Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TOP STORY >> Paper does it again

Leader staff writer

“Aggressive reporting at this paper leads to aggressive editorials,” the judges said as The Leader was named the best large weekly newspaper in the state by the Arkansas Press Association.

Besides winning the General Excellence award (best in state) now eight out of the past nine years, The Leader garnered 30 other awards at the annual state press convention in Bentonville on Saturday. The paper took 14 first-place awards, including top honors in editorial writing, sports writing, investigative reporting, photography and design. The paper also won eight second-place honors, seven third-place awards and one honorable mention.

More than 30 weekly newspapers submitted over 1,000 entries that were judged by members of the Nebraska Press Association.

Publisher Garrick Feldman took home the top prize in the news/political column category and the general interest column competition. Judges called Feldman’s political column, “Apocalypse in age of horror,” “Dynamite! Well written.” Judges said his general interest column about his “Mother recalls end of horror,” a “great column about your mother’s remarkable life and everything she survived.”

Editor Jonathan Feldman took first and second place in editorial writing with his thoughts on North Metro Medical Center and former Lonoke County Assessor Jack McNally.

Commenting on the North Metro editorial, the judges called Jonathan Feldman’s writing a “strong stand on a most important issue. Lots of details give the reader clear understanding and backs the editorial’s bite.”

“Wow! So much dirt aired on the editorial page,” the judges said about the Jack McNally piece. “What an indictment on Arkansas politics. No doubt this paper’s editorials are consistently a must-read!”

Reporter Sarah Campbell took top honors with her coverage of a local funeral home and its legal issues. Fellow reporter Rick Kron took second with his ongoing coverage of North Metro Medical Center.

Judges called Campbell’s series “well researched and written.” They said Kron’s hospital articles were “interesting stories” and added, “hope I don’t need medical attention in Arkansas any time soon.”

The paper’s senior staff writer John Hofheimer took first for his in-depth coverage of the formation and growth from infancy of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.

Sports editor Ray Benton took home blue ribbons for sports news, sports column writing and best sports page. Judges call his news story, “Twins finish first, second by one point,” an enjoyable read. Judges said it was a “neat story about the girls and the family lines in the event. Well written and the visuals added depth to the story. Very nice.”

Benton’s sports column “Alleged killer squandered unique talent,” was called great by the judges. “Best of a talented lot by the writer,” they said. The judges said Benton’s sports pages had “great photos and he had consistently clean, good-looking pages.”

Kron took first place in the humor writing category with his column about the calls the Butterball turkey line gets every year. “A very funny column. It makes me appreciate my mother and grandmother’s fine cooking on Turkey Day,” the judge said.

The Leader also took first and third place in freelance writing with articles that were written by Little Rock Air Force Base members Kaylee Clark and Regina Edwards.

Clark’s article, “Taking it to the woods,” was called excellent by the judges. “Great lead that sets the stage for the remainder of the article. Wonderful use of visual language. Solid writing,” the judges said in making their selection.

“Cancer stories tug at the heart. Very relatable,” the judges said of Edwards’ article, “Shut up and color.”

Photographer David Scolli scored blue ribbons with his single news photograph of a fatal fire and his single sports action shot of a Cabot quarterback.

Judges said Scolli’s news photo of a father and son embracing after a fatal fire told the “story of grief and heartbreak. A great shot.”

Judges called Scolli’s sports photo “great timing to capture an awesome play.”

Creative editor Christy Hendricks took first with the best graphic design portfolio. “Great photos and good use of type to make main packages standout even more,” the judges said.

Reporters Jeffrey Smith, Hofheimer and Campbell teamed up to take first in the coverage of business and agriculture by submitting a variety of articles. Judges liked the reporting because it showed enterprise and was not run-of-the-mill ribbon cuttings or new business stories.

Other awards received by the newspaper staff included:

A second place award to Smith in the news story category for his article, “Judge leaving bench for his upcoming trial.

Kron took third and received an honorable mention in the feature story category for his articles about a baby born in an ice storm in the parking lot of North Metro hospital and a mother getting to hear her deceased son’s heart again after it was successfully transplanted into a young woman.

Sports writer Graham Powell netted second place honors in both sports news and sports feature writing. Judges called his sports news story about a girl grappler a “really unique story that was put together well.

Not only did Garrick Feldman take the blue ribbon in the general interest column category he also garnered a third place plaque for his column, “Lehoczky: A class act and witness to history.”

Scolli also scored second place finishes in the single feature and single sports action photograph categories.

Smith, who works as a reporter and photographer, grabbed third in the single feature photograph with his photograph of a color run.

The newspaper placed third in competition for best front page.

Hofheimer, Campbell, Smith and Kron, as a team, took third place for education coverage and were third in tourism coverage.

They took second place in health and medical coverage.