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Six Community Newspapers Honored with 2007 McClatchy President's Awards

Released 11/28/2007

Six newspapers have been awarded 2007 McClatchy President's Awards in the community newspaper division, an annual competition designed to recognize the best journalism among the company’s non-daily newspapers. Each first-place winner receives $1,000, and the winning publication receives a crystal trophy. Second-place winners receive $500.

The Cary News of North Carolina won three awards, including first place in the special projects category for its comprehensive, multimedia coverage of Cary Band Day, an annual high school marching band competition that draws some 28 different bands from throughout the Southeast to Cary, N.C.

"The Cary Band Day presentation produced by The Cary News is an outstanding example of journalism that combines wide community reach with vigorous, multifaceted coverage," said Howard Weaver, McClatchy’s vice president, news, who judged the public service category. “As a result, readers leave this special presentation with a powerful sense of what a central event this marching band competition is for the community of Cary.”

The Cary News also won a first-place award in the sports category for its showcasing of high school athletes in both print and online video. The weekly newspaper finished second in the photo category for coverage of a Harry Potter party.

The Fort Mill Times, a weekly covering Fort Mill, S.C., won the first-place award for news. Also honored with first-place awards were the Sierra Star in Oakhurst, Calif., in the features category; and Lee’s Summit Journal in Lee’s Summit, Mo., in the photo category.

Staffers at various McClatchy daily newspapers not associated with the community publications judged the news, sports, features and photo categories. Here is the list of award winners and judges’ comments.

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

First Place: Fort Mill Times, Fort Mill, S.C.
“Main Street Marred”
Reporters Mac Banks, Jenny Overman, Jonathan Allen, Michael Harrison

Kudos to staffers at the FMT for pulling together a clear, compelling, high-energy package on a fire that destroyed a downtown landmark eatery and wiped out a festival.

What better role for a community newspaper than to provide soup-to-nuts coverage of a news event that touched the lives of so many. The FMT staff addressed the impact and anticipated readers' questions by providing a deluxe, multimedia report. Credit to the reporters for their roundup of voices and perspectives. This news package demonstrated authority and local knowledge by putting forward sidebars that truly are sidebars -- they complement the main story with different and interesting angles.

Special credit to Jonathan Allen for the first-person account of dinner – for the last time – at Tony's. This is a marvelous example of authentic, local color storytelling.

Second Place: Sierra Star, Oakhurst, Calif.
“Local Attorney, Sons Killed in Oregon Crash”
Editor David Richards Here's a great example of clear reporting and writing -- as well as effective news packaging -- against a breaking news deadline.

The story is not terribly long, but is chock-full of detail and information. The newswriting is logical and precise, while nicely handling personal sentiments from relatives and friends.

The presentation is just right, with a photo of the three subjects in their golf attire, a locator map, and an accident photo. The jump headline advances the information by providing the funeral date.

There's nothing fancy or overdone here: Just good, solid, understandable news reporting. It's the foundation of what we do.

Honorable Mention: The Southlake Journal, Southlake, Texas
Two-Part Series: “Cops Question Handling of Cases by DPS” and “Police Question Department’s Leadership”
Reporters Katy Bynum-Clark, Alice Murray, Jean Weaver, Charles D. Young

Fundamental to responsible newspapering is a heightened sense of curiosity when those with access to power derive special benefits. Our job is to help level the playing field by providing information and facts to expose and clarify matters of public concern.

It is laudable, then, that reporters for the Journal followed the scent after receiving tips of preferential treatment by the Southlake police department. Stories in the Journal led to disclosures and, ultimately, to a grand jury investigation.

The Journal's reporting brought to light dissension inside the police department over the investigation of a dust-up between affluent teens and Southlake police. Were it not for the Journal's work, an apparent climate of preferential treatment may have continued without review.

The Journal's stories were triggered by tips from unidentified sources. That is cause for some concern. But events that transpired -- including follow-up stories in other publications reviewed by this judge -- affirm the Journal's decision to raise public awareness.

There are some areas to shore up: Articles talk about a climate of favoritism and poor morale. The articles would be strengthened by shoring up these allegations. Giving more voice to the police chief -- in the face of his anonymous accusers -- would have provided more balance.

In the end, the Journal is to be commended for taking on a tough situation and telling it without fear or favor.

Honorable Mention: The Chapel Hill News, Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Votes Key to Town's Future”
Staff Writers Jesse James DeConto, Lisa Hoppenjans

This is smart work. The issue is presented with authority and clarity. But what really sets this work apart is the higher-end thinking about the larger question: Will Chapel Hill become a city or remain a town? It's all about what a community is to be and what it has been. This package neatly pulls together what certainly must be a central quality of life question for readers. Well done.

