Nine Community Newspapers Honored with 2006 McClatchy President's Awards

Released 12/22/2006

Nine newspapers have been awarded 2006 McClatchy President's Awards in the community newspaper division, a competition designed to recognize the best among the company's nondaily newspapers. Each first-place winner receives $1,000, and the winning publication receives a crystal trophy; second-place winners receive $500.

The Puyallup Herald, located near Tacoma, Wash., won the special projects award for an examination of whether local government agencies complied with freedom of information laws.

"The Herald's extensive examination of public records and barriers that prevent citizens from seeing them is a splendid example of a newspaper going to bat for its readers," said Howard Weaver, McClatchy vice president, news, who judged the public service category. "Public officials who read the series will know their duty better, and citizens will be better equipped to hold them accountable, thanks to this fine journalism."

Vida en el Valle, a bilingual weekly published in California, won two first-place awards for news and photography. Also honored with first-place awards were The Bluffton Packet, in Bluffton County, S.C., in the features category; and The Keller Citizen of Keller, Texas, which won for best sports coverage.

Staffers at various McClatchy daily newspapers not associated with the community publications judged the news, sports, features and photo categories.

Here is a list of awards and judges' comments:

News -- Judged by The State (Columbia, S.C.)

First Place: Vida en el Valle, California
Immigration Marches
Newsroom Staff

The work here is comprehensive and coordinated. The practice of assembling "feeds" from around California is smart and well executed. The many voices and personal stories drove me through the news coverage without sacrificing the significance or the larger picture. The status of national debate and federal legislation is clearly reported. The blend of people and policy is excellent.

Second Place: The Colleyville Courier, Colleyville, Texas
Pastor Gets Deal on Upscale Lot
Charles D. Young, Brad Bennett, Scott Price, Katy Bynum-Clark

This is a story you don’t see every day. Indeed, it is rare for a newspaper to penetrate the power politics and dirty dealing that can occur in a closed community such as a church congregation. The Courier deserves credit for listening and pursuing this story. Praise is due the newspaper and its staff for delivering the goods. The combination of tips and documented facts gave the story credibility and authority.

The cutline to the home under construction notes a message on a waste box, quoting Romans 3:23. For the record, and it seems appropriate to mention, the verse is: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Honorable Mention: The Cass County Democrat Missourian, Harrisonville, Mo.
Search for Bones Continues
Andrew Mouzin, Shandi Brinkman, Linda Thompson, Sarah Greene

Chasing a big story stimulates a newsroom like nothing else. An all-out blitz loosens the journalistic juices and unites the journalists engaged in the pursuit. Done correctly, the effort also serves readers by providing complete and compelling information.

Robert Bartley, former editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, put it this way in describing the responsibility of a newspaper to meet reader expectations: "The heart of our business is not printing, but editing. Our ambition is succinct: To provide our readers with what they want to know before they think to ask for it."

In hot pursuit of a big story, the Democrat Missourian anticipated reader questions and provided the answers. The reporting was extensive and the packaging was highly useful and effectively presented. From beginning to end, the story was told cleanly and clearly through well-organized newswriting and smart sidebars.

Special Mention: Alliance Regional Newspapers, Southlake, Texas

It is a pleasure to take special note of the captivating, enterprising work evident of the Alliance Regional Newspapers.

There is a palpable spirit of go-get-'em journalism across these pages. These stories look beneath the surface of the community. One story exposes a smelly housing deal for a preacher. Another sifts though the credit card purchases of public servants. Another sheds light on the improper conduct of a youth basketball coach. Others examine concerns about core issues such as air quality and water use.

Taken as a whole, these articles –- and others –- serve the interests of readers in ways that reach beyond the daily stenography common in many community newspapers. The professionals at Alliance Regional Newspapers are providing an insightful "sense of place" in serving their readers.

Sports -- Judged by the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

First Place: The Keller Citizen, Keller, Texas
Football Field of Dreams
Bryce Nieman

This is a comprehensive package on an important local issue. The story explained the problems and possible solutions. The information boxes and the photos really worked well with the story and made this a very informative package.

Second Place: The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.
UPS Rowers to Take on the Atlantic Ocean
Jacob Adams

A very nicely written, entertaining piece with several good local angles.

