By Grace Lyden
Reprinted with permission from the Columbia Missourian
Columbia, Mo. (Sept. 12, 2013) — The Columbia Missourian won 64 awards in the 2013 Missouri Press Association‘s Better Newspaper Contest, including 23 first-place awards and the Gold Medal Newspaper award.
One of the first-place awards was in general excellence, the overall prize.
The Gold Medal, which the Missourian also won last year, is awarded to the newspaper earning the most awards in its circulation class. The Missourian’s class includes daily newspapers with circulations of 5,001 to 15,000.
The achievement “recognized the considerable talent we have across the newsroom,” said Jeanne Abbott, managing editor of the Missourian. “News, features, sports, design and just general excellence.”
Vox magazine’s work was an important contribution to the Gold Medal win, as well, she said.
All contest entries were published in 2012. There were 37 categories. Within each category were six circulation classes – three each for weekly and daily publications. In the 2011 contest, announced in fall 2012, the Missourian won 64 awards, including the Gold Medal.
Here are a few of the first-place highlights:
Vox magazine’s “Against the Odds” won the top prize for best news or feature series. “Against the Odds” profiled Columbia individuals who proved that “the improbable is still possible,” from a World War II prison-camp survivor to a man who lost a quarter of his 222-pound body weight.
- The prize for best investigative reporting went to Caroline Michler and Ben Nadler for their article on Ameren Missouri’s replacement of 4,200 out-of-date natural-gas regulators in Columbia.
- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch won best feature story with “Douglass Classmates’ Lives Are Intertwined with Columbia’s History,” which follows a group of black women who have worked hard to preserve their friendship after Brown v. Board of Education desegregated Columbia’s high schools in 1960.
- The first-place award for a sports feature story went to Sarah Bricker for her story about Olympic historian John Lucas, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in February 2012 and “can no longer recall his life’s mission.”
- The photo department at the Missourian was also recognized, with Nick Agro winning best photo package and Grant Hindsley winning best news photo.
The awards were presented at the 147th Missouri Press Association’s annual convention at the Marriott Downtown in Kansas City. The convention started Thursday and continued Saturday.
Below is a complete list of the winners and judges’ comments if available.
- General Excellence: Staff. Judges’ Comments: Clean layouts, photography that tells stories, crisp writing and a good mix of news, features and government reporting. The only shortcoming is a lack of national and world news except in the sports section.
- Best Photo Package: Nick Agro, “Flight School.” Judges’ Comments: Great composition and very good layout made this submission a clear winner. The one thing missing? The bird in flight.
- Best News Photo: Grant Hindsley, “Tears for a Friend.” Judges Comments: The grief conveyed by the body language of these women is palpable. The viewer truly can feel the emotions.
- Best Story about History: Anna Boiko-Weyrauch, “Douglass Classmates’ Lives Are Intertwined with Columbia’s History.”
- Best Photo Illustration: Leah Beane, “Where the Good Things Grow.” Judges’ Comments: Simple, graphic, well-composed.
- Best Columnist-Humorous: David Rosman. Judges’ Comments: A wonderfully written column and very interesting to read. You made politics interesting!
Best Sports Photo: Nick Agro, “Tigers’ Placement in Basketball.” Judges’ Comments: Love the juxtaposition of the sky full of confetti against the sea of yellow shirts, and the focus on one player.
- Best Coverage of Government: Staff, “Enhanced Enterprise Zone.” Judges’ Comments: The Columbia Missourian’s coverage of the debate over enhanced enterprise zones was by far the most in-depth and informative of the many strong entries in government coverage this year. The newspaper did a masterful job of taking both sides of the issue and presenting them in an easy-to-understand and balanced way, while managing to keep the reader interested and not bogged down with endless facts and figures.
- Best Business Story: Walker Moskop, “After Foreclosures, One Family Fights Bank of America to Regain Losses.” Judges’ Comments: Excellent story on how complicated financial decisions can impact ordinary Americans. Clear and compelling writing with all the elements in the right place.
- Best Video: Christopher Parks, “Bryan’s Lament.” Judges’ Comments: Brilliant mini-documentary on grief and the loss of a child through violence. Whatever they are doing at Columbia Missouri, everyone should do.
