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January 28, 2014

CJ staffers win Kentucky Press Association awards

Somerset — Three members of the Commonwealth Journal staff and one contributor have claimed honors in the 2013 “Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers” contest.

Managing editor Ken Shmidheiser, sports editor Steve Cornelius, and staff writer Chris Harris each received multiple awards, and contributing photographer Shelby Russell was also recognized for her work.

Sponsored by the Kentucky Press Association, which consists of members from journalistic publications from around the Commonwealth, the “Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers” contest is judged by an out-of-state panel each year. Submissions are judged in categories based on newspaper circulation and frequency of publication.

“I want to commend our Editorial staff members for their well-deserved awards. Under the direction of Managing Editor Ken Shmidheiser we have been able to generate a newsworthy publication for our readers with resulting benefits to our community as a whole,” said Commonwealth Journal Publisher Rob McCullough.

“What is especially gratifying for our staff is that we compete against newspapers with much larger staffs and circulation. We were pleased that our work was recofnized by a panel of our peers,” Shmidheiser added.

Shmidheiser won two first-place awards this year: one for “Best Front Page” and one for “Best Headline.”

The award for page design was given to a submission that included the April 16, 2013 edition, which dedicated an entire black-background page to the Boston Marathon bombing; the May 15 edition which featured strong images of a bee (to go with a story about a local beehive), and of local wine purveyors (to go with a story about regulations on spirit sales at farmers markets); and the May 30 edition (which featured a prominent photo of a wrecked truck that spilled over 20,000 pounds of sugar onto the roadway).

Shmidheiser also won first place for “Best Headline,” thanks to a January 3, 2013 story about a robbery case at the local Waffle King restaurant that result in a pair of arrests. Shmidheiser used puns to great effect, as he titled the story, “Duo in Waffle Lot of Trouble,” with the sub-headline, “Tip pans out; suspects being grilled in restaurant robbery after Somerset police dog toasts their get-away plans.”

“I’m still laughing,” read the judge’s comments about the headline.

Also in the entry was the headline “High Spirits” for a March 23 story about liquor stores opening in Somerset, and “Bittersweet Ending” for the aforementioned story about the sugar truck accident.

Cornelius won second place for “Best Sports Picture,” thanks to a May 30, 2013 snapshot of a Southwestern baseball player walking off the field following a playoff loss to Mercer County.

The judge for the category commented, “The agony of defeat.”

Cornelius also got an “Honorable Mention” recognition” for “Best Sports Page/Section,” featuring the September 8, 2013 page, which focused on big football wins for Somerset and Pulaski County and a loss for Southwestern; the December 9, 2012 page which featured the home debut of Somerset boys basketball coach Jeff Cothron; and the February 24, 2013 story about Casey County beating Somerset in the girls basketball district finals, featuring strong pictures of athletes who have suffered a tough loss.

“‘Casey’ holds off ...’ is proof a photo can tell the story,” read the judges’ comments.

Harris won two third-place awards for his writing. One was for “Best Enterprise or Analytical Story,” focusing on those stories which demonstrate some initiative in investigating or examining hot-button topics, for his September 26, 2013 entry into the Commonwealth Journal’s “No ‘Hero’ in Heroin” series, about the spread of heroin in the community. Harris talked to a Kentucky State Police Trooper who had studied the topic extensively to get facts about the market demand for the illegal drug as a cheaper alternative to prescription pills and methamphetamine.

Harris also received recognition in the “Best Business/Agribusiness Story” category for his April 2, 2013 story, “Wineries: It’s too early to tell how liquor sales will affect them,” which examined how Cedar Creek and Sinking Valley Wineries were reacting to the presence of additional alcohol sales in the community for the first time ever.

Russell, who frequently contributes photos to accompany stories by features writer Don White, received an “Honorable Mention” recognition for “Best Picture Essay” for her March 2013 collection of photographs of old barns from around the area.

“Very interesting photos and a beautiful look back at time gone by,” said the judge.

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