The entire editorial staff of the Commonwealth Journal was recognized for their achievements in community journalism during the Kentucky Press Association’s 2012 Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers contest.
The Commonwealth Journal received a total of 16 awards Friday night — either first, second, or third place, or honorable mention — at the yearly convention for the Kentucky Press Association (KPA) in Louisville.
“I’m excited for the awards,” said Rob McCullough, publisher of the Commonwealth Journal. “I’m proud of all the award winners and the staff for the excellent job that they did over the past year.”
The Commonwealth Journal compete in the Daily Class 2 category, against some of the larger community newspapers in the state (Class 2 is the middle-size category; papers like the Lexington Herald-Leader and Bowling Green Daily News are in Class 3).
The staff itself received a first-place award for “Best Investigative Story or Series,” for a four-part look at the effects of methamphetamine on the community that the Commonwealth Journal published in March 2012. Staff writers Chris Harris and Heather Tomlinson and news editor Jeff Neal each contributed stories to this series.
“This series on meth and its consequences is well-thought, thoroughly reported, skillfully written,” read the comments from the category’s judge (KPA contests are typically judged by media from another state; this year, it was Arkansas). “Also frightening. And so accomplishes a goal of good journalism. That is bring civic problems and their solutions, into the light.”
That was only one of four first-place honors for the Commonwealth Journal, however. Sports editor Steve Cornelius received first place for “Best Sports Story” for his May 31 story “They Grew up Way Too Fast,” about a trio of high school athletes whom the sports editor recalled covering from the very start of their careers all the way all the way through their finals games.
“This is a great ‘coming of age’ story about three athletes working their way through their respective programs like so many others like them across the country,” read the judge’s comments. “They’re exceptional only in that they’re not exceptional, but like so many others, they are dedicated. Along the way they learn a lot of life’s lessons.
“The story illustrates clearly the importance of such activities in the life of young people, and I’m sure was well-read and received by readers,” it continued. “Great job!”
Seth Littrell, a journalism student at Eastern Kentucky University who interned with the Commonwealth Journal this past summer, won several awards for his work in visual media, including first place for “Best Feature Picture.” Littrell got a standout shot of the City of Burnside fireworks show for the Fourth of July holiday, thanks to an angle on a hill at Cole Park that provided a comprehensive view of the scene.
“These are difficult images to capture, but the photographer managed to do it quite well while also capturing some of the spectators at the fireworks show,” read the comments. “It’s a very nice and striking effect, and likely drew a lot of attention from readers. Great job!”
That wasn’t Littrell’s only first-place award — he also won for “Best Spot News Picture.” Littrell snapped a heart-wrenching photo of a mother in distress following a May 21 accident at the SomerPlace apartment complex.
The Commonwealth Journal also took home first place for “Best Business/Agribusiness Page,” with managing editor Ken Shmidheiser, editor emeritus Bill Mardis, and contributing writer Don While all having their names attached to the entry.
“The stories were awesome, layouts were great, and pictures caught my attention immediately,” read the comments. “ ... Loved the overall packages.”
Second-place awards received by the Commonwealth Journal went to Shmidheiser for “Best Headline,” where his entry was called “creative in both word and design,” and to the paper for “Best Newspaper Website.”
Third-place awards went to Cornelius for “Best Sports Special Section” for the annual fall sports preview, as well as “Best Sports Picture.”
Honorable mention certificates were received by Neal for both the “Best Column” and “Best On-Going/Extended Coverage Story” categories, Littrell for “Best Feature Story” and “Best Graphic” — the latter of which was a look at the money raised by candidates in the State Senate raising using stacks of coins that the judges called “clever” — Tomlinson for “Best Feature Picture,” paginator Barb Parmley for “Best Lifestyle Page,” and the staff for “Best Special Section.”
Tomlinson’s photo, a fun shot of a young boy on an inflatable at the June Somernites Cruise Block Party event, won the judge’s praise: “The photographer captures the utter joy on the face of the boy enjoying the water. ... This image certainly deserves some mention.”
The contest covered content published between October of 2011 and September of 2012.