- Best Story About the Outdoors: Calder Cleavelin, “Deer Disease Shrouds Hunting Future in Macon County.” Judges’ Comments: Important topic for everyone.Nice research for the story. Well written.
- Best Feature Story: Anna Boiko-Weyrauch, “Douglass Classmates’ Lives Are Intertwined with Columbia’s History.” Judges’ Comments: Interesting topic about a unique perspective on desegregation.Great use of historical photos. Well written, researched.
Best Investigative Reporting: Caroline Michler and Ben Nadler, “Sneed Daughter Alleges Regulator Failure Contributed to Fatal Explosion.” Judges’ Comments: Nice job examining the evidence in a court case that didn’t take place. The reporters worked to get depositions,motions, exhibits and legal responses to questions to find out more about the fatal gas explosion that was settled out of court. Great work.
- Best Story About Rural Life or Agriculture: Claire Porter, Community Garden Returns Columbia Refugees to Their Agricultural Roots.” Judges’ Comments: Exceptionally well written. I was pulled into the article by the descriptive first paragraph. The paragraphs that followed were equally sublime. Writing strikes a perfect balance between emotional and factual.
- Best News Story: Erin Jones, “Bill Could Increase Penalty for Causing Abusive Head Trauma to Babies.” Judges’ Comments: Deep look at the issue, the legislation,the impact on families and society. It is organized for clarity and easy reading. An excellent job of explaining cause and effect of the proposed law change.
- Best Story About Education: Shaina Cavazos, “New Common Core Standards Stress Deeper Learning, Practical Skills.” Judges’ Comments: Good writing with strong opening paragraphs that pulled me into the article. Good presentation of information in an easily understood format. Good flow to writing style, which was especially important given the length of the article.
- Best News or Feature Series: Vox Staff, “Against the Odds.” Judges’ Comments: Strong reporting with a big coloring of detail, well used multimedia and description. Each piece had its pull.
- Best Sports Feature Story: Sarah Bricker, “Renowned Olympics Historian John Lucas Can No Longer Recall His Life’s Mission.” Judges’ Comments: This was such a wonderful story. When you think about feature writing for sports, this story is what you want. Insightful. Interesting. A pleasure to read.
- Best Sports News Story or Package: Staff, “SEC Road Trip.” Judges’ Comments: Excellent guide. Strong visuals and fantastic design. Stories are interesting and helpful to fans. Nice work.
- Best Page Design: Staff, “Flight School.” Judges’ Comments: That bird’s eye picture is absolute magnet; excellent decision to use it as the dominant photo among group offine photos.Great use of white space, photo spacing and type block. Page is open, airy, perfect for the topic. Tough to beat this first-rate work.
- Best Headline Writing: Staff, “Ahead of His Game;” “Calculating the Gap;” “A Very Dry Wine;” “Ill-Suited;” “Third Time Charmed.” Judges’ Comments: Obvious that this paper focuses on creative headlines; understands the vital need to catch the eye and attention of the reader.
- Best Special Section: Staff, “Columbia’s Kids.”
- Best Photo Package: Jaime Henry-White, Kile Brewer and Stuart Palley, “Gameday!” Judges’ Comments: Captured the excitement among the young fans of a football game. Good composition.
- Best Feature Photo: Kayla Kauffman, “Doggy Drill Team Poses for a Photo.” Judges’ Comments: Anyone who can get 17 dogs to sit still while he is taking their photo deserves a prize. And the perfect, drill team formation is great.
- Best Info Graphic: Will Guldin, “Election’s Bill Tilts Left.” Judges’ Comments: This excellent info graphic simplifies a complex election funding environment, breaking it down into easy-to-digest modules. Metrics prove news trends, and this package did it with style and substance.
- Best Story About Religion: Jennifer Liu, “Traveling Pastor Brings Together Chinese Christian Church.” Judges’ Comments: Great lead! A bit repetitive in the beginning (when his occupation was mentioned), but nice overall!
- Best Sports Photo: Andrew Mitchell, “Kodiak Bear at Missouri Deer Classic Roars.” Judges’ Comments: Not your usual sports photo, but so realistic you can hear the roar.
- Best Business Story: Stephen Johnson, “Brothers Began Egg Business with Six Chickens, Now Supply MU Dining Halls.” Judges’ Comments: Very fun read on how creating your own business can consume your life. Engaging writing.
