd. Jim Hudson, The Perryton Herald – “First long weekend” A little long, but a funny story that fits well with the season. Good writing that puts the reader right there with Mr. and Mrs. Buster. “Stubbornness” A nice parable for our times and all too true.
3rd. C.F. David, Moore County News-Press – “Lassie: A simple solution to a complex problem” A good laugh at a time when a good laugh was needed. “Special men trigger memories” Nice story, from the frustration at just sending flowers, instead of going to the funeral, to a touching description of two men’s lives. A quiet story and every paper needs more of that.
4th. Blaine Crimmins, Frisco Enterprise – “Standing up for the real America” Good column with mix of events in the news and personal experience. Focus seems to shift a couple of times. Check out the AP stylebook entry on the reliability of the Web. “Learning what’s holy in the fall holiday” A brave column. Quite informative.

Division 6 Weeklies
1st. Rickie Windle, Austin Business Journal – “It’s a budding addition” Great! Bubba with a soul. Good explanation of addictions. “Taking stock of my legacy” Wonderful. The nostalgia setup of the underlying point was great.
2nd. Ed Davis, Hill Country Recorder, Boerne – “The terrorist grandmother” At least no one has e-mailed you a picture of a toddler with spiked hair and an earring. Try having to cover the ladies golf club sometime. Good, right on the money. “My most unforgettable characters” Always good to know what makes a person tick.
3rd. John Pape, Hill Country Recorder, Boerne – “Football season once again” Fighting unicorns, huh? I saw you rolling in the mud. Nice. “Opa’s battle” Open genuine celebration and grieving in one column. Opa did good.
4th. Bill Cooke, Rockdale Reporter – “This oughta’ get me off the mailing list” No it won’t. Alumni associations never give up. Nice. Got me chuckling. “Special favors, special debts, paid in full” Lovely portrait. Nice use of language to paint the picture.

Division 7 Weeklies
1st. Gracia Thibodeaux, Hearne Democrat – “Ice age” Careful what you say about Oklahoma. It’s all that keeps Kansas from sliding into Texas. “Millard Griffin” Great story told with a flair. Snappy style. Good reading.
2nd. Jack McNamara, The Big Bend Sentinel – “Murder in Marfa” Intriguing history on Texas bloodletting, written for a reason. It delves into a myriad of subjects (justice, bias, corruption). Well-written and lively reading. “Why should you be an independent” Clever political commentary. Fun to read even if I don’t know the players. Good read.
3rd. Bob Barton, The Free Press, Buda – “Time to stand tall” One of the best Sept. 11 commentaries I’ve read. The wisdom and reserve of age come through clearly. Bob does an excellent job of placing Sept. 11 in context with history. “It’s not perfect” Well-reasoned commentary on public education. Bob reminds us to focus on what is right, rather than what is wrong.
4th. Thomas Jones, Westlake Picayune – “A day in the life” Good idea. You do a good job of showing readers what your day is like. “Martin left his mark” Nice tribute. Column ties together well with quotes and commentary. Good writing. Good reading.

Division 8 Weeklies
1st. Gary Willmon, The Free Press, Diboll – “He was just 15” Awesome tribute! Writing style invites readers to stay to the end. “They’re keeping me in stitches” What an encouragement! You’ve taken a downer topic and sprinkled humor to bring self-acceptance and show an example to others.
2nd. Margaretta Groark, Rockwall County News – “Fur balls have long life span” Delightful! Almost everyone can relate to pitfalls of pets. “Some folks not cut out for public” Those people seem to be everywhere!
3rd. Marc Robertson, Frio Nueces Current – “Halloween” I like your subtle humor. Very entertaining. “Granola gravel” Very funny.
4th. John Shaw, DeSoto Today – “The grandfather clause” Enjoyable. Pensive. Tighter editing would improve your work. Nice use of humor. “Climbing out of a rut, crawling back into a box” No comments.

Division 9 Weeklies
1st. Lindsey Townsend, Lake Cities Sun – “Boy babies bring praise” The writing and subject was something every parent can relate to. It was funny in all the right places and touching in all the right places. Well done. “Age increases appreciation of magic” Good throughout. Good commentary on a subject many people don’t want to think about.
2nd. Jerry McAdams, Hico News Review – “Media” I hear ya’ Jerry. Very honest and to the point. “Fashion show” Funny is hard to pull off, but you did it.
3rd. Laurie Ezzell Brown, The Canadian Record – “Halloween” Very well written. Very descriptive. “A quiet Sunday morning” Very good commentary that said what many people probably felt but didn’t know how to say it.
4th. Jean Boles, The Winters Enterprise – “Mammography – an uplifting twist and shout experience” Good writing. Good, consistent style. “How I blazed a trail by simply twirling a baton” Funny.

Division 10 Weeklies
1st. LynDee Walker, Benbrook Star – “Sometimes dads who don’t have to be are the best kind” You captured the essence of your relationship with your father-in-law, and you clearly want to give your mother her due. However, if you compress the first leg of your column, you get to the point sooner: how you’ve acquired a true father. Take a few graphs to establish why Father’s Day was never important to you before then get directly on with why that’s no longer true. “Houston mom not solely responsible for children’s deaths” Wow. Powerful, thoughtful piece. Both columns would be stronger, however, if you’d lighten them up. Once you get them to this stage, go back and look for places to cut. You tend to repeat yourself and in this case, you beat the message. It takes courage to look deeper with Andrea Yates’ life to consider out loud that there were opportunities to intervene. Well done. These pieces are easy winners in this category.
2nd. Bill DeFries, The Ingleside Index – “Flower Dragon Song…” Delightful story. “WestPac Bound” Beautifully written piece that would touch all readers. Device of describing the way the words would be set in type works well throughout.
3rd. Gracia Thibodeaux, Calvert Tribune – “Obituary” Tightly written, well-told story. Good rhythm, great ending. What happened to the stinger? A phrase indicating what was her last assignment would tie off that part of the story. Of course if she is still sending in material, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to say that. “Phone call” This starts out well and mostly hangs together. But is goes on too long and becomes flabby. The story becomes confusing when we get to the owl and the switch to your chickens. I had to read through that a couple of times to follow the plot. Reciting problems and answering with “call the mayor” is very effective. The ending is smartly written.
4th. Nanalee Nichols, Deport Times – “Oldie locks and the three bears” Well told. Good pacing. It would have been better to somehow work your bear into your format or rework your format to fit the bear. But I’m not sure readers enjoyed this. “At our best” This is a good example of how you can write in a different tone. You can cover a sorrowful story and still bring out the hope without drenching it in a sap. (Many writers leave behind a sticky mess.) The top of your story, however, is a bit difficult to work through. You need to be more direct in setting up the scene. We back into the story. But on balance you did well.