Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TOP STORY >> Newspaper named best in state

Leader staff writer

The Leader received 11 first-place honors and also won the award for general excellence when it was named best large weekly in the state by the Arkansas Press Association for the seventh time in eight years.

In all, the newspaper won 31 awards for its writing, photographs, page designs and community coverage at Saturday’s APA gathering in North Little Rock held to announce the winners in the annual editorial contest. The Leader also won the advertising sweepstakes award at the APA’s winter convention.

On Saturday, sports editor Ray Benton took two first-place awards as did photographer David Scolli and editor Jonathan Feldman. Publisher Garrick Feldman garnered one top award as did reporter Sarah Campbell and freelancer Clifton Dolezal. The paper’s staff teamed up for community coverage that earned two first-place ribbons.

Campbell took first in investigative reporting with her series on Jacksonville’s out-of-state economic consultant, Rickey Hayes. That series of reports also put her in the running for the I.F. Stone Award, which is given to the best investigative series of the year.

The judges called Campbell’s articles “good community watch-dog journalism.”

Benton grabbed top honors in sports feature writing with “Faith shines brighter than limelight.” He also scored with his sports column “NFL wrong on many levels.”

Judges said Benton’s feature article was a “very nice package on a local, turned ‘famous.’ It gave the readers a glimpse of what it’s like to live that kind of life. It was a nice personal story.”

Commenting on his column, judges said it was an “excellent piece with strong, early opinion. Good writing style and use of language with localization as well.”

Jonathan Feldman took top honors in the editorial division with his take on the candidates for Jacksonville mayor, the incumbent mayor and the ex-police chief. Judges said Feldman used an “effective mix of background, facts and interpretation to present candidate platforms.”

Jonathan Feldman scored another first in headline writing with “Silence from sound study deafening.”

Scolli earned top honors in the single feature photograph category with his “Winter Olympics in Sherwood” picture. Judges said the photograph showed “tons of action and movement with good composition.”

The photographer also took first in the single sports-action division with his “Razorbacks excite crowd” photograph. Judges said the shot showed “peak action with nice face expression and was good quality.”

Publisher Garrick Feldman took first and third place in political columns, writing about pardons issued by outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe and former Gov. Mike Huckabee and prison reform.

Feldman also took third place in the general-interest column competition with “Is a life worth a million dollars?”

The paper also took first in coverage of tourism with articles written by Garrick Feldman, Campbell, Jeffrey Smith and Rick Kron. “The writing, design and diversity of content made this entry the clear winner. The portfolio included some uncommon pieces,” according to the judges.

The articles were about Jacksonville’s parade for Vietnam veterans, that city’s new firing range being praised by then-Gov. Mike Beebe, efforts to establish an historic district in Jacksonville, area festivals, a wedding held at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield and Sherwood’s Roundtop filling station being restored.

The Leader also netted first place in health and medical coverage with articles written by Campbell, Kron and John Hofheimer. Judges said the portfolio showed a “comprehensive coverage of issues.”

The articles were about North Metro Medical Center, its psychiatry unit for seniors expanding, how the Affordable Care Act is affecting local hospitals, tips on how to apply for coverage, a new medical complex planned for Jacksonville and reactions to the Ebola virus outbreak.

Former Airman Dolezal’s winning freelance article was about families coping with deployment. “It captures the details (emotional and technical) of deployment. Good use of photos to illustrate,” said the judges.

Other honors for the newspaper included:

• Kron took third place in the news story category and Campbell received honorable mention. Kron also took third in the state in the humorous column category.

• Campbell took third in feature writing with her piece on a women’s prison.

• Hofheimer took second in beat reporting for his military coverage.

• Sports writer Graham Powell placed second in sports column writing with his piece “Miami Heat star will never please all fans.”

• Jonathan Feldman and Kron teamed up for a second place honor in headline writing with “Beaver problems gnaw officials.”

• Scolli took second place in the sports feature photograph division and third in best picture page or photo essay. He also grabbed a third-place honor in the single news photograph category.

• Christy Hendricks took second place in the best front page competition and third place in the best graphic design portfolio category.

• Benton took second place in the best sports page division. He and Powell also finished third in the state in the battle for best special section with their football compilation.

• Hofheimer, Campbell and Smith earned third place honors for their coverage of business and agriculture. Their articles were about the impact of a law, thefts and weather on farmers; Teletech bringing jobs to Sherwood, the 50-year anniversary of AGL in Jacksonville and area Christmas tree farms.

• The paper’s website garnered Jacob Paddock third-place honors for best website design.

• Ernie Dumas, longtime contributor to The Leader, placed second in freelance writing with his in-depth look into Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton in their race for the Senate.

Nearly 1,900 entries were submitted for this year’s contest, which was judged by members of the Colorado Press Association.