Best Video: Nick Schnelle, “My Kids Over My Demons.” Judges’ Comments: Another brilliant documentary, wisely done in black and white to capture the bipolar nature of someone suffering from this disease. Excellent.
- Best Story About the Outdoors: Sarah Bricker, “Falconers Build Bonds with Their Birds.” Judges’ Comments: Good topic. Fun reading. Nice job.
- Best Front Page: Staff, Oct. 5, Oct. 8-29, Oct. 31. Judges’ Comments: This entry also consisted of great-looking front pages. For the special sports A1, it was important to note where readers can find the news pages, which was done neatly on the front page.Great use of A1 art and graphics; good pops of color for each. The first and second-place winners were very close.
- Best Feature Story: Alison Matas, “Planned Parenthood Escort Protects the Right to Choose.” Judges’ Comments: Very interesting topic. Highlights a volunteer group that most do not know about. Educational, insightful.
- Best Investigative Reporting: Josh Barone, “A Murder Unanswered: The Aftermath of Tevin Nelson’s Death.” Judges’ Comments: This story of the tragic shooting of a black man required the reporter talk to many family members. It is well told and raises concerns about the distrust among families and the police. This is worthwhile storytelling. Good work.
- Best Story About Rural Life or Agriculture: Matthew Schacht, “Saving the Land: Columbia Farmer Plans the Future of His Historic Property.” Judges’ Comments: This article is both well written and well balanced. The landowner’s dilemma of when to sell and to whom is presented in a manner that is both fact-based and imaginative. It would be easy to treat this subject matter in a heavy-handed and prosaic way. This writer, however, really made me understand the farmer’s turmoil. Just overall great writing.
- Best News Story: Ben Nadler, “United Way Mission Change Cuts Funding for Older-Adults Programs.” Judges’ Comments: Story shows impact with detailed reporting on each agency’s situation in the wake of the priority change. Something worth reporting this thoroughly should be sourced only with interviews and not a news release. Overall, clarity, details and organization make this a winner.
- Best Story About Education: Elizabeth Scheltens, “Columbia Schools Superintendent Trying to Build ‘Cradle to Career’ Coalition.” Judges’ Comments: Nicely written; I had a clear sense of what the World Cafe is trying to accomplish. Good use of bullet points (wish more articles had them) to cull out points of emphasis.
- Best Coverage of Community/People/Lifestyles: Staff, Nov. Election, “Two Columbians” Nov. 2, “Sharp End” Nov. 9. Judges’ Comments: Insightful interviews and strong art gave me a vivid sense of how a community grapples with one of the toughest decisions– who should lead the country for the next four years. Other stories also gave me a strong flavor for the community.
- Best Sports Feature Story: Brendan Meyer, “Earnest Ross Wears His Life Story on His Skin.” Judges’ Comments: Great story. Enjoyed so much of the background information. Made me feel like I really got to know the subject.
- Community Service: Staff, “Silence the Violence.” Judges’ Comments: Interesting experiment in multimedia presentation of a current event. Involved people with the medium(s?); got faces and names out there.
- Best Sports Pages: Staff, March 3, Oct. 5-6, Nov. 9-10. Judges’ Comments: What grabbed me most about this entry was the photos. The wheelchair basketball pics and story was great. Also enjoyed the rodeo picture and the photo of the gymnast turned diver.
- Best News Photo: Emma Kessinger, “Fire.” Judges’ Comments: Grieving people, against a backdrop of what has caused them that grief, makes for a powerful photo.
- Best Story About Religion: Alli Inglebright and Jessica Salmond, “Son Riders Motorcycle Church Caters to Christian Bikers.” Judges’ Comments: A snippet about the church itself before making the transition to the paragraph about its owners would’ve tied the lead and body together. But good job overall!
- Best Video: Stuart Palley, “Time Lapse Video: Missouri-Vanderbilt Game.” Judges’ Comments: Fun, fun, fun. Captured the excitement of college football in a completely creative way.
- Best Columnist-Serious: George Kennedy. Judges’ Comments: Well-written and interesting. The essays held the reader’s attention throughout.
- Best Story About the Outdoors: Calder Cleavelin, “Chad Herwald Takes Care of Columbia’s Public Trees.” Judges’ Comments: Good research for the story. Photos were very helpful in telling the story.
