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A little bit to crow about

Don Rogers

In the national group of smaller dailies, we have three firsts in special sections and four third-place awards for news writing, editorial writing, front page design and feature photography in the 10,000-25,000 circulation category.

Be sure to congratulate assistant editor Randy Wyrick if you see him. He coordinated, did most of the writing and put together winning special sections on golfing and on the high school seniors last spring. The other winner was the annual Wedding Guide, a joint effort with sister papers designed this year by our news desk.

The news writing award was for ongoing coverage of the drought up to the end of June, the end of the contest period. Staff Writer Cliff Thompson carried the bulk of the load of daily water coverage. But staff writers Matt Zalaznick, Geraldine Haldner and Veronica Whitney had hands in this coverage and/or picked up other stories so that we could put as much focus as possible on the drought.

The front page entries were from Sept. 11-12 issues and July 17, after Vail founder Pete Seibert had died. Graphics Goddess, yes that’s her title, Dawn Beacon designed the framework of the front page and did much of the design work on the Seibert page one. News Editor Cassie Pence, Assistant News Editor Paul Davis, and news desk colleagues Christine Casillas and Andrew Harley take turns on page one duty, sharing the credit for the best ones through teamwork.

The winning commentary entry included “Gondola must hang on own merits,” “Predictable finish to recall attempt,” “Let teachers howl at merit pay system,” “Fire reignites call for fire station,” and “The “problem’ with cheap skiing.”

Newspaper contests have an unfortunate habit of skewing to the bigger papers in their circulation categories, more reflective of the depth of staffing than anything else. Coming from the bottom end of our contests, which in Colorado extend up to 100,000 circulation papers, each victory is a bit of a coup for a staff that is outgunned by the bigger papers.

Contest awards are nice feathers, icing, resume builders, conversation pieces for publishers at company meetings. They should never be taken as proof of any paper’s quality. We’ve seen too many trophy horse papers that clearly don’t serve their readers or communities particularly well to make that assertion.

In the right context, though, it’s not a bad thing for a newsroom to lift its head a bit for the little piece of positive reinforcement that they might be on the right track after all. Still, the critics who really count are right here, and they aren’t nearly as generous as the contest judges who only see our best. That would be you. Each day.

D.R.


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