LOUISVILLE — Advocate-Messenger staffers took home an armload of top awards in multiple categories Friday night, helping the newspaper earn a big win in the General Excellence category among the state’s mid-sized dailies during the annual Kentucky Press Association awards banquet.
The two-day event held at the Brown Hotel is downtown Louisville attracted nearly 1,000 participants, making it the largest gathering of newspaper people in the state’s history, said KPA President David Thompson.
Advocate reporters, editors and designers won eight first place awards, along with several second and third place finishes, in the statewide competition in catergories ranging from General News Story to Sports Feature Story to Best Front Page to Special Section.
Executive Editor John Nelson said the strong across-the-board performance was especially impressive because the paper’s downsized news staff had so many big stories to cover while also keeping up with routine, day-to-day reporting.
“Beside our normal coverage, we dealt with three major events in 2012 — UK’s national championship, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Perryville and the run-up to the vice presidential debate,” Nelson remarked. “That’s big work for a small staff. I’m very proud of them all.”
The Advocate won first-place honors related to its coverage of all three events.
Staff writer and weekend editor Todd Kleffman garnered two first place awards and three second place finishes. Kleffman won for General News and Agribusiness reporting, and was runner-up in General News, Investigative Reporting and Spot News.
“Compelling story with a great lead. Pacing made it hard to put down,” the judges said of Kleffman’s winning General News story about the alleged plot of four deaf women to murder an elderly Hustonville resident.
David Brock, who recently moved from his reporting position to the copy desk, captured first place for Best Extended/On-going Story for his multiple stories about the big debate at Centre College, and two third-place finishes in the Best Enterprise Story and Best Feature Story categories. He and Kleffman also teamed up for an honorable mention in Spot News for their reporting on the demise of Go Go Gorillas.
“A fascinating read incorporating a lot of detail that is presented in a compelling way accompanied by appealing photography,” the judges wrote about Brock’s debate coverage.
Sports Editor Larry Vaught took home first place for Best Sports Feature Story for his article on Kentucky native Darius Miller’s pivotal role in UK’s championship season.
“Well put-together story, great details and use of good quotes from multiple sources. Overall, a good read,” judges remarked on Vaught’s winning article.
The Advocate staff captured first place in the Best Special Section category for its work on The Battle of Perryville special section and Best Sports Special Section for its wrap up of the Wildcat’s eighth national championship.
Former page designer Kasey Hill won Best Front Page as well as second place in that category. Hill also earned third place for Best Graphic. Former reporter Joanna King garnered First Place in the Best Column category.
Photo editor Clay Jackson earned second place for Best Feature Picture and Third Place for Best Sports Picture Essay.
Nelson won third place in the Best Editorial Page category.
All of the awards pushed The Advocate to the top in the General Excellence category, competing against daily newspapers in such towns as Ashland, Somerset and Hopkinsville. The paper also captured General Excellence recognition in 2005 and 2007.
“We are proud to continue the long tradition of producing great content for our audiences,” Publisher Scott Schurz said. “It is always nice to have your peers — those responsible for watchdog journalism and having an impact in their respective communities — recognize our contributions.”
The Advocate’s sister Kentucky papers also scored well in this year’s competition. The Jessamine Journal earned first place in the General Excellence category for the state’s largest weekly newspapers. The Interior Journal came in third place among Kentucky’s mid-sized weeklies, with Editor Ben Kleppinger and staffer Nancy Leedy both taking home multiple awards.
“We are pleased that three of our four newspapers in Kentucky won General Excellence awards in their divisions,” Schurz said. “We were in a position to be recognized thanks to our talented and dedicated employees.”