STAFF NOTEBOOK: The Independent earns awards in Better Newspaper Contest


For the third year running, your hometown newspaper has earned awards at the Texas Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.

The Independent took Second Place in Editorial and Fourth Place for our website,

This year, 159 newspapers from across the state submitted 1,566 entries in The Texas Better Newspaper Contest. Of those, 103 were weekly newspapers, which were divided into different divisions based on circulation. The Independent competed against 20 newspapers in Division 9.

To be recognized for achievement by professional peers is an honor we are quite proud to share with our readers. A great deal of work goes into producing this newspaper week after week, and our writers and photographers are motivated by a passion for reporting and a desire to make each edition more interesting than the last. It’s that internal drive, our collective education and professional experience that makes this newspaper special.

The awards received this year were based on work published in 2013.

The Independent won Second Place in Editorial for two editorials written by co-owner Charley Wilkison — both related to leadership of city government.

“Business owners have right to weigh in on the war between Mayor, Boatright” took a position on the side of the Liberty Hill business community, which at the time (September 2013) was organizing its support for the continued employment of City Manager Greg Boatright. Then-Mayor Jamie Williamson and former Councilmember Vicki Brewer were opposed to an extension of his contract and dismissed the views of business owners because they did not reside in the city and were not their voting constituents.

“Election could put more mothers in charge,” an editorial published just before Mother’s Day in May 2013, was a somewhat satirical piece pointing to the impact of a mother-dominated city council. Both editorials can be found online.

For the second year in a row, the newspaper’s website,, received accolades from judges for being easy to navigate, clean and organized, providing an eye-catching slideshow, and most important, updated frequently with new content.

According to Google Analytics, the tool we use to measure how well our website is performing with viewers, hundreds of unique viewers visit the website weekly.

The newspaper uses this third-party generated information to truthfully inform advertisers about the exposure they can expect if they choose to advertise with us online. Websites that use homespun page counters that record each page view as a unique visitor are not being honest about their following and deceive advertisers by promising an exposure they aren’t delivering.

Being identified as a newspaper that follows professional journalistic standards and ethics, as well as good business practices, is important to us. That’s why we continue to stay active members in the Texas Press Association where journalists from major and medium-size daily newspapers as well as small weeklies learn from each other through continuing education opportunities, and unite on such issues as access to public information.

As a TPA member, The Independent is the only local publication that mails with a Periodical Permit. The permit and our membership in TPA require us to annually publish the number of newspapers we print and sell. This is another important professional standard that allows us to hold our business accountable to advertisers regarding the readership of this publication.

Staying in the Winner’s Circle is a common goal for our staff. While the 2013 winners were just announced at TPA Convention last week, we are already working on entries for 2014.

Thanks for reading The Independent.

An Independent Salute to our friends at HK Computers

The Independent has plenty of guardian angels watching over us each week.

Some, like Randy Hodges at HK Computers of Liberty Hill, come to the rescue from time to time. This week, Hodges dropped everything he was doing to rescue our files from a warped hard drive in a three-year-old MAC.

I didn’t have to explain that I was on deadline, the urgency of the situation or that many of our advertisers and readers would be disappointed if the newspaper wasn’t out on time Thursday morning.

He understands the immediacy of the newspaper business and knew by the look on my face that the job couldn’t wait. He tackled the problem calmly while I looked on in horror at his dissection of my huge investment. Even when he did not get the desired result the first time, he didn’t give up — offering alternatives and reassurance, promising to work through the night to save valuable creative files.

In the end, it was a trick up his sleeve that saved the newspaper this week. A quick trip to the freezer revived a hot, warped hard drive — a solution you shouldn’t try at home without professional supervision.

Now, if we were doing business anywhere other than Liberty Hill, this recovery would not have received such immediate and careful attention. There are lots of advantages to doing business locally, and we are grateful to Randy and his daughter-in-law, Holly Hodges, for all they do for us. In a small town, they understand the needs of small businesses like ours, and above all, they care about our readers getting the news every week.

This week, The Independent salutes our friends at HK Computers!

~ Shelly Wilkison