On a late April Saturday at 6:05pm, glasses clinked behind the bar and nametags were being prepared for distribution by the staff of the Headliner's Club, located 21 floors above 6th Street and Lavaca in Austin, Texas. Within the hour, a record crowd of more than 175 Radio and TV journalists, photographers, anchors, sportscasters and meteorologists would learn how their published work in 2018 fared in competition with submissions from other stations representing nearly every corner of the state of Texas.
The annual competition is conducted by the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters, which is an organization of journalists who work across the state of Texas for stations that subscribe to newswire content from the Associated Press. The process for determining winners in some 30 TV categories and 20 radio categories involves sending a few hours' worth of audio and video recordings off to other journalism and broadcast professionals from similar organizations in other states who judge submissions and deliver their determinations back to the TAPB Board of Directors.
Prior to this event, 88.9 KETR in Commerce had managed to collect at least 61 first place awards in various radio categories over the years, dating back to 1983, according to the plaques that hang in the halls of the station's studio facility in Commerce. There have certainly been more; over the years, the journalists and content creators who have worked at the rural northeast Texas station have occasionally been inclined to carry these testaments to their great work out the door with them on their way to their next opportunities. It is certain, though that 36 first place awards have been collected by KETR since December of 2008.
This evening's haul would not disappoint. 88.9 KETR's hardworking newspeople and sportscasters were recognized for their work, placing in 13 of the 20 radio categories among Radio Division II stations, which are the many stations located outside of Texas' major metropolitan areas. (Division I includes stations in the DFW metroplex, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.) A list of KETR's accomplishments follows:
- First Place: "Commentary-Editorial" awarded for this story by Mark Haslett.
- First Place: "Use of Actuality-Production" awarded for this piece by George Hale and Jerrod Knight.
- Second Place: "General Assignment" awarded for this story by Scott Morgan.
- Second Place: "Continuing Coverage" awarded for this series by Mark Haslett and Scott Morgan.
- First Place: "Digital" awarded for the ketr.org website (edited by Mark Haslett and maintained by Jerrod Knight,) which judges said was, "easy to navigate, read, access staff and other resources. Podcasts of niche interests broadened the scope of the demographic. Excellent."
- First Place: "Feature (Serious)" awarded for this story by Scott Morgan.
- First Place: "Feature (Light)" awarded for this story by Mark Haslett about ballpark nachos.
- First Place: "Online/Special Content" awarded for this episode of the podcast Buried from KETR.
- Second Place: "Online/Special Content" awarded for the Blacklands Café series by John Mark Dempsey.
- First Place: "Investigative Report" awarded to George Hale for his work on KETR's Buried podcast series.
- First Place: "Documentary" awarded for this story by Scott Morgan, a story which also led to KETR's second Regional Murrow award in as many years.
- Second Place: "Documentary" awarded to George Hale and Jerrod Knight for the Buried podcast series.
- First Place: "Series" for a series of stories about veterans' issues by Scott Morgan.
- First Place: "Sports Anchor or Anchor Team" for KETR's Big Friday Night Scoreboard Program, hosted by Jared Taylor and BJ Laudermilk. (The show also included, but uncredited on the award for logistical reasons, Terry Bennet & Grant Goodwin with Sideline to Sideline to start the show each week, and Ryan Fulkerson as Board Op and co-host) Judges said, "[This is] the way high school football should be covered."
- Second Place: "Sports Play-by-Play" awarded to Charlie Chitwood and Brock Callaway for their call of Lions Football on KETR.
A complete list of the evening's winners and select comments by the judges of the competition can be found by clicking here.