Honorable Mention: The Star-Herald, Belton, Mo.
Road to St. Louis
Scott Loesch and Sarah Greene

Honorable Mention: The Clovis Independent, Clovis, Calif.
Texas Fold 'Em
Lisa Houk

Features -- Judged by Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

First Place: The Bluffton Packet, Bluffton, S.C.
Painting a Picture of Relief
Maureen Simpson

The lead contains strong imagery that leads the reader into a sensitive portrayal of the toll Alzheimer's takes on the caretakers. The piece gives voice to these silent victims of the disease and is aided by helpful breakout information. The story also is strengthened by good use of quotes from multiple sources. It's tightly written, got a good clean edit, and the writer and editor resisted over dramatizing this touching subject. Excellent work.

Second Place: The Clovis Independent, Clovis, Calif.
The Untold American Story
Gabriel Alexander

A nice job of telling a back story that too often was lost in the surge of our nation's 9/11 zealotry. This is a story that would have been strengthened by the voice of more than one source to add punch and credibility. But it's well done and rises above the rest of its peers.

Photo -- Judged by The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

First Place: Vida en el Valle, California
En la Frontera/On the Border
Rosalinda Garza

The judges felt that this entry was a great example of enterprise. The package had some very strong single images that pushed it over the top as an entry. We did feel that the package as a whole could have benefited from a tighter edit to give some of the stronger images better display and improve the impact of the visual storytelling.

Second Place: Lee's Summit Journal, Lee's Summit, Mo.
King Celebration
Jeff Kirchhoff

This image clearly stood out for the judges. Very good seeing on the part of the photographer. The composition and light worked well, but the beautiful, peaceful expression on the face of the performer really made us connect with the image.

Honorable Mention: The Cary News, Cary, N.C.
Panther Creek Football
Grant Halverson

We heartily applaud the effort that went into this multimedia presentation. The photographer had some really nice images and some very good candid audio. We enjoyed how the use of audio and photos really put us at practice with the players, but the presentation as a whole seemed too long and we thought included too many mediocre images to fill the audio time. Sometimes, less is more.

Honorable Mention: Vida en el Valle, California
Amor a Todas Horas
Rosalinda Garza

We had a hard time not including this entry because of its sheer raw emotion, so we would like to include it as a second honorable mention. The images for this package were gripping and really tugged at our hearts, although there was some redundancy in the presentation. The reason it didn't place higher was because we felt that while the images did show raw emotion, the situation/event put the photographer in a place to capture this emotion somewhat easily -- while with the other winners the photographers had to dig deeper within themselves and their situation to come up with the compelling images. We would encourage the photographer to go back and do a deeper visual study of this issue – spend some time with the mother in prison without the child there, with the child at home without its mother. There is tremendous visual storytelling potential here, and we felt it wasn’t fully tapped.

Special Projects -- Judged by Howard Weaver (Sacramento, Calif.)

First Place: The Puyallup Herald, Puyallup, Wash.
Public Record
Newsroom Staff

The Herald's extensive examination of public records and barriers that prevent citizens from seeing them is a splendid example of a newspaper going to bat for its readers. In careful, exhaustive detail, the newspaper sent staffers to a wide variety of public offices with simple and legal requests -- and then charted how responsive public servants really were. Some complied with requests right away -- but many did not, often in violation of open information laws and regulations. Public officials who read the series will know their duty better, and citizens will be better equipped to hold them accountable, thanks to this fine journalism.

Second Place: The Cass County Democrat Missourian, Harrisonville, Mo.
Dearest Dolly
Amelia Wigton

"Dearest Dolly" is hardly a typical newspaper project, but it certainly is an outstanding one. In collecting and lovingly presenting an old collection of letters from a World War II soldier to his sweetheart, the paper helped honor veterans, build ties between generations, and generally educate readers about the personal side of a soldier's sacrifice. What's more, this package is just plain readable: a compelling, moving account of a soldier's love.

Honorable Mention: The Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon, Fla.
The Public Purse
Newsroom Staff

An exhaustive look at local government budgets in the home county provides a clear picture that citizens can use to navigate the often confusing landscape of taxes and government finances.

Honorable Mention: Fort Mill Times, Fort Mill, S.C.
Who Will Get to Build a Fort Mill Hospital
Newsroom Staff

This thorough examination of "Who Will Get to Build a Fort Mill Hospital" gives readers all the background and facts behind a pending decision that will greatly affect quality of life in the community.

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