2010 Better Newspaper Contest — News Writing

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Division 2
Dailies 7,000 to 99,999
1. Victoria Advocate — “Face of Illegal Immigration” by Gabe Semenza. Fantastic story, great job weaving facts into fascinating story. Great use of graphs/charts to add value. “Does It Pass The Smell Test?” by Leslie Wilber. Couldn’t read all of it, but read enough to see beautifully written story that presented facts, opinions and emotions well. These two pieces are the best investigative pieces I’ve read all day, so far.
2. Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel — “Eight-Liner Gambling Operation Busted” by Trent Jacobs. Very well done. Great job of investigative reporting; used proper processes. Good explanation of machines. “Scammer Gets Slammer” by Matthew Stoff. Fantastic lead, good quotes, good descriptions. Perfect example of how to write court stories.
3. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — “HSC Chief Pays Back Tech Debt” by Marlene Hartz. Solid in-depth story. Might have liked to see some of the positive side. Good color in story, but more subheads would have been better. “UnLeached” by Logan Carver. Nice layout — putting two students in middle of page. Some details in “Refusal to Cooperate” may have been better higher, but good story and structure.
4. Laredo Morning Times — “Cartel Leaders” by Jason Buch. Story shows strong ability to navigate through documents. I liked the use of alternative story structure. Would have liked more about effects of gang on local life. I realize it’s hard to get. “A Zeta for Life” by Jason Buch. Another solid story. Only issue I see in submissions is lack of enterprise. (This may just be my ignorance.)

Division 3
Dailies Less Than 7,000
1. Waxahachie Daily Light  — “Bee hive swarms” by JoAnn Livingston. Why you wrote such a long story I suppose is none of my beeswax! “Hungry and Hacked” by JoAnn Livingston. Quite entertaining. I can just see all those bureaucrats with their feet propped up, eating boxes of chocolates. It’s a universal phenomena.
2. San Marcos Daily Record — “Amended Use Mess” by Anita Miller. Typical inequality found everywhere in America. Good job. “Very Un-San Marcos-Like” by Anita Miller. Scary how people will just break into your home like that.
3. Brownwood Bulletin — “For the Birds” by Steve Nash. Good presentation of facts and opinions of both sides of the issue. “McCord Tells Jury” by Steve Nash. A grisly good read.
4. Seguin Gazette Enterprise — “Chase Leads to Shooting” by Ron Maloney. Thorough reporting, well done and well written. “Marion Police” by Ron Maloney. More solid reporting and writing.

Division 4
Semiweeklies 4,001 or More
1. Hood County News — “Now It’s Up to Voters” by Kathy Swindle. Good lead, but I want the importance of work higher in the story. Photo does help, though. Solid story. Would have liked traffic numbers. “Mission in Peril” by Kathy Swindle. Nice layout. Should have been investigative (I didn’t realize there wasn’t a separate category). Like the subheads, a little information overload, but an important story. Crazy good details. Solid story that covers every angle. A little more focus would have been even better.
2. Williamson County Sun — “Tops at the Tap” by Esther Robards-Forbes. Good story. Lots of details. Tried to contact everyone on list. The only problem is the main question (“Is this appropriate and should they be charged more?”) isn’t addressed until later. “Lunch Line Shows Surge in WilCo Poor” by Rachel Slade. Good lead, nice entry into story. Consider subheads instead of just square bullets. Good job addressing all issues, but would have liked more numbers on cost of coverage.
3. Bastrop Advertiser — “Cost of Justice” by Cyndi Wright. Good story. Would have been nice to get the average cost of trials. “Disaster Planning Pays Off” by Cyndi Wright. Lack of details/specifics. Too many quotes and too generic.
4. Bay City Tribune — “Boaters Share Story” by Heather Menzies. Very cool story. Would have liked a more fleshed out vignette lead, but well written. “Community Mourns” by Heather Menzies. Well done, although next year I would submit a story with more enterprise quality. This is a tough category because it’s so broad.

Division 5
Semiweeklies Less Than 4,000
1. Andrews County News — “Water Competition Forces Action” by Sam Kaufman. Good explanation, though the private company and its water usage could have been higher. Best job of several stories about water rights and laws. “Man Murdered” by Sam Kaufman. Good enterprise speaking with victim’s family and knocking down shotgun rumor.
2. Lampasas Dispatch Record — “Sheriff’s Department Targets Burglary Ring” by Jim Lowe. Good, clear writing, though it does stray into police jargon at times. “Bridge Traffic Halted” by David Lowe. Too much fire jargon, but presents a good idea of what happened.
3. Round Rock Leader — “Convicted Killer’s Legacy Lingers” by Marcial Guajardo. Good background, though a little confusing switching back and forth between victims. You did your leg work. “Done Unto ‘The Least’” by Brad Stutzman. Good story behind story.
4. Wimberley View — “Local Business Searches for Affordable Health Care” by Mary Elizabeth Davis. Good attempt to delve beyond the public event and provide more detail. “TGCD Seeks Chapter 36” by Mary Elizabeth Davis. Difficult issue was explained to readers. Needs more discussion of the impact Chapter 36 could have if approved.

