2008 PSO Contest Winners


  • 2008 Sweepstakes Winners

    Daily Winner
    The Norman Transcript
    Barriers to 'living'
    Transcript Staff Effort

    The Transcript ran a week-long series on people living with disabilities and the challenges they face. The series put a face on the thousands of disabled Americans living in the community and looked at the topic from architectural, social, business, caregivers and public policy perspective.

    Weekly Winner
    The Hennessey Clipper

    Presidential election and more at stake

    Hennessey Clipper Staff Effort

    Hennessey is a rural wheat/cattle/oil community with 2,000 residents. The Clipper helped boost the voter record after an extensive coverage of county commissioner, school and town board meetings and voter information. The Clipper went above and beyond to inform the community of the candidates’ platforms by sending a questionnaire about pertinent topics within the area to all candidates in statewide and district races in the primary and general elections. The result was an eight-page tab that not only told people what was on the ballot, but urged voters to check out candidate information in the voter guide, and pressed the issue of exercising their right to vote.

  • December 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Oologah Lake Leader
    Holiday Home Tour
    Leader Staff Effort
    The Holiday Home Tour combines open houses at decorated homes as well as a holiday gift house that allows local merchants to display their wares at a central location.
    With the bleak economic climate, the Oologah Area Chamber of Commerce and real estate agents suggested ending the tradition. However, the Lake Leader staff insisted on moving forward and got busy promoting the event and its community benefits.
    In the end, one more house was offered for the tour than could be accommodated and the gift house was packed, which made the event a success.

    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Off-Roading
    by Staff Writer Keith Purtell
    Phoenix staff writer Keith Purtell wrote of how the rapid rise in popularity of off-road vehicles has begun to place a strain on the Gruber Off-Road Vehicle Park east of Muskogee. The park was created by a land grant from the Federal Government's Department of the Interior in March 1990.

  • November 2008

    Weekly Winner
    The Countywide & Sun
    Pink Out
    Countywide & Sun Staff Effort
    The Countywide & Sun started Pink Out, a cancer awareness and fundraising event in Pink, Okla. Pink is a rural community in Pottawatomie County – and apparently the only town of that name in the United States.
    The effort attracted about 400 people, including 200 runners, and riased more than $7,500 for cancer research.
    Plans are to make the event bigger and better next year, including painting the Town Hall bright pink.

    Daily Winner
    The Norman Transcript
    Barriers to 'living'
    Transcript Staff Effort
    The Transcript ran a week-long series on people living with disabilities and the challenges they face. The series put a face on the thousands of disabled Americans living in the community and looked at the topic from architectural, social, business, caregivers and public policy perspective.

  • October 2008

    Weekly Winner
    The Hennessey Clipper
    Presidential election and more at stake
    Hennessey Clipper Staff Effort
    On Oct. 30, The Hennessey Clipper provided a four-page pullout voter guide, which included candidate photos and bios as well as a "Q&A" section with questions generated by the Clipper staff. Infomration on where to vote, a mock ballot, and information on state questions and judges also was included.
    In addition to the guide, The Clipper used columns and editorials on its opinion page to urge readers to vote.
    "We didn't have as many ads as we'd hoped so this was truly a public service effort," wrote Barb Walter, Clipper co-publisher.
    "We don't run color every week unless we have a paid ad to support it," she wrote. "Our Oct. 30 color cost an extra $100 and was supported by the Bill and Barb Walter Get Out and Vote Fund."

     

    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Regulations may burden users
    By Liz McMahan
    The Federal Trade Commission's "Red Flag Regulations," which took  effect Nov. 1, were designed to prevent identity theft of utility users by requiring them to present valid identification to access their accounts. But Sherri Cox, a town clerk in Okay, Okla., says the delayed red flag law will create a lot of paperwork.
    The law requires city water users to show valid identification and possibly a password, which caused cities and towns to scramble to comply with the new regulations, according to an Oct. 27 report by Muskogee Phoenix Assistant City Editor Liz McMahan.
    Muskogee City Clerk Pam Bush said Muskogee has 16,000 water accounts, and she doubts all the new security measures will do much.
    McMahan continued her report on the new FTC protocol and informed readers of steps they should be ready for the next time they deal with their local utility providers.

