THE INDEPENDENT earns high marks from Texas journalists

The Liberty Hill Independent earned awards this week in the Texas Press Association’s 2012 Better Newspaper Contest.

Competing among weekly newspapers across the state, The Independent won Second Place for Editorials, Sports Photo and Special Section, and Fourth Place for Column Writing and Page Design.

This year 169 newspapers submitted 1,703 entries, and of those 102 were weeklies.

Two Liberty Hill editorials received high marks from Texas journalists judging the contest.

The Independent published an editorial after a news feature ran detailing the long legal and political ordeal of former fire chief James Pogue and his wife, Leslye. Both had just been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but felt little vindication because their reputations and careers had been damaged by false accusation. The editorial decried individuals within the fire department who had gained professionally and economically as a result.

Fire department saga – well-written, well-reasoned editorial calling out residents who may have benefitted from the casting of the couple. Good structure to edit, especially powerful, bulleted points/questions,” wrote the judges.

The other winning editorial was published after numerous news articles reported the open conflict between city government and local business owners. The city was enforcing various rules that some found too restrictive and costly.

Skin in the game – another strong local topic that makes readers think about government and its role,” commented the judging panel.

The Independent won Second Place for two sports photographs taken by Photographer Kathy Canady. Both were track photos. One caught the angry expression of a competitor losing a race to Susie Kemper. The other stopped the action on a high jump by Jessica Green.

“Good action/perfect timing,” wrote the judge on Canady’s High Jump photo.

For its special section on the Liberty Hill High School Class of 2011, published in May 2011, The Independent won Second Place.

The Independent also won fourth place in Column Writing for a “Food Wise” column written by Chef Renee Morgan.

Of the column entitled “Girlfriend Day,” the judges wrote, “Before I started reading this, my first thought was ‘Great, a column about food. ZZZZ…’ Instead, I got a delightful, anecdotal and fun look at what turned out to be a day not to be forgotten. Felt like I was there with her and her pal.”

For a second column from Chef Renee entitled “Meal to go,” the panel commented, “What a great way to offer another take on scouting and outdoor cooking. Morgan is funny in her own original way and I love her ability to improvise when it comes to food prep. Yes, this is a food column by a food expert, but it’s really a column more about people than what we eat.”

The Independent also took Fourth Place in Page Design, with judges commenting that the look was “clean, thoughtful layout.”

The Independent is the longest-running publication serving the Liberty Hill community. In its second year of ownership by Liberty Hill-based Free State Media Group, Managing Editor Shelly Wilkison said the recognition by fellow journalists and Texas newspaper executives is significant.

“To be recognized by our peers for outstanding work in journalism, photography and newspapering means a lot,” said Mrs. Wilkison. “It affirms a commitment to our community and our profession from a dedicated staff that works tirelessly every week to tell the stories of Liberty Hill. Not only do we strive for accuracy and fairness in reporting, we also engage our readers creatively and visually.”

“We believe this is good news for Liberty Hill,” said Charley Wilkison, co-owner of the publication. “Although we had only been in business a short time at contest deadline, The Independent went up against much larger staffed weekly newspapers from larger communities, and won. This is because we strive to bring real, quality journalism to our community every day. This recognition is clearly a vindication for having a real newspaper in even the smallest of communities.”

Only member newspapers of the Texas Press Association are  eligible to compete in the statewide contest. TPA membership is limited to general interest newspapers that meet the legal criteria spelled out by Texas statutes and that qualify for periodical mailing privileges from the U.S. Postal Service.