The Wise County Messenger earned top honors in the West Texas Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest, taking home first place honors in six categories enroute to the coveted Sweepstakes award.
Awards were presented Saturday morning at the Decatur Civic Center. The Messenger hosted the group’s 83rd annual summer convention, which centered around the Civic Center and featured a reception amid publisher Roy Eaton’s classic car collection, tours of the Decatur Fire Station and tours of the Messenger office on South Trinity.
Advertising manager Lisa Davis, who put together the convention program, was installed as president of the organization at the final awards brunch.
The Messenger captured first-place awards in:
- Special Section, for “Hometown Heroes” – the Fall Sports Preview published last August. The judge commented: “Loved the layouts. Great use of color. Good versatility writing about the marching band and colorguard.”
- Feature Writing, for stories by Erika Pedroza and Brandon Evans. Evans’ story, titled “The angel is in the details” ran in December and told the story of a family whose two-year-old boy had died in a swimming pool accident. Pedroza’s story, “Out of the darkness” told of a young man recovering with the support of his family after a suicide attempt. On Evans’ story, the judge wrote, “Very well-written story about a heartbreaking subject, but also a tribute. Great photos. Great layout. Very good read.” Pedroza’s story drew the comment, “Great dialogue and scene-setting. Sensitive treatment, but also revealing, of a subject sometimes kept secret.”
- Editorial Writing, for two entries, both published in May. One congratulated Chico for the cooperation between city and school district in creating a community center when an old school building was donated; and the other criticized the fact that party affiliation in county and district primary elections limits the choices voters have. The judges wrote, “Takes a strong position and backs it up,” on the first entry, and said the second was “a very original approach.”
- General Excellence, for the overall quality of the newspaper based on two issues, Feb. 4 and Nov. 10. “Nice use of color, various fonts, clean layout, photos grab attention, unique copy,” was the judges’ comment.
- Photography, for photos by Joe Duty that ran in March and October. The judges offered no comment, but ranked the photos – of the young man in Pedroza’s “Out of the darkness” feature in March, and of a man just found guilty of attempted capital murder of a police officer in October.
- Special Coverage, for the four-part series in November, “America’s Costliest War” which examined the War on Drugs from several different angles. “On reading each of the stories, it opens a window to let us see the problems and issues with the war on drugs,” the judge wrote. “Each story was a glimpse of the real-world effects of drugs on a person, their family and community. Excellent writing and excellent series.”
The Messenger also earned second place in Advertising. “I like the originality,” the judge wrote. “Good use of photos and graphics.”
Messenger reporter Erika Pedroza was named WTPA’s Journalist of the Year and Joe Duty was selected as Photographer of the Year.
Pedroza’s honor was based on news, feature and column writing throughout the year. The judges wrote, “Interesting and touching stories on people’s lives, well-written.”
Duty’s photographs of everything from lemurs to football, baseball to bus wrecks drew the judges’ praise. “Wide range of perspective throughout work samples. Good use of depth of field. Subjects were varied and some unique. Action shots were sharp. Photos drew readers to stories.”