  • September 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Oologah Lake Leader
    Church loot recovered, suspects arrested
    By Chris Edens
    On Sept. 15, three Oologah churches were robbed of electronic equipment, musical instruments and cash by thieves who also kicked in doors and windows.
    Oologah Lake Leader City Editor Chris Edens got a tip later that morning about the thefts and immediately began tracking down details. By deadline, a scant 30 hours later, the information she had gathered led to two arrests. Her follow-up the next week led to two more arrests and recovery of all but one instrument and $100 cash. It also included two letters of apology from two of the perpetrators.
    Perhaps more significant, her work triggered a larger community reaction than Leader Publisher John M. Wylie II said he had ever seen in a quarter century of publishing the newspaper.
    “By voice mail, e-mail, phone calls and personal comments, the readers of the Leader have thanked us for making this story a high priority...and ensuring that the churches were made whole and the perpetrators were punished,” Wylie wrote.

    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Tullahassee floor paid for but unfinished
    By Donna Hales
    “I really don’t know what we can do,” Tullahassee Mayor Emma May Walters said about the John Ford Fieldhouse, which has received grant money to be repaired, but remains unfinished.
    The town of 100 sought grants in 2003 and 2005 under Former Mayor Benice Howell, who later signed a request to Eastern Oklahoma Development District in July 2005, stating the town had reassessed its needs.
    This was, however, after eight checks were received by Robert Howell, the town’s only employee and husband to the former mayor, to repair the gymnasium.
    Donna Hales uncovers layers of missing records and receipts in pursuit of truth within a small Oklahoma town. But in the end, the Fieldhouse floor is unfinished despite the $18,000 grant received in 2005. The money has been spent, but the job isn’t finished, and Hale is getting to the bottom of it.

  • August 2008

    Weekly Winner
    The Cleveland American

    Christmas Jars offer hope to those in need
    A Cleveland American Staff Effort

         A Cleveland American “Christmas Jars” community campaign is based on a novella written by Jason F. Wright about a young journalist who discovers a jar of coins at her doorstep at a time in her life when she most needed such encouragement.
    This story encouraged The American to order dozens of half-gallon sized jars to give away to readers who were asked to fill them up and give them to someone in need.
    The jars include cards asking recipients about how the gift touched their life. In addition, one book will be given away each week with an autographed copy to be given during the final week of the promotion.
    “There are all types of challenges and circumstances out there,” Cleveland American Publisher Rusty Ferguson said. “And for a person or family facing some type of hardship to suddenly discover a Christmas Jar on their doorstep would be awesome.”

     

    Daily Winner
    The Norman Transcript
    Rep. Terrill asks court to deny reopening bankruptcy petition
    by M. Scott Carter
         A federal bankruptcy case that began in October 2005 and was discharged in March 2006 was recently reopened when published reports surfaced about alleged irregularities between state Re. Randy Terrill’s bankruptcy petition and his state campaign fillings. Edmond attorney John D. Mashburn reopened the case and was also reappointed as the creditor’s trustee in the case.
    Terrill downplayed the request to reopen the case, attributing it to his political opponents, Carter reported in The Norman Transcript article.
    “It’s unfortunate…that some…are trying to damage me politically because of a family bankruptcy filing; I find it despicable that someone would exploit my wife’s financial difficulties during college.”
  • July 2008

    Weekly Winner
    The Hennessey Clipper

    Clipper Voter Guide boosts voting record
    A Hennessey Clipper Staff Effort

         Hennessey is a rural wheat/cattle/oil community with 2,000 residents. The Clipper helped boost the voter record after an extensive coverage of county commissioner, school and town board meetings and voter information.
    The Clipper went above and beyond to inform the community of the candidates’ platforms by sending a questionnaire about pertinent topics within the area to all candidates in statewide and district races in the primary and general elections.
    The result was an eight-page tab that not only told people what was on the ballot, but urged voters to check out candidate information in the voter guide, and pressed the issue of exercising their right to vote.