Features -- Judged by The Wichita Eagle

First Place: Sierra Star, Oakhurst, Calif.
“Up in the Air”
Editor David Richards

David Richards’ winning piece on the uncertain future of the Harry H. Baker Boys and Girls Club recounts the club’s beginnings, then follows its winding path since 1998 and the lives it has touched along the way. Richards’ story is crisply written, engaging and built on very strong records reporting. The story puts a face on the young people who need the club and count on its resources to keep them off the streets after school hours. It then underpins those personal moments with a thorough accounting of the club’s finances – and future financial needs that threaten its continued existence. This story is a great example of feature writing that combines the craft of storytelling with fact-based reporting. Most importantly, this is a “make a difference” story that draws attention to an important need in the community.

Second Place: Lee’s Summit Journal, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
“Escaping the Killing Fields”
Reporter Brett Dalton

Chouen and Mary Dean’s story of imprisonment and escape from Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge is impossible to put down. They fled their home, were separated and eventually reunited -- very much by accident -- in Thailand. Along the way, each was imprisoned, and Mary Dean witnessed the deaths of their three children. Now living in Lee’s Summit, they are witnesses to a painful period in history that most of us know only through textbooks or news accounts. Brett Dalton does a wonderful job of putting us in the moment as we relive the couple’s terror and loss during their escape from the Khmer Rouge and the path that brought them to America’s heartland.

Photo -- Judged by the Idaho Statesman

First Place: Lee’s Summit Journal, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
“A Big Wet Kiss”
Photo Editor Jeff Kirchhoff

The image was a great moment, with wonderful texture and a nice tight crop. It really grabs your attention and draws you into the page quickly.

Jeff Kirchhoff’s other entry “Stars in His Eyes” with the collection of the community portraits were really well done as well. Great display and nice use of space. Many had compelling composition – good application of the rule of thirds. There were several really wonderful moments. The package portrayed a nice sense of community.

Second Place: The Cary News, Cary, N.C.
“Caught Up in the Magic”
Director of Photography and Multimedia Grant Halverson

Nice seeing! You don’t even have to read anything to know what is going on. A refreshing way to document a Harry Potter party without the predictable photo of someone dressed like Harry Potter.

It transcends Harry Potter and captures the pure joy and anticipation of the book.

Honorable Mention: The Clovis Independent, Clovis, Calif.
“Cartwheel Cowboy”
Photographer Dean Slagel

Nice image. Pushed the shutter at precisely the right time! Photo could have benefited from a tighter, slightly more creative crop to really enhance the repetition and pattern of legs and hoofs in chaos. As it is now the white fence in the background is distracting.

Dean Slagel’s other image of the football player loosing his helmet was also really good seeing. Slagel is obviously a talented sports photographer and should be proud of both images.

Honorable Mention: Vida en el Valle, Fresno, Calif.
“Mexican Independence Day”
Photographer Hector Navejas

A couple of really nice moments – great space allowed for display. A combination of more variety in lens focal length and a tighter edit would have made this package stronger. Photo of woman waving the flag weakened the package as you can’t see the flag and her expression is a little off. But overall some nice photos that captured the excitement and emotion of the event.

Honorable Mention: The Cass County Democrat Missourian, Harrisonville, Mo.
“Home Sweet Home”
Adam Droegemueller

A couple of really nice moments that captured the joy of a community welcoming home their Marines. A couple of the photos suffered from weak and cluttered composition.

Sports -- Judged by the Lexington Herald-Leader

First Place: The Cary News, Cary, N.C.
“One on One”
Sports Editor Tim Candon and Director of Photography and Multimedia Grant Halverson

It is an original way to spotlight local high school athletes and showcase their skills in both print and video.

I picked The Cary News piece because it was an original way to showcase the talents of local high school athletes in both print and video. The sports editor, a la George Plimpton, tried to play the sports of the athletes he covers with amusing results. It was an engaging way to get more local high school athletes into the paper and online, talking about what makes them good at the game they play.

Special Projects -- Judged by Howard Weaver, The McClatchy Company

First Place: The Cary News, Cary, N.C.
“Cary Band Day”
Director of Photography and Multimedia Grant Halverson and Reporter Valerie Marino

The Cary Band Day presentation produced by The Cary News is an outstanding example of journalism that combines wide community reach with vigorous, multifaceted coverage. As a result, readers leave this special presentation with a powerful sense of what a central event this marching band competition is for the community of Cary. Some 28 different bands (and supporters) from North Carolina and Virginia converged on Cary for this annual event, and The Cary News had something for them all. Multimedia presentations complemented traditional newspaper coverage to provide the sights and sounds of the festivities in a lasting format.

Second Place: The Cass County Democrat Missourian, Harrisonville, Mo. and The Star-Herald, Belton, Mo.
“The Cass County Sports Awards”
Newsrooms Staffs

Newspapers in many communities sponsor prep sports awards and host events -- but few do so with the depth and range of The Cass County Democrat Missourian and The Star-Herald in this joint effort. Their special section recognizes a huge range of student athletes from eight different schools in the region in a variety of sports from tennis to football. Also honored are top scholar athletes and the coach of the year. This event must truly be a centerpiece of sports life in Cass County.

About McClatchy:

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