The Missouri Press Association announced the dozens of winners of its Better Newspaper Contest. And though I’m sorry to say that my former employer, the Branson Tri-Lakes News, didn’t fare all that well, one of the titles it did win was for a story I wrote last year.
It’s about the storm I have no doubt Bransonites will always remember as the “Leap Day Tornado.” I and the other staffers wrote a bunch of stories about it, so there’s no shortage of information out there if you’re looking for a refresher. I still remember the phone call — at 4 a.m. February 29, 2012, from then-County Commissioner Jim Strafuss — that began the craziest, most emotional day I’ve ever experienced as a journalist.
Personally, I think the entire staff of the Branson Tri-Lakes News did damn good work covering the storm and its impact that week and in the weeks that followed, so I would have much preferred seeing the paper itself be honored rather than just me. But a newspaper award is just a newspaper award; it and a buck will buy me a quarter-pounder at McDonald’s. I believe the people of Branson do know and appreciate how heroic their newspaper’s efforts were that week, and that’s what truly matters.
One further note: This is actually the second Best News Story in-class award I’ve won, but last year’s I shared with the Tri-Lakes News’ now managing editor, Mindy Honey. Incidentally, that story was also about a natural disaster. So I guess there is something to the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” after all.