This photo illustration of the year in sports placed third in the best page design category.

The Houston Herald captured 19 awards Saturday in Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.

The announcement came during a luncheon Saturday in conjunction with the 146th annual Missouri Press Association convention last week in Columbia.

The newspaper won more awards than any other publication in south-central Missouri. Judges were from the Wisconsin Press Association.

Editor Jeff McNiell was a panelist discussing technology innovations in a session, along with executives representing newspapers from Jefferson City, Columbia and Cape Girardeau. He highlighted the Herald’s new live online video coverage of high school football along with a text alert system and the newspaper’s metered website.

Publisher Brad Gentry will continue on the organization’s board of directors.

The newspaper won seven first-place awards. They were:

––Best front to back newspaper design.

––Best local business coverage.

––Best coverage of rural life or agriculture.

––Staff writer Doug Davison’s article –– titled “Buying, selling, pawning and loaning” –– highlighting Sharp Shooters Gun & Pawn in Houston was named the best business story. The judge’s comment about the entry was “Great local angle on a subject of broader interest because of the TV show. This story was a little long, but the writing carries you through without much effort.”

––Davison’s coverage of the organization Hunting for Heroes – “Heroes Hunt in Texas County” – was honored as the best story about the outdoors. The group provides a hunting camp environment where disabled officers and their families can connect with others in similar circumstances. The judge for the category said, “It is nice to know that people are willing to help the officers who have been shot. They are still able to do what they love.”

––McNiell’s layout on the Herald’s sports page of Houston High School baseball players on dominoes received best page design. It was titled “Domino Effect.” The judge said, “Very interesting idea with the pictures in the dominos…have not seen this before.”

––Kathy Richardson received best editorial cartoon for her work “Natural Disasters.” The judge who gave the award stated, “Creatively done. funny. Clear.”

The Herald also earned several second and third place awards, and a couple of honorable mentions.

Davison took second place in Best columnist – humorous with an entry titled “A week when everything was different,” that chronicled the actions of he and his wife’s two male horses during a period when a friend’s female horse shared their pasture. The judge in the category said, “A key to writing humor is taking a nugget of an idea and where it will go. I enjoyed watching your ideas unfold.”

Davison’s feature about the Piney River Brewing Company in Bucyrus – “There’s something brewing in Texas County“- placed second in the best business story category. The judge said, “I tead the lead and was hooked. Enjoyed reading how two people with other jobs are making a go of it. Thanks for the sidebar showing the kinds of beer and their labels.”

In the best story about the outdoors category, Davison’s story about a deer hunt staged for disabled children by an organization called Hope Outdoors  – “Building hope in the Ozarks outdoors” – placed second. The judge’s comment about the piece was, “This article makes me think of everything we take for granted, and the ‘what ifs.’ Great work!”

Third place in the best news story category went to McNiell’s coverage of how several Houston area citizens traveled to Joplin immediately following the tornado to provide aid. Titled “Local doctors, deputies respond to tornado-torn Joplin,” the article spurred the judge to say, “The writer treats the story of the Joplin tragedy with respect while highlighting how others came together amid tragedy to help. Strong writing skills tie it all together.” 

A feature written by Davison called “Combine season comes to Texas County” placed third in best story about rural life and agriculture. The judge stated, “Excellent work and a perfect example of a good ‘best story about rural life and ag.’ Good story telling – good use of quotes. Also very informative for the reader. Nice lead photo and supporting photo. The story flows nicely! Well done directing the reader to the website for the video!”

A photo McNiell took while working with volunteer crews following the May 2011 tornado in Joplin earned third place in the best news photo category. The judge said, “Nice composition and collection of activity at the scene.”

McNiell’s work titled “Domino Effect” took third in best photo illustration.The judge commented, “The illustrations with the dominos works with the headline and story to show the tribulations of high school sports.”

McNiell’s entry in the best special section took third. The section was a preview of the 2011 Houston High School football season and led a judge to state, “A new take on the same old project with awesome art on the cover.”

An entry from McNiell also placed third in best page design. His layout on the sports page highlighted the 2010 year in sports. The judge said, “I liked the cut-out of the male athlete in the center of a circle of athletes. Incorporated many different sports.”

The Herald also took third in the best editorial pages category. A judge stated, “Information inconsistent. Interestingly displayed.”

Honorable mentions garnered by the Herald included best photo illustration by McNiell and community service honors for Gentry and Richardson for their efforts as part of Downtown Houston Inc.

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