After reporting on several Weakley County teams and athletes who were noteworthy in their performances, The Press sports department grabbed some state-wide attention itself.
department coordinator Mike Hutchens, photographer David Fuzzell, graphic designer Allison Hollowell and sports writer/photographer Kevin Weaks
The newspaper’s 2011 preseason football section was judged best in the state among non-daily entries in the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s annual competition and was so honored recently at the group’s annual convention in Lebanon.
Department coordinator Mike Hutchens — who also serves as the sports editor at The Press’ sister publication, The Messenger in Union City — directed the production of the award-winning section with the aid of veteran sports writer/photographer Kevin Weaks and longtime organization photographer David Fuzzell.
The award-winning edition — dubbed “Insider’s View” — was a 16-page, full-sized section that included detailed previews, statistics and notebooks on all four Weakley County High School teams. There were also reports from every team in all three districts in which local teams were members, as well as a composite schedule of all those teams.
A roundup of area coaching changes and career records of nearly two dozen coaches at their respective schools was also included.
In the assessment of the winning entry, one out-of-state judge wrote: “It’s the extra touches, like having a notebook for each main area team previewed, that make a difference. Also, it’s a good move to place the area season schedule grid on the back cover.”
Hutchens also won three other individual awards with entries from The Press, placing second in both the “Writer of the Year” and “Best Event/News Writer” categories in the TSWA competition, and fifth in the “Sports Writing” division in the Tennessee Press Association (TPA) contest.
The three men, with more than 80 years of experience combined in the newspaper business, also won 10 more awards as representatives of The Messenger in a different division in three separate contests this year.
The 14 combined awards brings the total number to 195 such honors in writing, photography and design with Hutchens in charge of those two sports 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.
The group took on the added responsibility of the WCP sports department in March of 2011 and, with the aide of stringers Randy Cavin and Allison Jones last football season and Cavin in basketball, has met with positive reviews.
“Weakley Countians truly love their sports, and we’ve enjoyed getting to report on the accomplishments of the teams and individual standouts at all four county high schools and the middle schools, too,” Hutchens said.
“Most all of the administrators and coaches we already knew from afar, but we’ve developed a closer working relationship with all of them as we team with them to promote their schools and their athletic achievements. Those people and their cooperation are critical to us putting out a quality product.
“And just like the old adage, ‘There’s no ‘I’ in team,’ whatever accolades we’ve earned have been because of a collective effort. Kevin (Weaks) is tireless in his efforts as writer, photographer and page designer. He goes the extra mile in everything he’s asked to do and takes the initiative on many of our projects. David (Fuzzell) just has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, be it with his sports photos or the many pictures he’s taken outside that realm.
“Both of those guys are invaluable in the newspaper business.”