2009 Better Newspaper Contest — Column Writing

WinnerCircle2009

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 or More

1. Victoria Advocate — By April Brandon. “Movin’ on up … to the looney bin” The subject is kind of banal, but the (sic) writing makes it fun to read anyway. “The other side of the aisle” This really is funny, written like a true column, the main idea being to entertain. Good job!
2. Midland Reporter Telegram — By Shanna Sissom. “‘Operation: Warm Family’ brings comfort, hope to family in crisis” This is a heart-warming story. The writing would benefit from fewer adjectives like “precious” and livelier prose. “Christmas is a time for miracles and this family foremost needs a home” The follow-up reports that readers would have wanted to know. The personal involvement adds to the story.
3. New Braunfels Herald-Zeiting — By Doug Toney. “2008 has been tough, but Herald-Zeitung still strong for ’09” It reads a little self-serving. Still it’s useful for readers to know their local paper plans to tough it out. “The shipmates who remain are old and few, but still very proud men” I liked this story, found it interesting, but columns need to be livelier, use more powerful prose. The story was touching, though. Thanks for going with your Dad.
4. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — By Michael Duff. “Eidos PR company asks that journalists delay bad reviews” This is informative for a special audience. It was Greek to me, but gamers probably ate it up. “Sex. Violence, banality await gamers in ‘Grand Theft Auto 4’” Pretty lively and entertaining review.

