Professional reporting of The Independent recognized in state contest


For the fifth straight year, your hometown newspaper has been recognized for excellence in reporting by the Texas Press Association in its Texas Better Newspaper Contest.

The awards, which were announced last week at the annual newspaper leadership convention in Austin, recognize the work of newspapers across the state in a number of categories.

The Liberty Hill Independent won five awards, competing against weekly publications across Texas.

The newspaper took second place for Editorial, third place for Feature Writing, third place for News Writing, third place for Routine Special Section and 4th place for Sports Coverage.

For editorial, The Independent won second place for two editorials written by co-owner Charley Wilkison.

“A message to the class of 2014” was published in May 2014 as encouragement for Liberty Hill High School seniors to remember the investment the community made in their successes.

“Liberty Hill, your future is calling” was published in April 2014, and was a stern challenge for city elected officials at that time to stop the attitude of political payback and start working together for a better future for the community. “Political obstruction aimed at stopping forward progress because someone did not get their way is a maddening method of running a government,” the editorial states.

The newspaper placed third in Featuring Writing for “Mother holds onto faith, positive memories after losing son in Leander crash”. The story, published in September 2014, was about Kara Hurtado and her family’s grief after losing her son James Hurtado to a car crash.

The second winning feature entry was “A devoted husband and father, Canady helped shape the future for Liberty Hill”. Published in June 2014, it told the story of Charles Canady and his contributions to his beloved community and his family. Canady passed away four months later.

“The entries were as diverse as they were colorful, all providing strong insights into unique com- munity members and their lives. The recognized entries took these assets a step further, utilizing beautifully crafted writing and strong presentations to weave their narratives,” contest judges wrote about the pieces, both of which were written by Shelly Wilkison, managing editor.

In the category of News Writing, The Independent’s winning entries were “Williamson’s petition cost taxpayers” from Oct. 30, 2014. The story was about former Mayor Jamie Williamson’s submission of a petition to stop the City of Liberty Hill from issuing bonds to pay for water infrastructure. The story was written by Wilkison.

The second news entry from March 29, 2014, was “Teens’ brush with death draws town support”, written by Staff Writer Dana Delgado about Mason Endres and the local teenagers who were were struck by a vehicle in downtown Austin during last year’s South by Southwest Music Festival.

“Both stories show the report- ers’ knowledge of the area and readers’ concerns,” the judges wrote.

The collaborative efforts of the entire staff were recognized in the category of Routine Special Section for the newspaper’s Back to School 2014 section, published last August.

“Couldn’t think of anything needed to know for the upcoming school year that wasn’t included in this special section. Very nice-looking overall package,” the judge wrote.

The Independent’s Sports department earned accolades for Sports Coverage for two winning sports section entries from fall 2014.

“Overall, a nice job. Sections contain feature stories that go beyond typical game coverage. The mascot column added a different dimension to the coverage,” the judge wrote, referring to a column written by Sports Editor Sean Shapiro.

In previous years, The Independent staff has earned awards at Texas Better Newspaper Contest for its website, spectial sections, editorial writing, column writing and sports photography.

This year, 140 newspapers competed in the contest. The contest is broken down into 10 divisions in which newspapers compete against papers of similar circulation size. The contest was judged by professional journalists from the Maryland Delaware DC Press Association.