By Kelly McKinney
11:28 AM EST, January 30, 2013
The Jessamine Journal was named the state’s top newspaper in its class for the second time in three years Friday night, beating out dozens of papers across Kentucky.
The paper won the “General Excellence” award, along with 21 other awards, from the annual Kentucky Press Association’s Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers competition. The Journal received its awards during the KPA awards banquet in Louisville.
Managing editor Mike Moore said he credits his talented staff for the large number of wins for the paper this year.
“It’s the people who work for me,” he said. “For Jonathan Kleppinger and Jonathan Stark to have won that many first-place awards — it’s remarkable.”
The Journal finished with nine first-place awards, which, combined with the remaining eight individual awards, totaled 58 points. The Lebanon Enterprise finished second with 49 total points, and the Oldham Era placed third with 34 points.
Stark, Journal sports editor, brought home seven awards, including four first-place wins. He also received an honorable mention. Kleppinger, a staff writer and the news designer, landed three first-place awards and a total of eight awards. He also was given two honorable mentions.
Kleppinger said he is most proud of the design awards.
“I hadn’t won anything in design before,” he said. “We have a great legacy here of great design, and I’m happy to be able to uphold that.”
Kleppinger, who received no formal training in design before he worked for the Journal, won first place and third place for best lifestyle page, second-place for best front page, and third place for best editorial page.
He said his wins are a credit to those designers who taught him, including his brother, Ben Kleppinger, who used to design pages for the Nicholasville paper and is now editor of The Interior Journal in Stanford. He also credits Stark and former Journal news designer Shane Walters.
Kleppinger’s awards also include a first-place award for best enterprise or analytical story, third-place awards for best headline and best graphic, and honorable mentions for best general news story and best special section.
He also shared a first-place award with Stark for best sports picture essay.
He said it’s great that Stark won so many awards.
“He entered just seven categories and won first place in four of them,” Kleppinger said.
In addition to the first-place award shared with Kleppinger, Stark’s awards include first-place awards for best sports story and best sports page/section, a second-place award for best sports picture, and honorable mentions for best sports story and best sports page/section. He also won first and second place for best graphic. Kleppinger took third place in that category.
Stark said winning best sports photo essay along with Kleppinger meant a lot to him because it was a collaboration with Kleppinger and also because it involved both high schools in Jessamine County.
He said he’s also pleased to win best sports story.
“I’m kind of modest about my writing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that great, so it’s nice to win that.”
Moore landed three awards for the paper.
Two of his photographs won first-place awards, including best general news picture and best feature picture. The winning feature picture is of a bull running after a rodeo clown.
“That was pure luck,” Moore said. “I just happened to be at the right spot to get that angle.”
Moore also won third place for best investigative story or series for a story that detailed Nicholasville crime rates.
“The community needs to have a story like this,” he said. “We really broke it down to statistics.”
Former staff writer Ben Rossi won second place for best feature story.
The “General Excellence” win is a great accomplishment for the paper, Moore said.
“There is a ton of talent in this state,” he said. “To be recognized is unbelievable.”
The Journal has finished in the top three each year since Moore took the reins as editor in 2005, including the most recent win, with two first-place wins, four second places and two third places.
“I honestly expected to be in the top three in the state,” Moore said. “We should expect that of ourselves. But, am I surprised? Yes, simply because of all the talent out there. There are a lot of talented newspapers.”
He said the class the Journal is in, Class 3 Weekly, is one of the more competitive categories, so winning means a lot.
Stark agreed that it’s nice to be recognized.
“It’s nice, because it’s one thing to hear somebody say, ‘That’s a nice story’ or a nice picture or whatever, but it’s another thing to be recognized when judged against your peers,” he said.
Kleppinger said the wide range of awards won says a lot about the paper.
“I’m proud that our awards are across the board, with some in design, some in writing, and some in photography,” he said. “That shows the breadth of our skills.”
Still, the goal of the paper isn’t to win awards, Moore said.
“It’s about serving the community,” he said. “Without the community, we wouldn’t be here to win awards.”