Sports department harvests 14 awards
Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 9:04 pm
Another year, another bushel of awards for The Messenger’s sports staff.
The newspaper’s widely-decorated department — again competing against papers with considerably larger circulation — claimed 14 more awards in three different statewide competitions for writing, photography and design over the past 12 months.
The latest batch of honors pushes the total to 175 awards for the staff under the direction of veteran sports editor Mike Hutchens, who will begin his 28th year this fall and now has totaled over 100 individual awards himself during that time.
Among Hutchens’ first-place efforts this year was the prestigious Gary Lundy Writer of the Year Award, named in honor of the late Knoxville News-Sentinel award-winning writer.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker and longtime photographer David Fuzzell also continued to rack up personal accolades and were vital contributors to The Messenger’s preseason prep football tabloid that won a first-place honor for the 11th time in the past 13 years in some competition.
The football section was one of four first-place showings for the department, whose daily section was rated No. 2 in the state by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association.
The popular tabloid and combined effort of Hutchens, Coker and Fuzzell, highlighted Obion County’s three entries — all of which went on to make the playoffs — and precluded Union City’s run to the Class 1A state championship. The section also included multiple features as well as in-depth coverage of more than three dozen area prep teams in all.
Out-of-state judges offered up this evaluation of the winning entry: “Nothing comes close to the amount of information provided by the winner. Loved the ‘Five to Watch’ players on each of the four main schools previewed.
Nice touch with features on the new TSSAA heat policy and explanation of the playoff system.”
The special pigskin preview also earned a fourth-place honor in the Tennessee Press Association competition.
Hutchens won six individual awards in all, headlined by the aforementioned Writer of the Year Award. It marked the second time in the last five years that he has received the esteemed honor.
Hutchens’ 2010 first-place entries included a column on the departure of UT Martin head basketball coach Bret Campbell, another on the untimely death of former Union City High School football player Peter Wilkes and a story detailing how all three Obion County football teams still share in pregame prayer.
Judges offered this critique of Hutchens’ effort: “The winner wasn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects. Each beautifully crafted story wasted no words.”
Hutchens also won first place in the TSWA “Best Investigative/Series” competition for his overall coverage of Campbell’s ultimate dismissal at UTM after he had just a few months earlier won Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors after leading the Skyhawks to the school’s first-ever league basketball championship.
The veteran sports scribe also placed second in both the TSWA “Best Event Writer” category and the Tennessee Press Association’s “Sports Writing” categories. Hutchens garnered third-place honors in both the TSWA’s “Best Prep Writer” and “Best News Writer”.
Coker, in his third year on The Messenger staff, earned “Roland Julian Best Headline Writer” from the TSWA for the second straight year. The award is named after the longtime headline writer from the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
His winning entries drew this review from judges: “Witty headlines without pulling a hamstring trying to make a stretch. Particularly like “Lady Reb Fussell no small fry with McDonald’s nomination.”
Coker also was second in both the TSWA’s “Best News Writer” and Best Investigative/Series competitions, and had a photo featuring Obion Central basketball player Macy Wright place fourth in the TPA contest.
Fuzzell, a 30-year employee at The Messenger and a celebrated photographer in subjects other than sports as well, earned a second-place award in the Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editor’s “Individual Body of Work” category.
Fuzzell’s subjects on the award-winning entry were a collection of sports, outdoor and news photographs.
The veteran newspaperman was responsible for the cover design of the award-winning tab as well as most all the action photos in the preview section.
Messenger Publisher David Critchlow praised the continued success of the sports department under Hutchens’ leadership.
“Mike is relentless in his effort to deliver first-class sports coverage in the newspaper,” he said. “He’s demanding, but the results speak for themselves. I would put Mike and his department up against any in the state, regardless of size.
“I’m proud to see his hard work, as well as that of David (Fuzzell) and Kenneth (Coker), recognized in these contests. They are all very deserving.”
Published in The Messenger 7.28.10