2009 Better Newspaper Contest — General Excellence

WinnerCircle2009

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. The Galveston County Daily News — Papers show solid news coverage cover to cover. Strong watchdog enterprise on tax giveaways to developers. Strong local sports pages that are keyed to people, not bats and balls. Needs more Gulf Coast personality in features sections. Writing is uneven.
2. Victoria Advocate — Excellent, complete packages on whether Mexican violence could spill over and the bus crash, an impressive array of angles covered. Tight lively writing and engaging layouts.
3. Midland Reporter-Telegram — Border package on June 22 is well done, both the tensions, the rising violence and the inside travel piece. Layout is cluttered — photos too big (although some strong photos.) Editorial page has too much syndication and not local. Oil section is strong, well-reported and gives me a sense of place. Hefty papers!
4. Odessa American — Front pages have strong visual impact, although it’s too busy. April 6 front page had good educational enterprise stories, but three editorial stories on front page was a mixed problem. Photos are strong cover to cover. Writing is solid, some good columnists. Papers have heft and variety and show enterprise. Layout of covers is creative. Content has too much government process in news pages.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. Plainview Daily Herald — Strong front page, shows variety, clean design, good photography, people-oriented. Gives me immediate sense of the community. Sections were uneven — features is weak while sports is strong. Story content was solid, though you need more watchdog coverage. Editorial page needs help, too many syndicated white male conservatives. Where are community voices?
2. Alice Echo News Journal — Exhaustive coverage of bank robbery and ensuing gunfight. Solid news writing. Page design is flat, as is photography. Editorial page has lots of local voices. Papers do reflect community. Prep sports coverage is good. Needs more features and people profiles.
3. Waxahachie Daily Light — The story about the moms drew me in and had lots of poignant details. But is was one-sided. I wanted to know the county’s response. More digging/context on previous accidents could have resulted in a strong watchdog piece. Strong (but long) editorials, not easy to do in a smaller community. Layouts offer a good mix but are a bit cluttered. I like the veteran tributes and lots of photos of community members.
4. The Banner-Press, Brenham — Solid coverage on 7/29 of train wreck, good coverage of local government; needs more people features that bring home Texas. Opinion page has too many white male syndicated voices. Sports is decent. Photos are very good. Headlines are clear and to the point.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Hood County News — Clear, concise, yet lively writing throughout. Well-organized pages, well-organized sections (such as sports and entertainment). Front page stories go beyond coverage of government meetings to get to the heart of important issues. Excellcent photography. Good clean layouts area reader friendly. Overall an excellent paper.
2. Wise County Messenger — Excellent presentation. Some of the photography is very good, but some isn’t. Very inconsistent. Some of the writing is very good, particularly the Father’s Day features. Good concept, well executed. The writing, however, is uneven. For example, the story about the 2028 vision for the city bogs down in boring details about the process and gives far too little information about actual visions for the future. Similarly, the story about the fire victims should have had more that was compelling and personal. There was some of that, but too little and it came too late in the story. Better opinion page than most of the other papers in this category.
3. Williamson County Sun — Above average writing complements intense local coverage. Good coverages of the car vs. pedestrian fatality. Good story on the police recruits shortage. Strong opinion page. Acceptable quality of photography and good clean, easy to follow layouts (with a few exceptions). Overall, a good local paper.
4. Round Rock Leader — Compelling local coverage of issues that mean a lot to your readers. There’s too much of a rush to use acronyms in copy, which detracts a bit from the writing, but other than that it is solid. Great photography and presentation. Compared to the other papers, in this category, the sports coverage is solid, with lots of action shots rather than posed photos, which a lot of the other papers seemed to rely on. The Relay for Life story, combined with the story about the cancer survivor was a nice package, and interesting to read even to someone who knows nothing about your community.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1. Copperas Cove Leader-Press — Layout: good use of modular design. Try to get more creative. Make all rules same width/style. Good photos, composition and subjects. Writing a mixed bag. Some leads too wordy/passive, others crisp and engaging.
2. Andrews County News — Solid interesting writing. Variety of topics and layout average. Could use more breathing room between elements, too crowded/more white space. Good local sports coverage! Overall a good community paper. Need to get more creative with layout. See larger papers as example. Doesn’t need big budget or staff to make layout more exciting.
3. El Campo Leader-News — Routine stories, mostly reactive (small staff?) Writing fair, headlines lack action/passion. Layout better than some (not a dated looking) Good use of white space. Too many shadow boxes at least make shadows lighter (print too dark). Good composition on photos, lots of people, too.
4. Lamesa Press-Reporter — Solid community sports coverage. Writing above average. Content is well-written and solid, time to break out of modular layout and something new and exciting, Use large, daily papers as examples. (Small paper can look great without large staff!) Get rid of heavy rules, use more white space.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Park Cities People — Great design, writing, artwork. A couple of suggestions to make your design even better: Reduce the standard leading on your body text and use a first-line and style consistent. Great consistency throughout sections. Rock-solid good paper!
2. Hays Free Press — Great writing, photography, use of design. Great inside sections, too. On the front page, consider a more diverse mix of stories. Something else to consider: If you use the left column of the front page as a news rail (up to the subscriber address box) you could fit a fourth story out front, which could help diversify the news mix.
3. The Rockdale Reporter — Great design, writing, layout. Solid inside sections and out. Watch for widows and missing rules. Very solid paper. Good mix of coverage
4. Mansfield News-Mirror — Good showing. Try to diversify front-page and story mix a bit more.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. Hill Country Community Journal, Kerrville — The staff does a great job using pictures to tell a story. Paper is easy to read and seems to have a pretty good thumb on the community. By far, the best overall paper in this division.
2. Alpine Avalanche — For such a small staff, this paper puts out a nice product. Lots of pictures with stories, which reader love, and good coverage of area. One note, don’t put corrections on page 1, it’s not front page news that you made a mistake. Put it on page 2.
3. The Community News, Aledo — Overall, a very nice newspaper. Good use of photos throughout, although some boring pictures. Do something different than “handshake” pictures. A bit small on the page 1 headline with a huge mug shot.
4. Westlake Picayune — Love the sports sections — great headlines, photos, etc. They are actually better than your page 1 photos. Get one on the front page — it’s OK to put a stand-alone picture of sports on page 1 if it’s good enough! Only three stories on page 1 — small news days? Try and get a fourth story on page 1 and don’t run 1x4 mugshots in the left column. Great headlines, though and overall layout is good