Division 6
Large Weeklies
1. Silsbee Bee — “Risking Everything” by Gerry Dickert. Well reported, well written story. Very compelling. Good use of detail to convey emotion. “Protest Rocks Lumberton” by Gerry Dickert. Well reported story with strong impact on community.
2. Hondo Anvil Herald — “Problems Surface” by William Hoover. Well reported story, lots of detail. Subject’s response needed to be a bit higher in story. “Council Majority Opts for Increased Election Expense” by William Hoover. Well reported, lots of reaction. Runs a bit long but with good detail.
3. Rockdale Reporter — “Landowners See Continued Pumping as Huge Threat to Ecology” by Ken Esten Cooke. Well-reported story with ample detail, flows well. “Dawson’s Character Remembered” by Ken Esten Cooke. Nice job on obituary story—captures emotion of the loss.
4. Hays Free Press — “Too Close for Comfort” by Jen Biundo. Good coverage of spot news story. Lots of detail. “Just Say ‘Don’t Know’” by Jen Biundo. Good lead—hooks reader. Solid reporting, well balanced.

Division 7
Medium Large Weeklies
1. Smithville Times — “Wildfire Ravages Lost Pines Area” by Phil Alley. Great details. Boiled down a wide-ranging story into a comprehensible and memorable report. “Ranchers Suffer Most in Drought” by Denis McGinness. Good job of going beyond the headline—the drought—and explaining its short-term and long-term implications. Love the lead!
2. Alpine Avalanche — “Schools Need Air-Tight Contract for Baseball” by Mike Perry. Nice work on details that could lead to a deal. “Gallego Plays Key Role in Electing the Speaker” by Mike Perry. Excellent explanation of political situation. Good work getting reaction from local legislator.
3. The Nueces County Record-Star — “Candidate for Robstown Mayor Arrested” by Christopher Maher. Good story, good job getting explanations from police and candidate. “RADC Failed to File Tax Returns to IRS” by Tim Olmeda. Good explanation of situation.
4. Westlake Picayune — “Boiler Explosion Rocks Jack Brown Cleaners” by Will Pafford. Good lead and leg work talking with nearby businesses. “Parental Visits Stir Debate” by Dan Anderson. Good explanation. Balanced voice given to both sides of issue.

Division 8
Medium Weeklies
1. Community News — “Plans to Re-open Trinity Meadows Stalled By Texas Racing Commission” by Lori Cope. Good explanation and reporting. “Local Bicyclist Remembered” by Lori Cope. Nice package of stories. Good reporting.
2. Big Bend Sentinel — “Man Assaults Woman” by Sterry Butcher. Great lead. Writing avoided police jargon. Good job. “Prosecution Delays Prompt Release of Crime Spree Suspect” by Robert Halpern. Good explanation.
3. Madisonville Meteor — “Fiber Optic Cable Cut Again” by Roxanne McKnight. Good lead. Need better introduction of who cut cable. “Pro-Tem Stanton Questions CIP Costs” by Fernando Castro. Nice job getting both sides into story. Stronger lead would have mentioned source of conflict.
4. Clay County Leader — “Disease Often Misdiagnosed” by Ignacio Cruz. Good writing, except why did I have to wait until the end to learn that the man had been cured? Good reporting. “Back Burns Save Bellevue” by Matt Kelton. Great lead. Story is good, but headline doesn’t work when back burns aren’t mentioned until the end.

Division 9
Small Medium Weeklies
1. Pilot Point Post-Signal — “Cabinet Shops Cope With Slump” and “Millions Lost in Retail Sales” by Keith Magee. Reporting is excellent in both cases and numbers are presented clearly. Good economic impact stories. Very timely and well done.
2. Gladewater Mirror — “It’s About Dam Time” by James Draper. Good explanation of technical story and great lead. On a side note, loved headline and cutline. “Family Injured in U.S. 271 Rollover” by Aaron May. Good job of getting comments from witnesses. That’s not done enough by most papers these days.
3. Hico News Review —  “Only in Hico...” by Anna Belew. Very well-written story that reflects a feeling as well as the events. “Council Terminates City Administrator” by Anna Belew and Jerry McAdams. Did you try to get individual comments from council members? The story needed the comments or a notation of no comment.
4. Canadian Record — “Remains of the Day” and “Jail Relocation” by Laurie Ezzell Brown. No comments from judge.

Division 10
Small Weeklies
1. Keene Star — “Fire Takes KJCR Off Air” by Paul Gnadt. Good, straight-forward reporting—leaves no questions unanswered. “Kevin Sellers Resigns” by Paul Gnadt. I love that this story begins with what this man has done with the schools and why readers would know him. Great lead and good reporting.
2. Presidio International — “Fire Destroys DY Convenience Store” by Marion Hughes, Kat Smutz and Robert Halpern. Very descriptive writing. The reader gets a very good sense of the role this store plays in the community. “Feds Say Redford Levee Doesn’t Meet Requirements for Repair Funds” by Sterry Butcher. Again, very vivid writing brings story to life for readers. The issue is explained well, which makes it easy to follow. Good job!
3. Bay Area Citizen — “Woman Lived in ‘Horrific’ Conditions” by Mary Ann Hellinghausen. Very good lead and good reporting. The one-word quotes were a bit distracting, especially the ones that reported something already stated. But good job overall. “Conservatives, Liberals Butt Heads at Town Hall” by Dana Guthrie. Good balance of what could have easily been a “they-said-they-said” kind of story.
4. Everman Star — “Paramedic’s Life Remembered” by Candy McMichen. Lead was a bit awkward but the story overall was well written. “Infant’s Bones Found in Rendon” by Candy McMichen. Great story. I would love to see follow-up stories!