2009 Better Newspaper Contest — News Writing

WinnerCircle2009

Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1. Victoria Advocate — By Gabe Semenza “Narco Terrorists: Drug cartel reaches critical point in Nuevo Laredo”. Impressive enterprise that took on a subject of value for your community. Nice storytelling details throughout. “ ‘I did it dad’” Obviously a big case; nice job stepping back and crafting true story out of the hearing’s detail.
2. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — “‘That’s him’” by Elliott Blackburn. Very nicely done. A compelling story, start to finish. The organization was slightly confusing between page one and the jump, but once it got going again, the story ripped along. “Not in 100 years” by Robin Pyle. Good lede; fresh news and good attempt to also look ahead.
3. Laredo Morning Times — “Can’t make the grade” by Tricia Cortez. Good analysis on a topic that is highly important to readers and pushing education leaders or answers. “What’s for dinner?” by Ashley Richards. Great watchdog words and a fantastic outrage story for your community all while written fairly tight.
4. The Brownsville Herald — “Dual purpose” by Laura Tillman. Great explanatory piece, if a bit long, on an important topic. You let readers know the implications and politics behind the decisions. “Trustee: Buyout imminent” by Gary Long. Great sourcing to be able to have foes talk on the record about this. Interesting split that you’re able to explain.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1. San Marcos Daily Record — By Anita Miller. “Towing policy a ‘black mark’” Strong lead. Well-constructed. “ ‘Just a dog’ Resident says police delay, ‘disgusting’ attitude of officer kept him from saving sick pup” Good story. A good read, one readers likely will follow all the way through.
2. Waxahachie Daily Light — By JoAnn Livingston. “A bridge too far” A good overview of workers’ efforts, plus background on accident and info about boys. Well done. “Who is J.W. Dant?” Intriguing story. Good that you pursued it. Points to fraud. Hope you had follow-up.
3. Seguin Gazette-Enterprise — “Standoff ends as man surrenders to JP” by Jessica Sanders. Good solid news story. Good to get quotes from JP. “Zodiac killer calls Seguin home?” by Ron Maloney. Intriguing story. Well-presented.
4. Alice Echo News-Journal — “Robbery victim had gun pointed in her face” by Ofelia Garcia Hunter. Good story. Were there other witnesses you could have talked to? “A plea for justice” by Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr. Good, but fairly routine.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1. Hood County News — By Kathy Swindle. “Officials defend tax-funded trip to Vegas” Great lead. Informative story reaching out to readers. “Chaos in the county jail: Officials worry that inmates are in control” Great photo.
2. Uvalde Leader-News — “Flores seeks unemployment benefits” by Carol Kothmann. Informative. “Remains are those of missing Uvaldean” by Carol Kothmann and Margaret Palermo. Great informative story.
3. The Graham Leader — By David Rupkalvis. “Where does all that money go?” Informative, easy to read graphs. “Killer bees attack man” Great headline, photos and quotes.
4. The Bastrop Advertiser — “Pasture slaying trial begins” By Cyndi Wright. No comments. “‘Saving the kids and the horses’” by Terry Hagerty. Great photos and layout. Grabbing lead.

