The News Journal brought home a total of 24 Excellence in Kentucky Newspaper Awards, including a second-place award for General Excellence in the large weekly newspaper division, during the Kentucky Press Association’s annual banquet Thursday night.
“I’m very proud of our staff for the hard work that they put into producing a quality newspaper for our readers every week. The record number of KPA awards we received this year represent an ongoing commitment to top-notch journalism here at The News Journal,” said News Journal Publisher Trent Knuckles.
The News Journal received seven first place awards, eight awards for second place, six third place awards and three honorable mentions.
“The News Journal is one of the most widely read weekly newspapers in Kentucky for a reason. I think the judges saw in our newspaper what our readers have known for years. We plan to continue providing the best news, sports and society coverage for years to come,” Knuckles noted.
Reporter Dean Manning won first place for best breaking news coverage, News Editor Mark White won second place and White and Knuckles combined to win an honorable mention in the category.
Manning’s story was for the News Journal’s coverage of the slaying of Kevin Hendrix, Dr. Sarah Hendrix and their daughter, Grace, by the couple’s son, Jason Hendrix.
Jason Hendrix died following a high-speed pursuit and shootout with police near Baltimore, Maryland.
“Kudos to keeping the readers updated online before this story (went) to press. The final story was well organized, very readable and gave me some insight into who these people were,” judges wrote.
White’s second place story dealt with the suspension of Whitley District Judge Cathy Prewitt for an ethics violation.
“The reporter provided a thorough, balanced account of the judge’s suspension and provided context about what led to the suspension,” contest judges wrote.
Knuckles won a first place award for best general news story for an article about the long awaited unveiling of Colonel Harland Sanders statue in Corbin.
Judges noted that Knuckles won points for his lead and good quotes, which were part of a well-organized, well-told story that was “meaty with information.”
Knuckles also won a first place award for best column.
“These columns are hard-hitting and well-written. Mr. Knuckles comes across as someone who doesn’t pull any punches and isn’t scared to ruffle a few feathers. We need more journalists like him in this world. Great work!” judges wrote.
Knuckles won a second place award for best business/agribusiness story and White won an honorable mention award in the same category.
Knuckles story dealt with the opening of the Wrigley Taproom and Brewery in Corbin, while White’s story dealt with the closing of long-time business Cumberland Cleaners in Williamsburg.
“Great, descriptive article about their dreams becoming reality in a small town. Made me want to stop in for a quick one!” judges wrote about Knuckles’ story.
“A sad testimony to many small towns across America. Mark picked up on that. Told the story about how changing trends in several different areas of commerce resulted in another closed business. Well done,” judges wrote about White’s story.
Knuckles won a second place award for best headline.
He won a third place award for best feature store for an article on a local pastor, who was a former contestant on the television show “Survivor.”
The staff of the News Journal won a second place award for best editorial page.
White won a first place award for best investigative story or series for his work on the coverage of former Whitley County High School Principal Alan Sweet, who was suspended and then later demoted from his principal position before going on sick leave and retiring at the close of the school year.
The school district’s investigation into Sweet uncovered numerous alleged improprieties against including that Sweet engaged in inappropriate relationships with school district employees and engaged in inappropriate relationships with parents of students that included having sex with students’ mothers in exchange for providing the mothers with drugs and money.
It also alleged that he misused school funds, and had questionable interactions with known drug traffickers and offenders in addition to his sending and receiving a massive number of texts on his district issued cell phone, many of which contained sexually explicit pictures.
“This thorough investigation and the thoughtfully-written pieces that accompany it are amazing. The stories have a ‘just-the-facts-ma’am’ feel, and are detailed without being over the top. Brilliant. This is journalism at its finest,” judges wrote.
White also won a first place award for best on-going-extended coverage story and White and Knuckles won a second place award in this category.
The winning entry dealt with coverage of the case of former Williamsburg Assistant Football Coach John Massey, who was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old female student.
In December Massey pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor in exchange for a 30-month sentence. He will be required to serve 12 months of that sentence behind bars and the rest will be probated.
The second place award for on-going/extended coverage story dealt with the News Journal’s coverage of the case of Tristan Hall, who was charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder for allegedly trying to hire a hit man through an Internet message board to kill somebody.
Hall also had separate felony offenses for allegedly trying to retaliate against a participant in the legal process, namely the original prosecutor in his case, and for a fraudulent insurance act.
However, the case against Hall has since fallen apart and just last month prosecutors moved to dismiss all felony charges with prejudice meaning that they can’t ever be filed again.
In addition, White won a first place award for best breaking news picture for a March 2015 photo of a suspect being arrested after leading police on a chase through a local hardware store’s lumber yard.
“Probably a hard-won photo, considering the suspect was running from authorities. But you were in the right place at the right time, Focused, nice touch with the cyclone fence framing the action. Easily the number one photo!” judges wrote.
White won a second place award for best sports picture for a photo of a Williamsburg football player attempting to catch a touchdown pass in the end zone while falling out of bounds.
“The reaction of the band members makes another football action shot a winner. Good timing and lighting,” judges wrote.
White won a third place award for best picture essay for a photo package that featured people on each side of dueling marriage equality rallies that took place outside the Whitley County Courthouse on July 8.
Sports Editor Trevor Sherman won a second place award for best sports picture essay for his photo package covering a Sweet 16 Williamsburg High School boy’s basketball game in Rupp Arena.
“Amazing work Trevor. I can feel the emotion of the game from your photos,” judges wrote.
The staff of the News Journal won an honorable mention in the same category for coverage of the 2015 KSHAA state track and field championships.
Sherman and Knuckles won a second place award for best sports special section and Sherman won a third place award in that category.
The second place entry was a special preview section celebrating Williamsburg’s trip to the Sweet 16. The third place entry was for the 2015 high school football preview.
Sherman also won a third place awards for best sports column and best sports feature story.
Sherman’s feature story profiled an eighth grade Whitley County student, who is the area’s only female wrestler.
Sherman won a third place award for best feature picture for a photo of country music star Chris Young hugging a six-year-old fan, who suffers from a tumor.
“This photo is a lovely moment captured – great job – the very real emotion, the little bouquet, and the hug are all really storytelling,” judges wrote.
White won an honorable mention in the category for a photo of fireworks at the Kentucky Splash waterpark on the Fourth of July.