2018 KPA Award Winners


The Kansas Press Association handed out its 2018 Awards of Excellence at its annual banquet on Feb. 10, and I’m proud to say The Hays Daily News did rather well, especially the newsroom.

Overall, we had 29 awards, including eight first-place awards. Seven of those were for the newsroom.

While I didn’t get any first-place awards, I did receive six second- and third-place awards. I’m most happy with the two video awards I won, as the Daily Division categories for those were combined. The other video award winners were much larger papers, who are most likely using more than just an iPhone and have staff members dedicated to editing and producing videos. I also won a couple of photo awards, and by no means do I consider myself a photojournalist. I have worked with some excellent ones, so I guess maybe I learned something from them.

Here’s my winning entries.

Second place, Feature Story

DNA test leads woman to father she never knew

One of my favorite stories, not only because of this woman’s emotional journey, but because a reader, who was adopted, contacted me and told me how it helped her find her own birth family.

Judge’s comments:

“This entry is truly deserving of being one of this year’s winners in this Feature Story division. The article gave this reader a heart-felt connection as the story unfolds with meeting her father. When someone has been through many trials in her life, it is pleasant to read such a glorious conclusion.”


Second place, Best Story/Picture Combination (with photographer Jolie Green)

Bomber takes veterans on a sentimental journey

This story was fun to write. It was interesting to see the reaction of the veterans, and getting to ride in the nose was a once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Jolie had fantastic photos, and she was the recipient of four other awards, including two first-place finishes.

No judge’s comments.




Second place, Best online video (feature)

Rock the Halls

This was a story where I went in not knowing exactly what to expect. It was also one where I was my own photographer and had use of the office’s DSLR, so I was able to get some decent video.

Judge’s comments:

“This is a fun watch but also tells a story. Good interaction between people and the angles used. Well done.”

Third place, Best Story/Picture Combination

Hernandez goes to market

Another one where I was my own photographer and had use of the DSLR. I’ve worked with Chef Hernandez before, so I was able to go into this already having an idea of what the visuals could be to help tell the story.

No judge’s comments.



Third place, General News Photo

Data from Sheridan County shows possibility of sustainable use of aquifer

This award is for the A1 photo, and frankly surprised me. Honestly, I didn’t feel like it was that spectacular a photo, but it gave a good idea of the appreciative crowd that turned out to hear the governor and the officials from the state water office.

Judge’s comments:

“This is an interesting angle on a standard meeting photo.”



Third place, Best Online Video (news)

Hail damage in WaKeeney, Kansas

I’m glad this one was recognized, and I appreciate the judge understanding that small-market media don’t have fancy, expensive equipment but can produce good live reporting. We don’t get a lot of breaking news in my area, but this Facebook live video helped people understand the severity of the storm.

Judge’s comments:

“This entry is an example of good, small market, low-tech, video reporting. The best part is in the middle when the reporter walked around showing damage on the vehicles and giving an informative commentary. She even relayed the story of the vehicle transport truck wrecked on the interstate that she saw as she arrived on the scene. The opening was a bit slow and the viewer couldnt really see all the windows in the motel shattered. Also, at the end the reporter gave her wrap-up while the camera only showed concrete parking lot. But still, overall nice job.”


Age-old problem


Here’s an age-old dilemma in journalism, but one that has become more prominent since the inception of online analytics.

The top story pictured here, “City of Hays Fire Chief Gary Brown …” is a story about how improvements to the local 911 system have given the city a better fire protection rating from an insurance organization that could potentially reduce property insurance costs.

The story below that is about a new food establishment that will open in town.

Ask a journalist, and they will tell you the city story is more important because it shows how public money is spent and its direct effect on the community. Government in action, and in a positive way in this case. While it’s good when a new business opens, the city story, from our point of view, has far greater effect on the community.

And yet look at which one has received more attention. Our online stats are similar, showing 523 hits on the juice bar story, 182 for the city story so far today.

