Free Press feted by KPA and free-paper group

The Hillsboro Free Press received awards from two newspaper organizations this weekend.

The awards were presented at the annual conventions of the Kansas Press Association in Topeka and the Midwest Free Community Papers in Des Moines, Iowa.

In KPA’s Awards of Excellence competition, the Free Press won 14 awards in 12 categories in the division for the largest-circulation weeklies in Kansas.

The newspaper won first-place awards in “News and Writing Excellence,” which is an overall evaluation of a publication’s editorial presentation; “Sports Pages,” an overall evaluation of a newspaper’s sports coverage; “Editorial Writing” based on three pieces written by editor Don Ratzlaff, and “Sports Feature Writing” for a profile Ratzlaff wrote last spring about Hillsboro High School softball players Holly Lindsay and Julie Wall.

The paper also earned four second-place awards. Cynthia Martens was feted in “Local Business Coverage” for an article she wrote about Tabor College business professor David Kroeker working a summer job at Pizza Hut, and in “Religion Coverage” for her story about renovations at St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen.

Ratzlaff received second-place awards in “News Writing” for his article on ramifications surrounding the closing of the grade school in Burns, and in “Sports Writing” for his coverage of Hillsboro’s participation in the 2002 state basketball tournament.

Ratzlaff earned two third-place awards. One was in “Local Business Coverage” for his profile of Hillsboro native Charlotte Kennedy-Takahashi’s company in Japan, and the other was in “Religion Coverage” for his story about the youth-ministry program at Tabor College.

The newspaper received honorable mention in four categories: “General Excellence,” an overall evaluation of the publication; “Best Front Page” based on three issues (June 19, Sept. 18 and Sept. 25); “Personal Column Writing” to Paul Penner for View from the Hill; and “Sports Writing Column” to Joe Kleinsasser for Sideline Slants.

Ratzlaff was selected among the winners in the non-daily divisions in “Editorial Writing” to receive the Kansas Gas Service Award for Editorial Excellence.

The three editorials that were evaluated addressed the topics of “sin” taxes in Kansas, the need for a better tenure-evaluation procedure in the local school system, and omitting the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Meanwhile, the Free Press won the “General Excellence” award for papers that carry news at the convention of the Midwest Free Community Papers organization.

It marked the second time in two years of MFCP membership that the Free Press was selected for the organization’s top award.

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