• L&T staff report
Another year of work for the Leader & Times staff came and went and work from the year 2017 brought much recognition and acclaim for both the news and advertising sides at the recent Kansas Press Association 2018 Awards of Excellence.
The newspaper ended up with a total of 47 awards, with 16 of them being earned by the advertising staff and 31 being earned by the news staff. L&T Publisher Earl Watt and L&T Composing Manager Trevor Feldhausen both said they are proud of how this year went.
“One of the challenges for this year was they only gave us 10 months’ worth of work to work with since they changed date of the convention so the journalists could be up in Topeka for the legislative session to talk with our legislators,” Watt said. “Because of that, we had to turn entries in a lot earlier and lose a couple months’ work, which makes it challenging because there’s fewer options to choose from. And the end of the year is a big time for us because there’s the parade here in town and we do a lot of advertising around the parade and stories and everything, none of which was able to be included this year. Even with all that, I believe this was Robert (Pierce)’s best year ever as far as recognition for his work. He got several first place plaques and other awards, so he had a great year. Elly (Grimm) also keeps turning in award-winning work, which is also really beneficial.”
And both Pierce and Grimm were pleased with how the contest turned out. Pierce earned first place in the feature story category, first place in the religion story category, first place in the sports photo category, first place in education story, second place in the feature photo category and second place in the health story category. Grimm earned first place (with Earl Watt) in the investigative story category, second in the investigative story category swept the general news photo category, and received third place in the education story, health story, and religion story divisions, as well as placing third in the photo package and spot news photo categories.
“”To my knowledge, this was my biggest load from the KPA awards,” Pierce said. “Taking home four first place awards and two seconds is very humbling. One of the other humbling things I love about this job is the encouragement between both reporter and source. I saw this recently when I told Dr. Leslie Bissell of the Southwest Guidance Center that I had finished second place for health story on post traumatic stress disorder for our Fourth of July issue. Leslie wasn’t very knowledgeable of the KPA awards, but she was excited for me nonetheless, so much so that she immediately high-fived me. This showed me that while I’m happy for the successes of the people I report on, they in turn are excited for my accomplishments. This is part of what makes this job so great and why I have been happy to do it for nearly the past 14 years.”
“This was the most awards I’ve received in my four years with the L&T,” Grimm added. “The morning we got the results and I saw my investigative story with Earl about the city manager’s contract got first, I basically jumped right back out of my chair and told him I couldn’t believe it had gotten first. I was also pretty amused to see I swept the general news photo category, that hasn’t happened before with me.”
Pierce also talked about a particularly challenging story of his.
“My other favorite highlight about this was that after nearly 14 years of doing this, I finally took home a first place in the features category for my story, ‘I Was Raped,’ about Julia Laughlin, who 30 years after being raped found the courage to forgive her attacker,” Pierce said. “Julia spoke at the Liberal Area Rape Crisis annual fundraiser event in April, and her story was very inspiring. I’ve always enjoyed feature stories because normally they’re happy stories, as Julia’s was in the end, and it was great to finally be awarded for my favorite story category.”
Grimm also expressed surprise about her photos being recognized.
“The past couple years it’s been mainly my stories that got me awards and not so much the photos,” Grimm said. “So this year to have a handful of my photos recognized plus my writing, that’s pretty cool, and I’m happy with how everything turned out.”
Both Watt and Feldhausen talked about what they felt made this a good awards year for the paper.
“The judges in Georgia seem to really like our rodeo shots and our layout. We had a really fun year of layout, we had a ‘Star Wars’ theme in May, we had a Kansas Day theme that day, it was just a fun year,” Watt said. “And we had some stories of interest state-wide we were able to cover, and it’s a point of pride to tell the community those stories. Every newspaper was out telling their community’s story, and we take pride that we have some of the best organizations and individuals and businesses who make it really special for us here to write about. That’s what I enjoy about it, it’s not necessarily that we’re winning awards for our work, but we’re winning awards for a community that’s alive and active and has so much to share with one another.”
“This year’s judging was a little different than what we’ve been used to, but I still feel it went really well, we did about how we do every year, which is still great,” Feldhausen added. “We lost a few points this year from the past six years that we’ve gotten, but I feel pretty confident we’ll come back the next contest even stronger. A lot of it for us is starting to think more outside the box and getting different looks than we usually do and making everything look a little cleaner and more sleek to enhance everyone’s eyes with the advertising.”
Advertising staff members Jimmy Hampton and Serena Rinehart also expressed praise for how the contest results turned out.
“Every year, the composing staff at the Leader & Times wins a lot of awards for their ad creations,” Hampton said. “This year was no different, and it’s a pleasure to be part of this award-winning team.”
“I’m really proud we were represented so well,” Rinehart added. “I’m new here at the paper this year and hadn’t yet been introduced to the contest stuff, so I’m really honored to be part of the staff.”
So how will this set the bar for next year’s competition?
“Basically, we have to come back stronger, step up our game,” Feldhausen said. “We do every year, but this year we’ll definitely have to step up so we can come back and win advertising sweepstakes again like we’ve done the past six years. I want my staff to be able to be more involved in giving me ideas, to build the ads to what they want. I want them to learn what to look for while they’re out and about working to promote local businesses. Everyone did a good job this year. I’m really happy with everything that happened at KPA, and I’m proud the news side got their sweepstakes again. We’re going to step it up for next year.”
“I’ve been here 25 years and 21 first place awards is a record for us, so it’s hard to say what you can do next,” Watt added. “You try to match it or beat it but there’s great newspapers all across Kansas trying to do the same thing. We have to have high energy and high enthusiasm for telling the community’s story. That’s why I think we’ve been fortunate enough to win all these awards because of a community that’s striving to do the best it can do. Every one of our organizations doesn’t just settle, they work to get better. Contests take care of themselves, but at the end of the day, the only judge we have is the person who picks up the paper because they’re the ones we’re working for and writing for. It’s about the community and keeping the community informed, and we’re going to continue to work as hard as we can to achieve that goal.”