Sentinel, Big Bend Now earn state press honors
MARFA, SAN ANTONIO – The Big Bend Sentinel placed first for best website and earned two second place honors, for general excellence and news writing, in the 2012 Texas Press Association newspaper competition.
Winners were announced Saturday at the association’s summer convention in San Antonio.
Tennessee Press Association judges said they liked the Spanish-language articles and the multimedia window of www.bigbendnow.com. They also liked the public notice section and archives.
Rather than replicate an online version of the two Far West Texas newspapers owned by Rosario and Robert Halpern – the Sentinel and Presidio International – the couple saw the need to create a separate, dynamic new media product highlighting the strengths of both papers.
They enlisted the help of Buck Johnston of Marfa, a new media specialist, website designer supreme, and graphic artist whose client list includes major U.S. corporations, artists, and other creative folks. She is the creator of the wildly successful www.marfalist.org.
Her Big Bend Now website design is bold, fresh, and colorful, and readers say it is a breeze to use.
Former Boston Globe reporter Tom Haines was hired to assist with the new online presence, and he helped develop the site’s content components, while at the same time making sure the small staff could update the site easily. He now teaches journalism in New Hampshire.
The Spanish-language articles that the judges like come from the International and its translator, Miriam Halpern Cardona, the couple’s daughter. She translates both from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English. She and her husband, Joan Cardona Romanos, live in Girona, Catalunya, Spain.
Judges gave the Sentinel its second-place general excellence award for the Rock House fire coverage. “This newspaper has its pulse on the local community in a way few papers do with excellent writing and a real feel for the local community.”
The fire coverage team included former staffers Sterry Butcher, Emily Jo Cureton, and associate editor Haines, and current staff photographer/reporter Alberto Tomas Halpern and page designer Barbara Richerson.
Butcher, who retired from the Sentinel last year after working for the paper for almost two decades and is a Knight Journalism Fellow, earned second place honors in news writing for her fire coverage, including the overview article that appeared on page one of the April 14, 2011 issue under the headline, “Massive wildfire cuts fiery path of destruction,” and an inside story, “Lives, landscape changed by fast-moving fire.”
Her follow-up article in the May 19 issue delved into the politics of the fire in Jeff Davis County under the headline, “Better communication pledged after Rock House fire.”
“Beautifully written news stories,” the judges said.
The International earned a fourth place in headline writing for “Big Bend Ultra – Epic terrain for personal strain,” a Haines headline, “Pending bill on aerial hunting may be hog heaven,” a Butcher headline, and “City tests water for new pool,” an Alberto Tomas Halpern headline.
This year 169 newspapers submitted 1,703 entries in the Texas Better Newspaper Contest, which is broken down into 10 divisions for newspapers to compete against papers of similar circulation size.
Weeklies compete under a unique division system in which the total number of weekly entrants is divided into five divisions based on descending circulation. This year, 102 weeklies entered so there were 21 newspapers each in divisions 6-7 and 20 newspapers each in divisions 8-10.
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