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The Frio-Nueces Current received the Sweepstakes award Friday, July 30, for high scores across several journalism judging categories for publications in 2020.
The award was presented at the annual convention of the South Texas Press Association (STPA), which was held at the SSGT Willie De Leon Civic Center in Uvalde last week.
Editor Marc Robertson was named Journalist of the Year; Managing Editor Manuel Azocar III was named Photographer of the Year. Both awards are made by the STPA based on work for a single calendar year. Award-winning entries included feature stories on the coronavirus, local crime and government news, coverage of the death of an inmate at the La Salle County Jail, editorial columns; and sports, news and feature photography.
Judging in the annual STPA Better Newspaper Contest was conducted by faculty and staff at the University of Texas School of Journalism.
Further honors included first-place awards to Robertson for news writing and humorous column writing; and first place to Azocar for the Current’s sports coverage.
The Current also won several second-place awards, including sports photography by Azocar; feature writing, serious column writing and editorial writing by Robertson; and for page design and lifestyle page content.
The Current also earned a second-place award for overall general excellence in newspaper content and design.
Third-place awards to the Current included recognition for display advertising, feature photography by Azocar, and the special edition magazine by Chief Staff Writer Breyana Segura.
The Current was judged alongside newspapers of similar distribution in the South Texas region, which extends from Round Rock to the Rio Grande Valley and from Ozona to Cuero, the largest regional press association of its kind in the United States.
“I could not be prouder of the Current staff for winning the Sweepstakes award at this year’s STPA contest,” newspaper publisher Craig Garnett said. “Producing work that competes with and even rises above some of the finest papers in the state is beyond gratifying.”
Judges’ critiques of the Current’s entries in the contest included those for news writing: “In addition to good reporting, Robertson displays his writerly skills in a story outlining the death of a man in sheriff’s custody.”
For feature photography, judges noted that “Azocar’s photo of costumed children interacting with a police officer is a touching slice of life.”
Editorial column writing critique included the judge’s note, “Robertson is clearly a skilled writer in many forms, including editorial writing. He has an engaging style and manages […] to be persuasive in a gentle, inclusive manner.”
“Robertson’s witty column about remembering those who have fought for the United States is a compelling mixture of mirth and seriousness and a call to be thankful,” judges noted in a critique of the column, “A View From the Bridge.”
“Robertson’s unique voice and ability to point out the absurdities in commonplace occurrences give his columns a powerful comedic punch,” a judge of humorous column writing noted.
Azocar was commended for his photography and sports coverage by judges, who noted that they believe the Current “does an excellent job offering readers in-depth coverage of high school sports that extendsds beyond football.”
“I was impressed by stories about cross country and volleyball,” a contest judge noted of the newspaper’s coverage.
“Azocar’s baseball and basketball entries both captured moments of conflict in the games,” judges noted of photo coverage. “Depicting the tenacity and struggle of players with one another is a key element of sports photography.”
Azocar has been employed in sports coverage at the Current since June 1993 and has served as managing editor since January 2016.
Robertson joined the Current as a news writer in September 1995 and was named editor in 1999.