The Record wins Panhandle Press Association 2019 General Excellence Award

The Record staff brought home a packing crate full of awards from the Panhandle Press Association’s 2018 Better Newspaper Contest last weekend, including the prestigious General Excellence Award for weekly newspapers.

The Record’s haul included a dozen first-place plaques and two for second-place, sweeping the field in almost every contest category, from writing to design, from photography to its online edition.

The convention headquarters was Amarillo’s Downtown Courtyard Marriott, but events were staged in several nearby venues. Among the keynote speakers were Texas Tribune executive editor and co-founder Ross Ramsey, who talked about the publication’s origins, its coverage of statewide news and political issues, and, in particular, the Texas Legislature, which is now in session. Russell Viers opened the convention Friday evening with a philosophical narrative about and stunning photos of the people he met while on “Kooky’s Road Trip,” followed the next morning with presentations on Adobe Creative Suite design programs.

During the Saturday evening presentation of the PPA’s annual Better Newspaper Contest honors, The Record was awarded first-place plaques in serious column writing, news writing, feature writing, headline writing, sports writing, sports photography, spot news photography, human interest photography, society/lifestyles, front-page layout, special section, and online newspaper; and second-place plaques in advertising design and editorial writing.

The points earned resulted in The Record’s General Excellence Award win, in the Division I contest division for weeklies. The contest entries were judged by members of the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association.

Editor Laurie Ezzell Brown’s Field Notes won top honors for columns about the rescue of the soccer team from a cave in Thailand, juxtaposed against the issue of immigrant families fleeing for their lives; a meditation on the two-year anniversary of Canadian High School senior Thomas Brown’s disappearance; and “No Handouts … and no free lunches,” a discussion of the history of EDC and Chamber organizations and their purpose. Judges called the third entry “a courageous piece, vital to the community,” and the Thomas Brown entry, “Very well done—beautiful prose. Heart-wrenching.”

Brown’s winning news-writing entries covered a local woman involved in the South Llano River flood of October; a review of the school district’s response to rumors of gun violence threats; and “Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion,” interviews with Thomas Brown’s friends, Kaleb King and Christian Webb. From the judges: “The writing in these stories is stunningly good. Layered, clear, concise, thorough, descriptive—an impossible combination …. You are a credit to your community.”

Sports Editor Peyton Aufill wrote two of the winners in the feature category: a profile of outstanding CHS athlete Tyler Richardson; and an introduction to the Higgins Lady Coyote Averi Durham, who was making a tennis run at state competition. The judges were impressed with the layout of both stories and credited Aufill’s writing, as well. Brown’s feature was about Syrian news fixer, Wael Resol, who had won an international award for his work. He is married to Canadian-native Katy McGarr, and they live in Sulaimani, a city in the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq. “Tightly written piece on an interesting subject,” said the judges.

In headline writing, Aufill won with a play-on-words, “Ante-nope: Wildcats deny Abernathy with a capital D,” for the state quarterfinal Wildcat football game win against the Abernathy Antelopes. The Record staff contributed “Getting lit at The Citadelle,” for a front page of the Waterfield Walk lighting at Christmas; and “Ground Beef,” for a story about the toppling of a large steer from his perch on the Canadian Restaurant sign.

Aufill’s sports writing first-place winners ran the gamut of sports: football, track, and basketball. “Great writing, great storytelling. Everything a reader wants … Clear-cut winner.” His win in sports photography represented basketball, rodeo, and football. “Photography is top notch …. Covers all bases; timeliness, action, quality, composition.” He capped it off with his first-place Pigskin Preview special section, which rated “excellent” in all criteria. “Excellent writing and creative presentation pushes this section to the top. Good job!”

Brown aced the spot-news photography category with photos of a wildfire near Glazier; a three-vehicle/deer collision on US 60; and a domestic-assault suspect being apprehended by a SWAT team.

Brown had two entries in human-interest photography: one of Canadian Elementary School student Kason Richardson’s yawn on the first day of school; and another of Samantha Schafer, all decked out for Cruise Night on Main Street. From the judges: “‘Cruise Night’ has a great retro look to it,” and “…you succeeded by getting up-close to a cute kid and capturing a real moment.” Aufill’s shot of football players emerging from the Wildcat inflatable tunnel in smoke while holding flags was a winner and provided “for great drama and at a high reader-interest event.”

The judges liked the winning society/lifestyles section contributed by News Editor Cathy Ricketts. “Engaging pages. Nice mix of contributed and original content …”

Another first-place award went to the staff’s front-page layout. “Very eye-catching design,” the judges commented. “Simple but at the same [time] stunning …. Strong entry.”

The Record’s website was also rated No. 1.

Advertising Manager Cheri Smith was recognized for her advertising design, with a second-place win. Her entries were a full-page good-luck-at-state ad for the CHS one-act play The Angelina Project; a Halloween Carnival ad for the Canadian Community Center; and a J-Bar Ranch Christmas greetings ad for the Christmas special section. The judges appreciated her “simple and elegant design,” that made the ads stand out. “Loved the artwork for this theatrical ad.” Of the Halloween ad, the judges said, “Great design and use of artwork—fun fonts and easy to read. I would want to go!”

Brown’s editorial writing placed second with “Nobody reads the newspaper anymore,” which took umbrage with a commissioner who made the statement in a meeting; “Be it resolved,” that highlighted a resolution by the CISD board of trustees upholding the importance of greater voter engagement among public school educators; and “Temporary sanity in Texas,” outlining the primary runoff in which moderate candidates running for Texas House seats defeated hard-line conservatives. The judge’s comments about the first entry: “Fine refutation of a careless comment by an official who should know better. Well-written.” For the second entry: “This probably brought more attention to the importance of voting than CISD’s resolution. Good job.” And for the third: “Nice summary of the complexities of our great political divide.”

Representing The Record at the convention were Laurie Ezzell Brown, Business Manager Mary Smithee, and Cheri Smith, who was appointed to the Panhandle Press Association board of directors.

Inductees into the PPA Hall of Fame this year were Perryton Herald Editor and Publisher Mary Hudson Dudley, and the late Larry Thornton, longtime editor and publisher of the Muleshoe Journal.

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