Abilene Reporter-News followed up its 2020 Community Service Award with a first-place repeat at the Associated Press Managing Editor’s annual convention this weekend in Irving.
ARN was honored in Class 3A, the Texas newspaper’s second-highest division, for its commitment to covering the city’s black community following the national turmoil of 2020.
“True community storytelling – at its best. The stories reflected the passion of the writers, the emotions of the source, and the importance of detailed stories in defining an inclusive community,” Judge wrote.
The entry included: a report on the donation of a kidney by a white Abilene resident to a black pastor, then the funeral service for the recipient of the kidney, Reverend Eddie Jordan; local university students discussing the impact of George Floyd’s death upon their return to school; an article by Mayor Anthony Williams on the impact of Juneteenth and the New Town’s holiday newspaper coverage; the renaming of three local primary schools; and efforts to tend to the unmarked grave of a black Abilene resident.
Staff members Timothy Chipp, Laura Gutschke, Greg Jaklewicz and Joey D. Richards contributed articles for the winning package, as well as photographer Ronald Erdrich.
Writer Brian Bethel and Erdrich each won individual awards for first place.
Bethel won Star Reporter of the Year for such projects: how the Jan. 6 Capitol mayhem was taught at McMurry University, his set of stories about the Development Corporation of Abilene titled “The Scoop on the DCOA ” and its report on the celebration of the UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico
“Excellent reporting and writing. Excellent job explaining and articulating the subject. Well done!” writes the judge.
Erdrich has won awards in five individual categories.
He won for Feature Photography for a photo of a man and an alien riding a mechanical bull at the Roswell festival, and for Sports Photography – an Abilene High football player consoling a teammate after his playoff loss against El Paso Eastwood.
“Riding mechanical bulls has long been all the rage in Texas. Riding the alien craze is new and the photographer had the good sense to realize he was looking at something unusual. The composition and dramatic expression made the picture, not to mention good time,” Judge wrote of the Roswell photo.
Commenting on the post-match photo, a judge wrote: “A very good job of capturing the emotion of losing the match. Good use of shallow depth of field to draw attention to the players.”
Erdrich also finished second as featured photojournalist for a 12-photo entry.
“Ron came in with a great portfolio and his work earned him second place. A few photos stood out including his softball action photo and the football knockdown photo. His rodeo photos are very good and he used the light to his advantage to capture a crowd at a concert and a welder at work. Nice job Ron!” a judge wrote.
Erdrich also received honorable mention in photojournalism for his coverage of the Haitian immigrant crisis on the Texas-Mexico border and for his Big Country Journal column on restoration efforts at Stamford West Cemetery, called “the ‘one of the relics of segregation’.
The Reporter-News also won the Designer of the Year award. Lisa Naujokaitis, who was second in 2020, rose to the top with a series of five Sunday designs that included a beer mug underlay for a story about the SunnHaus brewing project and a Mother’s Day post on the founder of Shades of Hope, Tennis McCarty.
“The terrific use of photography, combined with the graceful integration of title typography, makes these pages so appealing to the reader. While a user-friendly story count helped, each package was appropriately layered and very effective,” the judge wrote.
Jaklewicz added a third place finish and two honorable mentions. It was third in commentary and review entries which included a story about actor Kevin Costner’s performance at the Outlaws & Legends Music Festival.
He received honorable mention in a sports article for an article on Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame inductees Lyle Leong and Taylor Potts, former Abilene High teammates, and for a general article on Kidney Donation from Yandel.