The Uvalde Leader-News won raffle honors in the South Texas Press Association’s Better Newspapers competition, winning 12 prizes, including four each for first, second and third place for content in 2021. The staff of the newspaper won first place for page design, serious column writing, sports photography and feature film writing.
“Good clean layout on all pages,” noted the page design judges. “Efficient use of white space keeps pages from being too dark. … Good organization of a large classifieds section.
The serious columns, written by editor Craig Garnett, appeared in the August 29 and October 31 editions of the paper. ‘Newspaper cartoonist leaves with the last laugh’ commemorated longtime cartoonist Barry McWilliams, whose illustrations still grace the pages of the ULN’s Viewpoint every Sunday, and ‘McConaughey for Governor has a town ring natale” offered reflections on the political aspirations of the Uvalde-born actor.
The sports photos, taken by general manager Pete Luna, appeared in the March 14 and October 21 editions of the newspaper. They showed Uvalde High Junior Jackie Cardenas diving to retrieve a flag during the senior/junior Powder Puff football game, and Guadalupe “LJ” Nolasco, then a freshman at UHS, celebrating a victory in struggle.
The feature films, both written by editor Melissa Federspill, titled “Santa Wins His Own Easter Miracle” and Lemurs on the Run: Primates hang out in Utopia after leaving the ranch. who appeared in the February 14 and April 11 editions of the newspaper.
The newspaper’s runner-up awards were for headline writing, news writing, feature photography and editorial writing.
The editorials, written by Garnett, appeared in the March 26 and August 1 editions. ‘Heroes continue to work here’ highlighted the efforts of those who have stepped up during the pandemic, and ‘Remember the citywide lawsuits’ urged law enforcement to think about the safety of residents of the community after a high-speed chase ended in a U.S. Border Patrol unit hitting a Uvalde Police Department unit at a busy intersection.
“Great editorials that address a problem and inspire action to correct that problem,” the judges said. “That’s what an editorial is for.”
The news photos, taken by Luna and both highlighting the immigration crisis, appeared in the July 25 and August 22 editions. The first showed members of the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office combing a field of milo off Highway 55 for the remains of a man killed by a flail mower, and the other was that of U.S. Border Patrol canine officer Phil searching a train for stowaways. “Really strong photos. Covering a border town is not easy and you show strong skills,” the judges said. “Be aware that both photos must have required patience and trust from law enforcement to be taken.”
The stories, one written by editor-in-chief Julye Keeble and the other by editor-in-chief Meghann Garcia, appeared in the January 24 and May 20 editions.
Keeble’s work, “Taking the Vaccine: Over 1.3K Receives First Dose Wednesday,” specifically referenced by the judges, details the mass vaccination efforts of Uvalde Memorial Hospital and the Uvalde Health Authority. Uvalde, while Garcia’s story, “Limited Vacancy: With Reduced Staff, Jail Reusing Some Smugglers,” focused on staffing issues at the Uvalde County Jail.
“Wonderfully well-written and informative pieces,” the judges said. “I love the info box on the ‘Get the shot’ jump page.”
Two of the winning titles (“River bill dammed” on May 27 and “Ramos nails the hammer throw” on June 3) were written by Garnett and one (“Bruiser pounds his rivals” on January 31) by Luna.
Third prizes were for Lifestyles Pages, Special Section (Hunter’s Journal, Fall 2021), Humorous Column Writing (Garnett, “Bees Start Uprising Against Annual Honey Tax,” October 3, and “Turkey, Dry and Tough is Thanksgiving Side Show,” Dec. 5) and photos (Luna, April 1, Sabinal Lions Club Wild Hog Fest and Sept. 16, UHS Drum Major leading the band at the Honey Bowl ).
The newspaper received an honorable mention for Photographer of the Year, Community Service and Display Advertising.
“Winning the Best Journalism Award for South Texas Bi-Weekly Newspapers is extremely rewarding, and this year’s result is especially so because it reflects the participation of our entire team,” said Garnett. “That includes those at every position, because without them we don’t sell the ads that pay our expenses, deliver newspapers to readers, or post bills.”
Fifteen Southwest Texas newspapers competed and seven were entered into Division 3, which includes newspapers published twice or more per week.
The 12 diary rewards generated 900 points for sweepstakes. The Fayette County Record at La Grange, which finished second in the contest, had 850 points and the Fort Bend Herald, third, had 475.
The Frio-Nueces-Current, also owned by Leader-News publisher Craig Garnett, has won 10 first-place awards en route to a Division 1 draw honor.
The North and East Texas Press Association judged the contest, and Garcia and Luna were on hand to accept the prizes.