2010 Better Newspaper Contest — Feature Story

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Division 2 Dailies 7,000 to 99,999

1.  Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — “Against the Odds” by Kristen Hackney-Redman. Nice narrative. “Happy Who Endure” by Elliott Blackburn. Excellent story. A story that traces the heartbreaking life of a woman who finds herself homeless. Honest treatment of a difficult story.
2.  Galveston County Daily News — “Tropical Depression” by Laura Elder. Excellent concept; out of the ordinary. The story flows well, informs the reader and gives a little hope for the problem. “Stories to Sell” by Laura Elder. Again, unique story idea. Well executed.
3.  Kerrville Daily Times — “They’re Classics” by Sonya Campbell. Fabulous lead! Fun story. Well written. “Inexpressible Love” by Carlina Villalpando. Story flows well.
4.  Odessa American — “A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Ratliff” by Matthew McGowan. Wow. Amazing story about behind-the-scenes work. Good job. “Vicky’s Kids” by Matthew McGowan. Nice story.

Division 3 Dailies Less Than 7,000

1.  Waxahachie Daily Light — “Help on Hold” by JoAnn Livingston. Story flows well. However, a one-source story without any response from the other side makes it weak. At the least, let readers know that local office declined comment. “The Long Road Home” by Neal White. Well-done narrative of soldier’s recovery and return.
2.  River Cities Tribune — “Signs of Faith” by Raymond V. Whelan. Great layout. Unique topic. Fun. “Fatherhood: The greatest job in the World” by Daniel Clifton. More column than feature, but nice job.
3.  Plainview Daily Herald — “Hornes Rode in Style in Checker ‘Bus’” and “Glider Base Held Key Role in War Effort” by Doug McDonough. I like the “looking back” theme. You found unique topics to pursue and made them an interesting read.
4.  Ennis Daily News — “Harrell Tackles MS Head On” by Tye Chandler. Nice story. Good job seeking out more than one source. “AVID Offers Students a Boost” by Liz Crawford. Weak story.

Division 4 Semiweeklies 4,001 or More

1.  Williamson County Sun — “Agricultural rEVOOlution” by Ben Trollinger. Who knew olives could be so interesting? Great art and design. “Forbes Middle School: Band Begins on High Note” by Rachel Slade. Nice lead.
2.  Wise County Messenger — “Love’s Long Journey” by Travis Measley. Great art and presentation. Very touching. “A selfless sacrifice” by Travis Measley. No comment.
3.  Hood County News — “Tackling Her Dream” by Rick Mauch. Great art and headline. Nice subject. “Confined Dining” by Gary Engle. Art does not mix with subject. Still interesting.
4.  The Uvalde Leader-News — “Walk on the Wild Side” by Craig Garnett. Good rugged writing style—kept me interested throughout. Wanted to see the bear. “Life-changing Experience” by Meghann Garcia. Good insight into their reasoning.

Division 5 Semiweeklies 4,000 or Less

1.  Round Rock Leader — “After the Guilty Verdict” by Marcial Guajardo. This was the best story in the division. I appreciate the level of research you did to be able to detail that timeline. Good development from the lead. “Closing Time” by Brad Stutzman. Fitting lead to a feel-good story.
2.  Andrews County News — “Serving up Steak Fingers: Buddy’s celebrates 40 years of business in Andrews” by Sam Kaufman. Interesting and quirky. Good lead. “Battle at Bastogne” by Sam Kaufman. A solid profile of a WWII veteran. Very clear as far as his travels, which can get difficult to follow.
3.  Gonzales Inquirer — “Staying Strong” by Greg Little. A moving tribute. Would have liked to hear from Herb a bit more. Good idea to break up the story with subheads. “Katy’s Story” by Nicole W. Little. Comprehensive (but concise) and very explanatory. Would have liked to hear more about Katy and Josh’s relationship.
4.  Mabank Monitor — “Funding a Passion for Refuge Horses” by Pearl Cantrell. Good topic, but lead could have been better. Remember, you’ve got one sentence to pull the reader in. Sidebar is a welcome and helpful addition. “Answering the Call” by Pearl Cantrell. Solid profile.

Division 6 Large Weeklies

1.  Park Cities People — “Kershaw Learns Ropes of Starting in Majors” by Chuck Cox and “Family Can’t Help But Smile About Rickshaw” by Georgia Fisher. Captivated by both stories. Georgia did an especially good job of drawing the reader in with her description of getting the rickshaw started.
2.  Azle News — “Creative Vision” by Jeri Field. Your description of what the woodworker does along with the photos made for a nice experience in words and pictures. “Haven of Hope” by Jeri Field. No comment.
3.  Hays Free Press — “Buda Woman Unites U.S. War Widows” and “Hello, Baby” by Jen Biundo. Nice writing. A little more color in the writing would have helped. Also photos on “Hello, Baby” should have been stronger.
4.  Rockdale Reporter — “The Man Who Stopped the Klan” by Mike Brown. Great start, but got a little bogged down after the jump. Some of the historical detail could have been made more concise. “My Little Pony” by Marie Bakken. A nice story. Nicely presented.