Division 5 Semiweeklies Less Than 4,000

1. Breckenridge American — By Don Treul. “Tornado” Good attention to giving the story a second-day lead and still structuring the story for maximum impact. Good reporting details and use of quotes. “Texas Rangers continue investigation” A bizarre story that you explain well, despite all that is unknown. Again solid reporting and good self-editing of quoted material.
2. The Bowie News — By Barbara Green. “Anthony’s spirit brings folks together to build playground” Sweet story without being sappy. Nicely told and evocative of a young boy’s place in town. Good reporting detail. “TRC investigate water complaint” Great news story that clearly explains the issue to the community. Good depth and reporting detail.
3. The Monitor, Mabank — “Cities alarmed over sour gas” by Pearl Cantrell. Important topic that’s explained clearly to readers. Good reporting depth on history of other places. I might have lowered some of the meeting info to get more quickly to the issue at hand. “Three injured in bridge collapse” by Kerry Yancey. Nice structure and organization to the story. Straight-forward and clear. Good use of quotes.
4. The Canyon News — By Amanda Gragert. “Dealership closing impacts county” Good job tying national events to local community. Clear and straight-forward telling. Watch that you don’t let quotes go on too long, diluting their impact. “Local agriculture producers voice cloud seeding concerns” This story was slightly weaker with some extraneous detail that didn’t really advance the issue. (5-inute break, previous agenda items) But once into the substance, the story got much stronger.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1. Rockdale Reporter — By Mike Brown. “‘This is really happening to us’ Alcoa making last metal” This is vivid writing. Rosa’s quotes set the tone and make the story come alive. Good job! “Half-smelter shutdown stuns area” Again, lively quotes push the story forward.
2. Mansfield News-Mirror — By Amanda Rogers. “Building on Faith: Churches try to keep up with growth” Fine lead and second graf. “Home with history” Again, an inviting lead. Good use of quotes as well to tell the story. Not an exciting story, but solid story-telling. Good job!
3. Burleson County Tribune — By Roy Sanders. “Police officer wounded, robber killed in gun battle” A dramatic story with decent quotes. “Phillips faces murder charges in shootings” An OK story, but routinely written.
4. Silsbee Bee — By Gerry L. Dickert. “Mother tried to kill self, children” This tries too hard to be dramatic. Don’t call her “little girl” every time. The lead editorializes too much. “Lumberton foot-brawl: Pee-wee coaches pound each other while players look on during game” Vivid writing, but you overdo it! The lead is three words too long: “In the end” deflates the effect. “All-out” brawl? Why not just a brawl? Just trim the extra words, and the writing will sparkle.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1. Frio-Nueces Current, Pearsall — By Marc Robertson. “Two-county pursuits after manhunt in Dilley” Good lead. Well written. Good use of quotes to tell the story. Ending with nationality seems distracting. “‘It just came so fast’” Good lead. Well paced. A little long for a newspaper article.
2. Westlake Picayune — “Building evacuated during suicide standoff” by Will Pafford. What a sad story. Well told. Some quotes would have been good. “PIA complaint filed against Eanes ISD” by Dane Anderson. Complicated, a little long but well organized and well told.
3. The Smithville Times — “Weekend fine possibly arson” by Erin Boyd. Good jog, good photos. Just a little stiff. “Power politics” by Mark Gwin. Good writing, good story, but watch the number of clichés.
4. Lake Travis View — by Eleni Himaras. “Authorities search for suspected killer” Good pacing. McCandless info might have been better as a sidebar since it was sort of special and became a distraction despite its meaningfulness. “Body of accused murderer found off Bullick Hollow” Good lead. Good recap of information.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1. The Canadian Record — By Laurie Ezzell Brown. “Why is YMCA daycare closing?” Very high-quality writing, exception. Suggestions: 1) adjectives are a little heavy-handed at times, to the point of editorializing. 2) because the article is so long, perhaps a little more structure plus subheads to break it up. “End of the Road” Odd (sub) headline, some AP style misses. Good writing, varied perspectives.
2. Dublin Citizen — “Austin crosses lines with municipal fines” by Jon Awbrey. Lots of enthusiasm and personality in the writing style and plenty of good info packed into story. I had fun reading the story, but as an editor I’d ask the reporter to focus a little more on “straight” news writing. Some editorializing going on. “Erath County, others disapprove of ECAD” by Jon Awbrey and Paul Gaudette. Good writing, good details.
3. Refugio County Press — By Kenda Nelson. “103- year-old bridge scrapped” Good. Some of the quotes are so stilted, I would have paraphrased them. Use a little “harder” verbs. “Valiant Petroleum picks Refugio for new plant” Wellstructured, well written.
4. Pilot Point Post-Signal — “AG to rule on vote question” by David Lewis. School board stories are difficult to keep interesting. Good use of quotes. Good details. “Women charged in robbery” by Keith Magee. Excellent news writing. You were lucky to get a story like this and you did a good job.

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1. Muenster Enterprise — By Janet Felderhoff. “Wind turbine components arriving at Wolf Ridge Wind” Good opening and easy to follow. “Man perishes in house fire” Little too matter-of-fact.
2. Ozona Stockman — By Melissa Perner. “Tobar not guilty” Good research. “He was the best” Heartwarming, welldone. 3. Cedar Hill Today — By Steve Snyder. “Disc golf course putt above the rest” Unique and catchy. “Williams” 13 pennies, world-class schools” Good title.
4. The Gladewater Mirror — By James Draper. “Gohmert: Tax holiday in the works” Balanced approach. “ ‘We want Bill’” Again balanced.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1. Malakoff News — By Michael V. Hannigan. “Grand jury clears teen” Excellent job. All the bases are covered. Very thorough. For someone who doesn’t know the original story, this explains it all in one, neat package. “The Scarlet Letter” Great. This takes a news story that everyone cares about and explains very well.
2. Dripping Springs Century News — “Sheriff Bridges collapses, dies Saturday” by Mary Elizabeth Davis. Good reportage and life story. Reader gets a good sense of who Bridges was. “School board adopts attendance plan” by Anne Drabicky. Well-written with all the information needed and good elements: passion, etc.
3. Alvarado Star — By Christopher Amos. “School burglary suspects arrested” Good, straight reporting and writing. Reader doesn’t have to guess about anything, it’s all there. “Drilling rig noise has scientific solution” A technical issue made human. Amos captures issue well and the reader knows what’s what.
4. Lake Cities Sun, Lake Dallas — By Anthony Scott. “Residents meet to consider legal options” Explanatory news writing, very well done. It’s all here – personal elements, business elements and history. “Lake Dallas residents voice their complaints” Ditto.