Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TOP STORY > >Newspaper wins top honors from Press Association

The Leader garnered nine top awards, including best large weekly in the state, in the recent Arkansas Press Association contest.

“Strong story coverage and an active editorial page make this paper fun to read. Artwork and graphics make the front page pop,” said one judge as the paper was awarded general excellence in the large-weekly category.

The locally owned family paper has a 21-year reputation of covering news and events in Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot, Beebe, Lonoke and the surrounding area, including Little Rock Air Force Base.

Besides winning the general-excellence award for the best large weekly, The Leader captured eight first-place awards, five second-place awards, one third-place and two honorable mentions.

Reporter John Hofheimer took first place in in-depth reporting with his articles on the Campbell trials and tribulations. Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife, Kelly, were charged on multiple drug, burglary and sex counts. Jay Campbell is serving a 40-year sentence and his wife is in prison for 20 years.

“Strong, solid court reporting. I’m sure readers couldn’t wait until the next issue,” commented the judges.

Hofheimer also took first place in the investigative-reporting category with his articles on the base-housing fiasco. Little Rock Air Force Base turned over the maintenance and rebuilding of its base housing to a private firm which went bankrupt, leaving numerous local subcontractors in a financial lurch and the future of the base housing on hold.

Hofheimer also won the coveted I.F. Stone award for his incisive series on base housing, using the Freedom of Information Act to get access to business documents and court re-cords in several states. The award is named after the crusading journalist who inspired generations of young reporters, including Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

First place in coverage of politics went to Hofheimer and Joan McCoy. The judges called it “far and away the best entry.”

The judges added that the coverage “goes beyond meetings and elections to give hard-hitting political news.”

Hofheimer, McCoy, Rick Kron and publisher Garrick Feldman took first place in coverage of business and agriculture. “Good variety with clear and concise writing. Stories are played well throughout the paper,” the judges said.

First-place honors for the coverage of education also went to Hofheimer, Kron and Feldman.

“The stories go beyond the surface to show reasons behind problems in local schools,” one judge said.

Creative editor and The Leader’s page designer Christy Hendricks took first place in sports-page layout and design. “A very nice layout with excellent use of photos, especially the action shots. Good work,” the judges said.

Hendricks is largely responsible for the “look” of The Leader, the paper’s typography, style and overall design.

Photographer David Scolli took first place in the single sports-action photograph with his photo entitled “Track standouts.”

The paper garnered second place for its community coverage.

Other second-place awards went to Hofheimer for his editorial “Housing mess hurts air base;” Feldman for his general-interest column, “How city wiped out vet’s investment;” sports writer Jason King for his sports news story, “It’s over, NP beats Tech,” and Scolli for his single-sports feature photograph, “Lady Jackrabbit.”

Of Hofheimer’s editorial, the judges said, “A great example of what a community newspaper is supposed to do with an editorial.”

Feldman’s column on the vet whose property was greatly devalued by a poor decision on the city’s part, the judges remarked, showed “aggressive support of the little guy.”

King also grabbed a third-place award for his sports feature story, “Mild-mannered hero.”

Honorable mentions went to former sports editor Ray Benton for his sports column, “AAA has mess with new class,” and Scolli for his single-feature photo entitled “Play-ground fun.”

Current Leader sports editor Kelly Fenton won four awards while at the Searcy Daily Citizen. He took first place in sports column writing with “Diary from the press box,” first place in sports features with his story “Rookie no more” and second place with his sports news story “Elm Street celebration.” He also received honorable mention in sports news writing.

Fenton joined The Leader in January and since then has been an inspiration and role model for King, whose writing has improved steadily.