Division 7 Medium Large Weeklies

1.  Westlake Picayune — “Horse Sense” and “A Lens to Life” by Dane Anderson. Two well-written features. Interesting, well designed and accompanying photos are also interesting and appropriate. Of all the entries, these two pieces stand out for being the strongest submissions. Good leads and use of quotes. Overall, great packaging of great products!
2.  Mineola Monitor — “Fifty Years of Cutting Our Hair, His Way, to Our Satisfaction” by Gary Edwards. The most descriptive lead out of all the entries in this division! Layout is nice. “Mullins Comes Out Swinging After Fall” by Gary Edwards. Would love to have gotten a little more of an in-depth story, but both are well-written pieces.
3.  Smithville Times — “From the Fire Line” by Mark Gwin. Really interesting perspective. The literary torch is fabulous here. Provocative piece for a tragic event. Kudos to the newspaper for giving this space to someone with a writing talent and access to the story. “Watching the River Flow” by Denis McGinness. Informative piece. Well written, yet dry compared to the other. Still, good work and interesting. Again, commendations to the newspaper for publishing longer, more substantial stories.
4.  Pittsburg Gazette — “One Man’s Story from Nov. 22, 1963” by Marsha Neeley and “Healing Faith” by Susan Taft. Well-written human interest stories. Both are a little predictable, but still solid. But each writer should have a style and stylistically, these are very similar. Encourage staff writers to find their voices in feature writing. Layout on “Healing Faith” allows for easy reading.

Division 8 Medium Weeklies

1.  Big Bend Sentinel — “Wagon Train Offers Students an Educational Adventure” by Sterry Butcher and “Just Another Evening in Marfa” by Mark Glover. Without a doubt, these two writers stood out among all the entries. Despite flashier layouts in other papers, these stories rose above as well written, engaging and stylistically memorable. Well done, Sterry and Mark!
2.   Ellis County Press — “Man of Steele: From Drum Sticks to Gavel” by Megan Gray. Passive lead. Interesting story, but get active in first graf. “Hope Restored for Fallen Hero” by Jennifer Mulhausen. Why imagine? This is what happened—go with an anecdotal lead and take it to the hilt!
3.  Clay County Leader — “Dove Season Salute” by Matt Kelton. Lead/first graf needs to be more compelling. “41-30” by Ignacio Cruz. Love this lead!
4.  Community News — “Change for a Dollar” by Randy Keck. Great layout and images. Lead needs work. Story is interesting but lead is tough to get through. “Great Strides” by Lori Cope. Don’t wait until graf four to tell me what’s important!

Division 9 Small Medium Weeklies

1.  Canadian Record — “A Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu” by Laurie Ezzell Brown. More prominent picture of Katy would have been nice. Solid. Dinner and wedding pictures good. Good use of interesting anecdotes. Specific details were great. Nice ending quote. “The Fruits of Their Labor” by Laurie Ezzell Brown. Odd placement of photos in the middle of page five. Good detail in the story, but the text is small and the story a little long.
2. West Kerr Current — “Apelt Armadillo Farm Restored After 7 Years of ‘Blood, Sweat, Tears’” by Irene Van Winkle. Nice lead. Some parts drag, but good content overall. Subheads would have helped tremendously. Good use of specific anecdotes. “Saga of Losses” by Irene Van Winkle. Good story. Good choice of content and submissions.
3.  Pilot Point Post-Signal — “Big Things Come in Small Packages” by Veronica Hamlett. Very good story—one of the few stories I read every word of. Good use of quotes and good storytelling. “In Dad’s Footsteps” by Veronica Hamlett. Solid feature story. Good pair of stories.
4.  Albany News — “Coke Couple Collects the Real Thing” by Kathryn Stapp. Nice layout, except you don’t want the story to break in half like that. Good detail. “Oldest Albany Graduate Moves Past Century Mark” by Kathryn Stapp. Good end quote. More descriptions of Swingler and her love would have been nice. Specific anecdotes are always better than general descriptions.

Division 10 Small Weeklies

1.  Crowley Star — “Tracing the Past” by Andrew D. Brosig. Great story, very well written and presented. This entry was a clear winner in the category. “Memories of War” by Andrew D. Brosig. This story had the perfect amount of “in his own words” and writer summary—a good balance that allows the reader to easily follow the narrative.
2.  Overton Press — “Local Schools’ Attendance Remains Strong Despite Flu’s Spread in ETx” by Charlotte Heldenbrand. Nicely written and good balance in tone between slightly light-hearted and serious subject. “Oldest Surviving Rescuer Recalls Work at the Scene” by Charlotte Heldenbrand. I suspect all the stories in the “Memories” piece were compelling, as the overall story grabs attention so easily. But an overly dramatic write-up can ruin the best natural stories. Fortunately for the readers, that is not the case here. Nicely done!
3.  Dripping Springs Century News — “Creek Road Cuisine” by Anne Drabicky. This could have easily veered off into a business story, but by keeping the focus on the friendship, it keeps it more of a feature story. “Farm-fresh Feast” by Anne Drabicky. Nice presentation on both pieces. Good quotes.
4.  Keene Star — “Still Unsolved” by Gnadt. Interesting look back at an unsolved case, especially since it’s the only murder case. I would have liked to see a little more about the victim though. Friends? Family? What do they say about the case status? “Thermal ‘Eye’ Helps Keene Police See You at Night” by Paul Gnadt. Fun lead. Takes readers into a nice little story.