- Best Feature Story: Anthony Schick, “Second-Generation Immigrant Struggles to Find Motivation of His Parents.” Judges’ Comments: Such an interesting, compelling topic. Thought-provoking. Well written. Effective use of photography.
- Best Investigative Reporting: Ben Nadler and Brendan Meyer, “Title IX Gives Universities Greater Latitude to Punish Students Accused of Sexual Assault.” Judges’ Comments: Reporting included multiple sources and review of some of the documents in the alleged sexual assault case of a university basketball player. The reader is given a good deal of information, but it is put in context and shows the reporters’ work to investigate.
- Best Story About Rural Life or Agriculture: Anna Boiko-Weyrauch, “Missouri Farmers Lay Groundwork for Truffle Market.” Judges’ Comments: Really nice balance of information on truffles and the plan to bring them to Missouri.
- Best News Story: Katy Bergen, “Obama Addresses Joplin High’s Senior Class a Year After Tornado.” Judges’ Comments: Strong storytelling that uses multiple sources to take readers inside the Joplin graduation ceremony one year after a devastating tornado.Despite the headline,the story is about the community more than it is about Obama and that’s good.
- Best Story About Education: Caitlyn Kolakowski and Elizabeth Scheltens, “A Year Later, Benton Elementary Staff See Impact of STEM Transition.” Judges’ Comments: Just an overall well written article with good structure and continuity.
- Best Ad Idea-Promotion of Newspaper: Staff, “Now Seen on Every Screen.” Judges’ Comments: Great concept and design. Very inventive and clever. I love how it’s carried through in the complete design of the page.
- Best Special Section: Staff, “College Town.”
- Best Photo Package: Naveen Mahadevan, “The Trail: 9th Senatorial District.” Judges’ Comments: Innovative use of local photojournalism. More behind the scenes pictures could have captured the exhaustion in every campaign trail.
- Best News Photo: Alyssa Goodman, “Funeral.” Judges’ Comments: Your heart breaks just looking at this photo and the emotion it captured.
- Best Information Graphic: Hm Siwen Li, “Hot Air Ballooning.” Judges’ Comments: You think you know everything about hot-air ballooning, then an info graphic like this comes along, and teaches you a thing or two! Clean, elegant and informative.
- Best Sports Photo: Rachel English, “Kayaker Rob Walker Practices Eskimo Rolls.” Judges’ Comments: Nice feature shot.
- Best Video: Katie Alaimo, “Falling Off the Cliff.” Judges’ Comments: Great topic, very well done. Probably would have been more powerful as a traditional video or if the Ken Burns effect was used to bring greater focused to the photographs.
- Best Story About the Outdoors: Hannah Wiese and John McLaughlin, “U.S. Department of Agriculture Ends Funding for Chronic Wasting Disease.” Judges’ Comments: Another important topic covered in this story.
- Best Investigative Reporting: Bobby Watson, “Police Department’s No-Report Accident Policy Reduces Tickets, Raises Concerns.” Judges’ Comments: Very good investigative story that tells readers why police don’t report non-injury accidents through the eyes of one man who had an accident and was left in the ditch without a ticket or report issued by the police. Nice to see the city reconsidering its decision.
- Best Story About Rural Life or Agriculture: Zachary Matson, “Missouri’s Vineyard Owners Expect the Best 2012 Vintage.” Judges’ Comments: Well written and highly descriptive. Good selection of direct quotes. Nicely balanced overall.
- Best Story About Education: Shaina Cavazos, “New Common Core State Standards Address Lack of Student Literacy.” Judges’ Comments: This was a surprise. When I opened the file, I thought this would be a dry article, an assumption I based on the charts and graphs. But writing was solid and presented the information in an engaging manner.
- Best News or Feature Story: Katy Bergen, Ben Frederickson and Laura Kebede, “Project 573-Mental Illness.” Judges’ Comments: The level of in-depth reporting and anecdotal focus brought light to a difficult issue. Some pieces lacked consistency, but overall a strong series.
- Best Page Design: Staff, “Gameday!” Judges’ Comments: Just a nice, balanced, photo page with good use of white space and positioning of type elements. OK choice of dominant photo. Upper right photo off lags could have been cropped more creatively.