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. The Canadian Record — Strong front pages but I would have preferred seeing another paper to see something other than football. Well-designed focus pages. Nice page headers and page icons. Very good page design on your “ashes to ashes” piece. Good overall football package.
2. The Springtown Epigraph — Good story count. Nice use of graphs, maps and info boxes. Nice mix of hard and soft news. Great use of photos especially all the kid photos. Nice Pony League section. Your paper serves your subscribers well. I would like to see improvement on your design. Your front needs a dominant centerpiece.
3. Clay County Leader — Clean layout. Nice front page designs with strong and compelling centerpieces. Your inside page design is a bit boring. Your sports pages are very strong and your ad staff has put together some nice focus pages with a lot of support.
4. Pilot Point Post-Signal — Clean paper. Well laid out. Good mix of stories and good coverage of local youth. I like all the advertising focus pages on high school sports. Good photo quality and overall photography.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. Cedar Hill Today — Very good reproduction. Good use of color. News pages are well designed and well packaged for the most part. Writing is solid but not dynamic. The paper just looked and felt more “professional” than many of the others in this division. Good job.
2. The Albany News — Paper is very clean and well designed. Lots of use of color throughout. Reproduction quality is very good. Stories/sections seem to have a theme and are well packaged. Some of the writing could be stronger and more lively, but all is all a solid newspaper.
3. Pflugerville Pflag — Layout was clean but too airy in some cases and too tight in others. Sports section is very solid. Stories in news section are pretty standard. Too many “group shots” for photos.
4. West Kerr Current, Ingram — Layout is good but headline fonts and sizes seem odd for the story placement. Too many “group” photos. Sports coverage could be beefed up. Writing is good. Try using horizontal and vertical rules between stories to provide more “separation.” Paper isn’t bad, just not up to par with the three higher places.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. The Malakoff News — Enjoyed the many columns, lots of voice in the paper. Good job.
2. Big Sandy & Hawkins Journal — Lifestyles page very nice, enjoyed stay on track. Keep up the good fight.
3. Anna-Melissa Tribune — Great front page news, lots of sports photos a plus, quality of sports photos could improve.
4. Century-News, Dripping Springs — Front pages are excellent. Great news coverage, just left hoping for more.