Messenger Wins Big In State Newspaper Awards

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

Above photo: Photographer Jon Hobson, Reporter Greg Ritchie and Copy Editor Cheril Vernon show off their Texas Press Association “Best Newspaper Awards” at the annual conference in College Station Saturday, June 22.

HOUSTON COUNTY –  The Messenger newspaper, Houston County Living magazine and Nicol Publishing as a group brought home top prizes at the annual Texas Press Association (TPA) Conference and Awards Ceremony, Saturday June 22 in College Station. 

The awards are a way to recognize outstanding work by local newspapers, their writers, photographers and editors. Submissions are judged by people in the industry in other states and the publications are grouped by divisions, from every-day big city to newspapers, to once a week, smaller news outlets. 

The Messenger was grouped this year with several newspapers in bigger cities, since we still publish twice weekly. In spite of that, Newspaper Editor Cheril Vernon brought home first place in advertising design, for the ads she creates for our local businesses who advertise in these pages. 

“You do the job the best you can and never really think about receiving state-wide recognition for it,” Vernon said. “I was thrilled to be able to come home with first prize and happy our ads for our local businesses attracted such positive reviews.”

Greg’s Corner, an editorial and opinion column written by Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie won first prize in the category of Best Column. Ritchie also won second prize in the state for Community Service, awarded for the candidate forums The Messenger holds during elections, along with third place in Headline Writing.

Messenger Photographer Jon Hobson won first place in Sports Photography, with his iconic shots being recognized by the TPA. He was also given third place in News Photography. 

Houston County Living, the quarterly magazine published inside the Messenger, won second place for Best Magazine in a hotly contested race with other publications around the state. Wayne and Christina Stewart produce the magazine with its iconic photos and real-life stories about the people and events in the county. 

Publisher Kelly Nicol said he knew the magazine was gaining in popularity when people would come to the Grapeland office to request extra copies, noting the magazine took second place in only its first year in publication. 

“We are very excited and happy to have Wayne and Christina back on our magazine staff,” Nicol said. “They’ve done a fantastic job, and to come out as the number two magazine in our division in their first year. I think we have a good shot and winning first place next year.”

The awards ceremony was attended by Vernon, Messenger Sales Manager Ansel Bradshaw, Ritchie and his wife Anastasia, along with Jon Hobson and his wife Aileene. 

While The Messenger did not receive all the awards they submitted entries for, the recognition only motivates the staff to try harder. As in sports, so in these types of competitions: “There’s always next year.”

“I’m extremely proud of the staff at The Messenger. They’ve worked very hard to get the news out and put out a good product. I think we’ve grown stronger and stronger over the years and this is the result of all their efforts,” Nicol concluded. “I feel our community has a paper they can count on.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected] 

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