What do we do about this? How do we get more attention on the stories about government and public spending? I wish I had the answers.

The phone rings, and …



A reporter never knows who is on the other end of the line when the phone rings. Sometimes, it’s a complaint. Sometimes it’s a “news tip” about strange lights in the sky and what are you going to do about it?

And then once in a while, it turns out to be something wonderful. I had that experience recently, and it has turned out to be without a doubt my most-read story since I moved back into the newsroom about a year ago.

In 24 hours on Facebook, the stats were pretty amazing for our small daily:

  •  More than 35,000 people reached
  • More than 100 shares
  • More than 300 reactions

I know it’s not all about the numbers, but when you think about those numbers represent real people, it is humbling. I’m honored Maria and her father shared their story with me so that I could share it with others.

So many stories …


Obligatory selfie at the Home on the Range cabin, Smith County, Kansas.

Recently, I made a big career decision. I moved back into the newsroom. And I’m not regretting it one bit.

Today was a great day. It was hot and windy, but that’s Kansas for you. And photographer Jolie and I were there to tell the story of people telling a uniquely Kansas story.

We were at the site of the Home on the Range cabin in Smith County, the site where Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem about his beloved homestead. A Wichita group is there this week to film a documentary about how those words became the Western anthem we know today.

My dilemma, every reporter’s dilemma, is that there are so many stories to tell, but so little time and space to do it in. Even with the seemingly infinite internet, there’s only so much you can do.

It’s difficult sometimes to decide what fits with the angle I’m taking on the story and how much I need to write. I’ve always written long stories. I love to tell stories. But this day and age, with our ever-shortening attention spans, it’s a challenge for me to keep it short.

It’s kind of agonizing for me to not include everyone in a project like this, people who no doubt feel they put their hearts and souls into it. I would like to recognize them all, to include that one little nugget of a great quote they gave me. But sometimes it just doesn’t fit.

There was the woman who considers herself an “amateur writer” who felt compelled to write a movie script after reading a local historian’s account of the song. The stories of the guy who grew up near the cabin and whose father grew up nearby and whose mother taught in one-room schoolhouses. The director who has great desire to tell the stories of Kansas that many Kansans aren’t even familiar with. His wife, who is an accountant in her other life and craft services and first aid on the set. The hair and makeup woman who “embeds” herself in old photos for research, the costumer who makes some of the period clothing herself, the gun fighter re-enactor with a role in the film. And that’s not even half of them.

I’m an introvert by nature. But I’m fascinated by people who follow their passions, and I think their stories need to be told.

And even when it’s all done and my story is published, I always wonder, could I have included just a little more?

2016 Award-winners


The Kansas Press Association had its annual convention and awards banquet the weekend of April 23, and my newspaper brought home a good amount of awards. It wasn’t enough to win the overall sweepstakes award in either news or advertising, but at our own little ceremony this morning, our publisher said any time he had to search for a bag to bring home the awards, we’ve done well.

(Congrats, by the way to our sister paper, The Garden City Telegram on their news Sweepstakes award. We’ll get ya next year, Scott.)

For my work that I submitted, I received a total of seven second- and third-place awards. Four of those are shared with co-workers. I’m pretty happy with that.

I think this is the one I am most happy about — third place for Best Online Promotion for my subscription video.

This was a fun one to work on and my co-designer, Mallory Goeke, and I received third place, Best House Ad.

Graphix Squad House Ad

This one received  second place in the Best House Ad category. Both of these were done for our Business Card Directory.

56-Ad Sales 3.5x10

This was a fun one to work on, too. I received third place in Best Online Ad (Motion) for it.


For this one, Sales Representative Eric Rathke and I received second place in Best Online Ad (Motion)

For this front-page banner ad, Sales Representative Joleen Fisher and I received second place, Best Furniture Ad. We also received second place for Best Ad Series or Campaign for ads for the same business.