Over the past several years, The Messenger’s sports department has established itself among the very best and most respected in the state — and 2011 was no different.
The newspaper’s widely-acclaimed sports staff — made up of longtime department editor Mike Hutchens, seasoned writer Kevin Weaks and veteran photographer David Fuzzell — once again brought home its share of awards and more from three separate contests evaluated by out-of-state judges.
In all, the trio claimed 10 honors from competition within the Tennessee Sports Writers Association, the Tennessee Press Association and the Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors — often competing against papers with considerably larger circulations.
Additionally, while heading up The Weakley County Press in a combined effort for the first year, the three men garnered four more awards as representatives of The Messenger’s sister publication in a separate division of two similar contests.
The 14 combined awards brings the total number to 195 such honors in writing, photography and design with Hutchens in charge of those departments during his 29 years with the company. Well over 100 of those are individual accolades for the seasoned sports scribe.
Weaks has been recognized individually 50 times during his decorated career at two different newspapers, while Fuzzell has become a regular award-winning picture-taker in the past several years in both the sports/outdoor fields, as well as those spotlighting local non-athletic and community events.
Collectively, they have more than 80 years of experience in the newspaper industry.
“They’re the best,” Messenger Editor David Critchlow Jr. said. “I would proudly put their coverage up against that of any newspaper or news outlet in the state. They have set a standard of excellence through the years and continue to maintain it.
“I certainly hope our readers appreciate all they do for the local athletes, teams and coaches each week.”
Highlighting this year’s winning entries for the group were:
• First-place by Hutchens in the TAPME “Sports-Outdoors Writing” category.
A story on Obion County Director of Schools David Huss relieving Athletics Director Tommy Victory of those duties was judged as the best among all entries in the competition.
Hutchens also claimed runnerup in the order with a story on former Westview High School and then-Green Bay Packers starting tackle Chad Clifton handling the requests of family and friends as the Packers prepared to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.
• Second-place in both the TPA and TSWA “Best Special Section” divisions with the preseason prep football tabloid — a collaboration of all three men’s talents, as well as those of the paper’s computer, advertising and print departments. It marked the 14th time in the past 15 years that highly-decorated section has been ranked among the Top 2 such issues in the state in some competition.
The Messenger’s 2011 entry had a heavy dose of previews, features, photos and statistics on its three local teams and previews highlighting more than 30 teams in all.
• Second-place in the TSWA’s “Best Daily Section” among papers with less than 20,000 circulation.
• Individually, Hutchens placed second in the TSWA in the “Writer of the Year” competition. He was also third in the organization’s “Best Event Writer” and third in “Sports Writing” in the TPA contest.
• Weaks, who rejoined the newspaper’s ranks after an earlier 17-year stint and most recently a 5 1/2-year run at The Mayfield Messenger, won second place in both the TPA headline writing contest and the TSWA’s “Best Headline Writer.”
He was third in the “Best Prep Writer” category in the Tennessee Sports Writers Association competition.
• The Hutchens/Weaks/Fuzzell team won first-place with their preseason football section at the Weakley County Press as judged by the TSWA in the non-daily division.
Hutchens was also second in both the group’s “Writer of the Year” and “Best Event/News Writer” divisions. He was fifth in the TPA “Sportswriting” competition.
Published in The Messenger 7.25.12