Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TOP STORY >> Leader wins general excellence

Leader staff writer

The Leader was named on Saturday the best large weekly in the state for the ninth time in 10 years. The newspaper received a total of 25 state awards including the prestigious General Excellence.

Sports Editor Ray Benton and staff photographer David Scolli each received two first place awards. Staff writers John Hofheimer and Rick Kron each received one first place ribbon as did freelance writer Shelby Styron. The Leader’s staff was also honored with the top award for its coverage of tourism.

Publisher Garrick Feldman, who garnered a second-place ribbon for his editorial writing, said, “We’re proud of our gifted and talented staff of reporters, photographers and designers who serve their readers with integrity and dedication to excellence.”

The annual Arkansas Press Association newspaper contest was judged by members of the Oklahoma Press Association and this year had 982 entries from 33 weekly papers.

Benton took first place in sports news story with his article “Sylvan Hills shocked by Chapel.” The judges said, “This is a great story that captures the emotions of the loss.”

Benton also received an Honorable Mention award in the same category with his “Henderson brings home gold.”

The sport’s editor also took first and second in sports column writing. His winning entry was “Muhammad Ali complex hero.” Judges called it a fascinating story of a very complex man. “He was indeed a hero to many, but an anti-hero to so many others. Great job bringing out both sides to a very complex man,” the judges wrote.

His second-place winner, “sports should be about the game, not antics,” was called eloquent.

Benton also nabbed a third-place award in the headline-writing category with his “Bear bats hibernate as Magnolia blooms.”

Scolli’s photos took top honors and second place in the single sports action category. The judges said that in his winning basketball shot Scolli did a “nice job of catching the shot at the apex of the guy jumping to throw while being hit.

The photographer also took first and third place in the single sports feature category. “Love the photo shooting down! Great shot! Good human interest story as well,” the judge said of the photograph featuring a girl softball player at batting practice.

Scolli also took home a third-place ribbon in the single-news photograph category.

The Leader also took first and third in a new category called public notice stories. Hofheimer nabbed the top spot with his article on the millage and Jeffrey Smith placed third with his article, “Ward sewer treatment plant.”

The judges said Hofheimer “did a great job at explaining the millage tax to readers, what to expect if it passed and if it didn’t, and what will come out of it.”

Feldman’s editorial on the same topic, “Millage election to decide future,” took second place honors. “A good compelling argument on an important issue,” the judges wrote. Editor Jonathan Feldman received Honorable Mention in the editorial category with his “Probation corrupted.”

Kron took first and second in the state with his humor columns, placing first with “Today’s kids are spoiled,” and second with, “I love Christmas, almost.”

Judges called his writing funny and in reference to his top winning column, “Those were the days,” the judge said.

Styron’s article, “Heartfelt nod to the queen,” was called a beautiful story that was beautifully told. It was the top freelance story among all medium and large weeklies.

Freelancer Deb Horn, who later in the year became a staff writer for the paper, took second place in the freelance category and the same in the beat reporting category. She garnered a third-place ribbon in in-depth reporting for her series on women at work.

Christy Hendricks, the newspaper’s graphic designer, took second place honors with her graphic design portfolio.

Staff writers took first in tourism coverage, second in education and third in health and medical.

Judges said the newspapers tourism coverage was “interesting and nice coverage with diverse stories.”