2009 Better Newspaper Contest — Feature Story

WinnerCircle2009

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — By Jeremy Henderson “Blessed Mary Wood you believe? “ Henderson’s writing in this story makes the entry the clear winner. A grabber of a lead, followed by clever and entertaining details. Beautiful! “Everybody liked Richard” This story doesn’t work quite as well but is still inventive. It shows a writer’s mind at work. The graphics are distracting. We expect the main photo to be of the man the story is about, but it’s not. Still, story No. 1 makes up for this.
2. Kerrville Daily Times — “Hat-tastic: Custom hat maker visits Ingram to collect measurements” by Thomas Phillips. A clever head and competent layout complement this appealing story about the gone art of hat-making. An enjoyable read. “Hearing restored: Cochlear implant brings sound back to woman’s life after 30 year absence” by Alyson Chapman. This story benefits from an inventive lead and, like subject 1, from a layout and art that attract readers. The approach is simple, no gimmicks. Good job!
3. Brownsville Herald — “Hidden Treasure” Retail store offers unique items from ship recycling” by Aaron Nelsen. This story is average and suffers from a mistake in the cutlines. Still it introduces us to a line of work we know nothing about. “Where Hope Lives: Big Top carnival community; however, bureaucracy blocks the way” by Kevin Sieff. This half of the entry makes it a winner. Cluttered graphics try to ruin the story but can’t. It is so interesting, so informative about a situation most of us have never heard of. And it evidently took a lot of work and probably some expense to get the story. Wonderful work!
4. Odessa American — “Having a ball for a good cause: Injury changes boy’s life but Rehab Center helps” by Jocelyn Foster and “Turn in Down: Enjoying your MP3 player at high volume can lead to hearing loss” by Daniel Skolfield. (Cindeka) Nealy’s outstanding photos and the general appearance of the pages, make these stories stand out. Both stories could stand more lively writing. Avoid “recent” in the lead. Grab the reader with something new or special, then just feel the story.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. Taylor Daily Press — “‘Sneaky cancer’ prowls Alcoa workforce” by Philip Jankowski. Great story, really explained disease and impact. Informative. “St. James organist retires after more than 3 decades” by Jason Schaefer. Touching story, great photo.
2. River Cities Daily Tribune, Marble Falls — “Flight of fancy” by Chris Porter. Great photo and layout, inviting lead. “A bond that’s hard to explain” by Daniel Clifton. Again, great lead, great photo/art/layout.
3. San Marcos Daily Record — By Jeff Walker. “Hitchhiking guitar man” Great photo and layout. Well-written fun story. “American genius” Art was too dark. Great story.
4. Mineral Wells Index — “Gridiron girls” by Tommy Wells. Great read! “Matters of the heart” by Libby Cluett. Great presentation and layout. Very informative.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Wise County Messenger — By Mandy Bourgeois. “Yes Wise County there is a Santa Claus” Great job of finding a new take on a perennial story. Engaging, personal and heartwarming and nice feature writing. “Soldiering on” Personality profile that never forgets it’s a feature story first. Good storytelling here.
2. The Graham Leader — By David Rupkalvis. “It was just like angels were coming” I rolled my eyes when I saw the bee attack headline, but Rupkalvis drew me in and held my attention throughout with some fine feature writing. “Perez: Drinking too young almost took my soul” Again, Rupkalvis focuses on storytelling to make his point. The story gets a bit long and a little repetitive, but has strong feature writing throughout.
3. Round Rock Leader — “Of Selfless Sacrifice” by Kathryn Eakens. This short story is a fine example of using a news event as a starting point for a feature while keeping the focused feature as the predominate element. “A legacy through living” by Jon Garrett. A lovely feature that uses true storytelling throughout and never falls into the trap of reciting facts.
4. Hood County News — “Debate still lingers… over what tree was used to hang Cooney Mitchell” by Pete Kendall. Very fun, engaging story. “Believing without seeing” by Rick Mauch. Good, educational profile with good supplemental info.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. Copperas Cove Leader-Press — By Crystal Mc- Coy. “Helping hand” Short and sweet. Tells the story! Photos also tell the story. “We were soldiers” Good story! Oops, A in drophed. Front page caption needed to tell me which person was Galloway. Good use of photos.
2. The Bowie News — By Barbara Green. “Family tree seeds for first time novelist” Would have liked to have see package higher on page. Nice layout of story package. “Refreshed ‘herd’ back on track” Even the “mundane” story was refreshing. Clever lead.
