At the 87th annual meeting of the North and East Texas Press Association April 18-20 – held at Choctaw Resort Conference Center in Durant, Okla. – the Wise County Messenger brought home five first-place, seven second-place and four third-place awards for journalistic excellence.
The Messenger fell just short of repeating as the overall Sweepstakes winner in its division, losing out by a few points to the Hood County News at Granbury. Third in the division was the Kilgore News Herald, while the Graham Leader came in fourth.
Messenger production manager/webmaster Todd Griffith attended the convention and toted home first-place plaques for sports coverage, news writing, feature story, sports photo and feature photo.
Two sports photographs from last May earned gold for Messenger photographer Joe Duty – a spring football shot from Northwest High School and a defensive dive in a Bridgeport baseball game. Duty also took feature photo honors with a portrait of Alvord’s Randy Haire and young trick-or-treater Skyler Rhodes of Bridgeport.
Sports coverage captured first-place honors with issues from November – Decatur’s cross-country state championship – and May. The May issue contained extensive coverage of the UIL state track meet, involving schools from throughout the county. The photo work of both Duty and Mack Thweatt, along with the writing of current sports editor Clay Corbett and former sports editor Richard Greene, was featured.
Reporting by Brandon Evans on two dramatic stories brought the first-place award in news writing: the death of Alvord High School student Marcus Silletti in July and the murder of Samantha McNorton in November.
For feature writing, the Messenger’s win was founded on Evans’ story about the suicide of the 19-year-old son of a local woman, and reporter Erika Pedroza’s story “Rose in bloom” about a 5-year-old girl with special needs and her relationship with her father, who was burned in a 2007 refinery explosion.
Second-place finishes were logged in special section (Welcome to Wise), news photo (Duty), page design (Jimmy Alford), general excellence and headline writing (staff). Duty also finished second in the running for photographer of the year honors.
The Messenger took third in editorial (staff), column writing (news editor Kristen Tribe) and advertising (staff), and Evans was third in the journalist of the year competition.
The Hood County News captured five first places as well – including the weightier general excellence plaque – and had two more second-place finishes than the Messenger.
The three-day meeting included golf, time in the resort’s casino and an array of meetings covering newspaper design, advertising sales, resources, personnel and a report on the coverage of the YFZ story in Eldorado by Randy Mankin, publisher of the newspaper there, the Eldorado Success.