Division 3 Dailies 7,000 or Less

1. Daily Commercial Record, Dallas — By John G. Browning. “Law & the Fog of War” Very engaging! Thank you for a “legal” column that doesn’t alienate those with four-year degrees. AP style? Calif. For example. ‘June 2008’ “Lyrical law” You had me at “pettifogging”! Best set of columns I’ve read for this contest so far without question!
2. Plainview Daily Herald — by Kevin Lewis. “Grandpa was one of a kind” Good lead. I related to the magic of cigar boxes! Great details, very original. “Becoming a dog-father nerve-wracking” Great story-telling. Fun details. Enjoyable.
3. Henderson Daily News — By Tony Floyd. “Beware of the new red scare” Original and interesting. Good topic. Good points. “Encyclopedia for sale, cheap” Another good topic. Watch those typos.
4. Stephenville Empire-Tribune — By Sara Vanden Berge. “Not with my baby you won’t” Admirable conviction. Nice word choice: “rosy-cheeked mothers.” “From podium boy to superstar, McClellan makes a comeback” Crisp and clever. Nice execution on a go-to topic. Both subjects chosen were “safe.” Hating on child rapers and a doughy yes-man = shooting fish in a barrel. I would have loved to have read your opinions on an original topic.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Round Rock Leader — By Brad Stutzman. “Warranty is a sure-fire guarantee for aggravation in shampooer fiasco” An aggravation that will resonate with readers told in a humorous style. “You ought to meet my friend and neighbor, Jesse the carwash king” A personal column with a larger universal point told in detail that humanizes Jesse and preserves his dignity while being honest.
2. Round Rock Leader — By Jon Garrett. “Son Imus: Racist? Nah, just stupid” This column was well-written with a clear and counterintuitive message well-argued. “PETA should stay out of RRISD’s bathrooms” Sharp writing with a great kicker.
3. Wise County Messenger — By Travis Measley. “The last fight of Curtis Enis” Great use of sports framework for column structure. Nice use of columnist voice to convey emotions involved. “OK, who put fruit in the trick-or-treat bag?” A subject with broad appeal told with humor and personality.
4. Burleson Star — By Luke Harris. “Some men aren’t made for dirty work” This column is a bright spot for readers – a personal take told with humor, insight and a touch of irony. (Points off for “vocal chords” should be “cords.” “Jolly Ranchers on my mind” Columnist has an easy style that speaks to readers’ lives without being self-indulgent.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. Lamesa Press-Reporter — By Russel Skiles. “A teacher who never lost touch with ‘her kids’” A poignant reminder of the power of one extraordinary teacher told with telling detail and affection. “Safety check now required” Mundane subject made humorous through skillful telling.
2. The Light & Champion, Center — By John Krueger. “Kids sure have made their dad proud” A universal story told with warmth and insight. “Buster has a great life” Pet stories can rise and fall on the strength of the telling. This one rose.
3. El Campo Leader-News — By Jerry Aulds. “Krueger’s curtain call a toe-tapping time for memories” A folksy remembrance that brings old fiddler to life. “Wayward pooch barking up wrong tree at wedding” A true shaggy dog story.
4. Lamesa Press-Reporter — By Regina Crutcher. “Noah brought closest flood” nicely comes full circle from her childhood. Memories to memories of her own children. “24- hour span deals suffering to many” All-too-familiar story told with raw emotion.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Mineola Monitor — By Gary Edwards. “Let’s give the state some help” Crisp, clean writing style. Interesting choice of topic – funny, yet smart comments. Had me shaking my head in agreement and ready to set a trap or two. “Dr. McDreamy” Column ends to soon, or perhaps just right. I was there, watching it all unfold. Nice use of descriptive prose without overdose.
2. Mansfield News-Mirror — By Amanda Rogers. “No time for looking back” Nice personal subject without overdoing sentimentality. Crisp, quick writing style. Read to the end. “Losing a loved one” Touching story where focus is on the people, not the writer. Gives people hope in a world of struggles.
3. Azle News — By Bob Buckel. “Broker, brokee” Clever headline. Nice use of dialogue style and consistently funny to the end. “Joy or just happiness?” Not original theme, but nice approach made me all warm and fuzzy, achieving desired results for holiday season.
4. Hays Free Press — By Phil Jones. “Why blacks don’t come to my church” Fascinating! Learned something new through eyes of the writer. “Why would anybody want this job?” Bland topic, didn’t add much to national commentary on this subject.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. The Community News, Aledo — By Randy Keck. “The loss of a mentor” Very well-written, engaging, entertaining. All around well done. “Holding on to the truth” Again, very interesting, very well done. The biggest issue I had with this one was that it took me too long to figure out what the real subject was.
2. The Smithville Times — By John Gosselink. “All I want for Christmas is one funny column” What this lacked in “substance” it made up for with being original, creative and very entertaining. “Pithy sayings the way to fame and fortune (cookies)” Similar to the Christmas column, it grabbed my attention and kept me interested.
3. Midlothian Mirror — By Floyd Ingram. “A big day for a man with big plans” A little bit cliché, but it was entertaining. “Advice to June brides, grooms” Also entertaining, a little cheesy, at times, but the personal touch was nice.
4. Lake Travis View — By Charles McClure. “Here’s looking at you, kid: why I’m making eye contact” Long and wordy, but well-written. “Years of serious illness has a way of reassessing priorities” Long again, but the subject matter of this column was so entertaining and interesting, it didn’t “feel” long, because the pace and flow were very good.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. Springtown Epigraph — By Edwin Newton. “It can take a lifetime to understand a father” Enjoyed the column start to finish. Felt like I got to know the writer through this column. “Lessons from the vine” Writer has a unique way of connecting with the reader. Very enjoyable and it’s obvious he enjoys writing.
2. Hearne Democrat — By Shannon Scasta. “Holiday Spirit” Hit the nail on the head with topic and did a good job of mocking how ridiculous “PC” has gotten. “S-O-S message” Funny, witty and can relate to it.
3. Glen Rose Reporter — By Whitney White-Ashley. “Coping with loss in a small community” nice job with tough subject. A lot of “I’s” – tell more of a story rather than always bringing it back to you, even in a column. “What’s a girl gotta do to get bailed out?” Nice humor in a not-so-funny topic. Good job!
4. Pilot Point Post-Signal — By David Lewis. “Summertime used to be real” A little too nostalgic at time and wordy. “Look … up in the sky!” Best of the two columns. Very funny and enjoyable.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. Hico News Review — By Jerry McAdams. “Gas prices” Topical, researched and interesting. “The Olympics” I really enjoyed this “trip to the soap box.” The conclusion was solid and well-put.
2. Pflugerville Pflag — By Kelly Rausch. “Christmas spirit makes me want to yak” Good, timely topic, and a treatment that really hummed along. “Parents beware of old rockers” Many jokes, nice page, timely, topical.
3. Cedar Hill Today — By Steve Snyder. “My mash-up thoughts on Priuses, gas taxes and GM” Talking gas taxes in Texas sounds risky, well done. It suffered a bit from the ramble, and had some typographical issues. Overall, fun and interesting. “Christmas too early?” This moved at a nice clip and made me laugh. The length was just right. And.. the return of “Wunderbar!”
4. Deport Times Blossom Times — By Cindy Baker. “I hate when that happens” Straightforward, with no explanation or intro, I liked that. It would have been stronger if all the items had been organized in the same way (“waiting” vs. “when” vs. “people.”) “Tuxedos had hot pockets” A well-made vignette that I really enjoyed.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. Lone Star Iconoclast, Crawford — By Don M. Fisher. “Christmas at Juvy Hall” Distinct voice. Creative approach to holiday column. “Uncle” Again, well-written. Long but maintains focus.
2. Overton Press — By Charlotte Heldenbrand. “Trying to avoid hitting a deer? Lots of buck fellow motorists” Good anecdotes; nice way to highlight local issue. “Coming soon to a store near you: Attack of the killer tomatoes” Nice ending!
3. Olton Enterprise
— By Phillip L. Hamilton. “Is this the Jerry Springer show?” Great lead and subject. “Elites don’t understand kitty funerals” No comments.
4. South Tarrant Star — By Candy McMichen. “Cancer diagnosis is an equal opportunity nightmare” Very personal and likely relevant to many readers. Nice use of narrative. “Barefoot summers and juicy peaches” No comments.