3. The Canyon News — By Amanda Gragert. “Cowboys ride trail to salvation” Good lead. Well-written. “Austin to Anchorage” Lead too long, otherwise well-written and organized. 4. Moore County News-Press — “Journey takes artist from back roads to art shows” by Michael Wright. Good story. “Whorton touching hearts at Christmas” by Heaven Kinzy. Good story.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Fort Worth Business Press — By Betty Dillard. “Stop Six Center” Very well written and laid out. Good work! “Exit strategy: Funeral directors think outside the box” Very nicely written. Just a few things to strengthen. 2. Port Aransas South Jetty — By Dan Parker. “Dolphin watch” Fund story. Well-written. “Cactus still cactus” Very nicely done. Just a few things – usage and AP style issues and a few typos – keep your writing from being excellent. Almost there. Good luck. 3. Wilson County News — “Amaro teaches the next generation” by William J. Gibbs Jr. Nicely done. Nice angle for a business story. “Many interests…many careers” by Nannette Kilbey-Smith.Well-written. 4. Azle News — By Jeri Field. “Killer tomatoes?” Very well-written. The few marks I made on the story are just suggestions to strengthen an already strong story. (Mainly just grammatical things.) More news than feature. “Flags and fate” Fascinating story. Well told. Very nice layout for both articles. Good photos and cutlines.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. Pittsburg Gazette — “Event is renamed after former member” by MaLu Bradford. Well-written. “A Great American Life” by Susan Taft. Very nicely done, a wonderful tribute to a special man. Writing is very strong, only a few typos.
2. Westlake Picayune — “Lessons in the Heavens” by Will Pafford. Nicely written. A little redundant in parts. It was disheartening to see the typos (para. 2 It’s, para.13 wan). Paragraph
4 was awkward and confusing. Mikan makes prank call to UT? Needs clarification. Engaging story. “Now you see it” by Dane Anderson. Very interesting subject, excellent quotes. Story flowed well. Several present participles did not agree with the past participles they were paid with. (I circled them).
3. Bandera Bulletin — By Jessica Hawley-Jerome. “A soldier comes home” and “Abandoned bunnies bounce back” Avoid words like “unbeknownst,” thereafter, etc.
4. The Community News, Aledo — By Erin Cooper. “Saving Jessie” Very powerful and very well-written. Only a few typos mar an otherwise flawless story. “House full of love” Good story, though I wasn’t sure how building the house would raise money for the project. That info presented at the end, probably should have been presented at the beginning.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. Clay County Leader — By Matt Kelton. “Bucks by the bushel” Very informative, in-depth. Very readable. “Branded men: Blacksmiths kept farms, ranches in working order” Great history, reporting, very rich characters, good readability.
2. The Springtown Epigraph — By Carolea Hassard. “Windmill men: Area residents ‘go green’ with wind power” Great lead, characters. Topical very informative. “Springtown family ‘keeps it simple’” Great characters nice long lead. Good photos, too.
3. The Dublin Citizen — “Kuykendalls combat Comanches, Kickapoos” by Jon Awbrey. Essential story, topical, engaging. “Local man’s charity receives wide attention” by Paul Gaudette. Great subject.
4. The Canadian Record — By Laurie Ezzell Brown. “The Beekeeper” Great visual writing. Very important. “Thinking, living and breathing the restaurant biz” Very interesting subject, well quoted.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. The Gladewater Mirror — “City closes the lid on 2008 cleanup effort” by Jim Bardwell. Reads a bit more like a news story than a feature story, but it contains good information. Nice packaging of the story and graphic elements. “Still waiting for his closeup” by James Draper and Kim Cox. Good read. Very interesting and written in a way that kept me reading.
2. Sachse News — By Patty Montagno. “From Sachse to stardom” A little lengthy, but very interesting. Good job getting a wide variety of sources to quote. “Holidays wouldn’t be home without family’s fur baby” Interesting story. People love pets.
3. Mulshoe Journal — By Larry Thornton. “BCAD official discusses recent valuation notices” Good writing, but this is more of a news story rather than a feature story. “South county tragedy to bless others” Very solid writing and nice story treatment. One of the best stories I have read in this judging division. Story was well organized and flowed well.
4. Princeton Herald — “Panther basketball teams live the dream in Dallas” by Jennifer Pike. Good story idea. Well written. Bet it was a thrill for the two teams! “Queens of quilter bees open new shop” by Judy Truesdell Mecca. Nice new business feature, but there’s nothing here to make it stand out from the competition.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. Lake Cities Sun, Lake Dallas — “Legends and lore meet technology” by Anthony Scott. Great topic and writing, but no reader is going to read all of it, way too long. “A horse of a different color” by Marcia Rios. Good detail, but the reader is bogged down in the first column and does not continue reading. Tighten it up!
2. Alvarado Star — By Christopher Amos. “Ancient scrolls draw large crowd” Poor lead, but great quotes and general writing. “Old depot: Link to past” Great quotes, but the story is too long and the reader loses interest after page one.
3. Everman Star — “The ‘Shale’ Game” by Daun Eierdam.
Get your sources higher up, but fun to read. “One family’s joy amidst unspeakable horror” by Candy McMichen. Great first-person feature, but could have used more interviews with others. Quotes from Ricky are needed.
4. Olton Enterprise — “Preserving the past” by Ursula Hamilton. Interesting topic, but where are the good quotes from other sources? “Feeding the hungry” by Phillip L. Hamilton. Awesome content but what about your other sources? Who does he work with?