Finalists announced for Carmage Walls Commentary Award

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In alphabetical order, the finalists in this year's Carmage Walls Commentary Prize competition are:

Under 50,000 circulation:

  • Chris Cobler, editor, Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas. Last year, Hurricane Harvey punished the region like no other storm since Carla in 1961. In the face of this difficult situation, the editorial board turned to editor Chris Cobler and the newsroom to first help the community rally together and then help it learn important lessons from the storm. This evolved into an ongoing special series of news articles and editorials called "Understanding Harvey." The entire package may be seen online here.  Initially, the Viewpoints page approach was to unite the community and recognize the heroes of the emergency relief efforts. After the paper's reporting revealed serious flaws in the local, state and federal response to Hurricane Harvey, the editorial board opinion shifted.  The five pieces in the Carmage Walls entry reflect the campaign the newspaper undertook to help Victoria and the region become better prepared for the next storm that inevitably will strike.  View this entry
  • Jeffery Gerritt, editor, Palestine Herald-Press, Palestine, Texas. The five editorials in Gerritt's entry changed the culture of the local city government and city council, which the paper said was insular, closed and arrogant.  As a result of Gerritt's relentless pressure, public officials in Palestine became more responsive to media requests. The city's media policy changed to enable reporters to talk directly to department heads, instead of having to get everything through Public Information Officer Nate Smith.  View this entry

Over 50,000 circulation:

  • Daily Press Editorial Staff, Newport News, Va. For slightly more than a year, the Daily Press covered and commented on concerns related to decisions made by the Peninsula Airport Commission.  Those concerns included transparency, the efficacy of undisclosed loan agreements and a secret decision to use public funds as a loan guarantee, putting millions of taxpayer dollars at risk.  As a result, in part because of a state audit that coverage sparked, a city manager resigned, the director of the airport commission was fired, training and guidelines were instituted for the Peninsula Airport Commission, including specific measures for clarity of mission and transparency.  Read this entry
  • Sharon Grigsby, metro columnist, The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas. Six pieces of commentary by Sharon Grigsby (who then was an editorial writer for the paper) focused on accusations of sexual assault by members of the Baylor University football team.  Grigsby, a Baylor graduate. devoted consistent commentary to the sexual assault story since it broke in August 2015.  She employed all of the tools of a talented editorialist: dogged reporting, crystal-clear presentation of the facts, eloquent appeals for transparency and admission of fault for the wrongdoer, praise for the efforts of the aggrieved, and, when all else failed, blistering criticism and appeals to both the public and lawmakers for help.  Read this entry

The awards (first- and second-place honors in each circulation category) will be presented on Thursday, Oct. 11, at the SNPA News Industry Summit in Nashville, Tenn.  The winners also will be posted early afternoon that day on the SNPA website.

Several additional Honorable Mentions also will be announced Oct. 11.

The prize is named for the late Benjamin Carmage Walls whose newspaper career spanned seven decades.  Walls primarily owned community newspapers and advocated strong, courageous and positive editorial page leadership.

Awards in SNPA's Print Quality Contest and Photo Contest, as well as the Frank W. Mayborn Leadership Award also will be presented at the News Industry Summit

Read about finalists in the:

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