     

    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Lying officers put court cases at risk
    by Donna Hales & D. E. Smoot
         Police officers lying, getting fired and then being put back to work by a merit board is a “big problem” for prosecutors and police, said U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling.
    Donna Hales and D.E. Smoot discovered the risks of state and federal prosecutors using such an officer as a witness in a criminal case. As a result, some important cases might have to be dismissed because the officer’s testimony is deemed unreliable.
    Hale and Smoot also revealed how recent federal court decisions make it mandatory for prosecutors to turn over to the defense evidence in the personnel files of officers whose credibility is an issue.
    This problem is great enough that some states have taken the stance that a police officer who lies should be terminated as a matter of public policy.
    A June testimony in a merit board hearing for suspended Muskogee Police Officer Jeremy Jenkins is used as an example of the “big problem.” Jenkins was accused of lying during his testimony in a December merit board hearing on his alleged use of excessive force.
  • June 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Countywide & Sun

    Is Tecumseh-Shawnee water tiff near end?
    by Wayne Trotter

         Nearly 20 years ago, the City of Tecumseh signed an agreement with the City of Shawnee and a third party to help build a new reservoir. It was a complicated deal, perhaps too complicated for some of the city officials who had to approve it.
         "Although I strongly supported the concept of increasing Tecumseh's water supply, I had read that contract over and over and was convinced Tecumseh was about to make a huge $2 million mistake," wrote Trotter in the June 26 publication of the Countywide & Sun.
         Trotter discussed how it took him little time to realize the contract had serious flaws.
         For 20 years Trotter lobbied a series of city managers in both cities as well as members of both cities governing boards to take another look at the contract and consider amending it. Finally, the approval of an amended contract, expected to be approved at the August meeting, is fair to both cities, and could be the end to a long debacle.


    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Domestic violence has devastating effects
    by Donna Hales

         Muskogee police say people from all walks of life - wives of local doctors, lawyers, bankers, businessmen, ministers, police officers - have been victims of domestic abuse in Muskogee, wrote Muskogee Phoenix staff writer Donna Hales.
         In the June 15 publication of the Phoenix, Hales reported on domestic violence and its devastating effects, along with an interview and pictures of a woman bruised and beaten.
         "Ronica Pickens, 24, has first-hand knowledge about domestic abuse and the trail of pain that it leaves in its wake," wrote Hale.
         The heartfelt account and haunting images are a chilling reality brought to life and thrust into the public eye. Hales also included hotline numbers and general information about domestic violence, as well as a call to action to help or donate through WISH (Women in Safe Home).
         An added report by Hale showed that one in five high school students report abuse. Within the story Hales described other components that contribute to abuse, or how abuse can affect teens that date, and services available to restart lives.
  • May 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Oologah Lake Leader

    Dispatch issue takes center stage
    by John M. Wylie II

    The Oologah Lake Leader has been crusading for a true central enhanced 911-dispatch system to serve all emergency service agencies. For the past few months the Leader has been devoted to revealing an Oklahoma ambulance service’s hidden links to an Illinois company that faces a 24-count federal felony indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois for mail fraud, health care fraud and failing to remit many years of withholding taxes from the IRS, among other things. The Leader’s investigation aided in the revelation of corruption within the agencies that forced the Oklahoma company to answer on the record.


    Daily Winner
    The Norman Transcript
    Pa'y'in at the Pump
    a Norman Staff Effort

    With high gasoline and diesel prices impacting just about every aspect of life, The Transcript launched a seven-day series titled “Pa‘y’in at the Pump.” The series included a news story about a working mother driving several hundred miles a week as part of her job, photos, tips to conserve fuel, Web blogs, info graphics, editorials, sidebar stories and a reader poll. Also included was a tutorial on where gas comes from, how international affairs affect gas prices, and how the Oklahoma gas station competition has held the state’s prices lower than in other states. The series also covered how high prices effect schools and government entities, such as police stations, fire stations and other public service agencies, as well as future predictions of what will happen to the petroleum market. The extensive coverage enabled readers to delve into issues that impact all consumers. “What’s next?” was a headline that navigated readers through future prospects of alternative fuel, such as biopetroleum, or using electric, hydrogen, and hybrid cars. Reader interest was strong, wrote Norman Transcript Managing Editor Andy Rieger.
  • April 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Oologah Lake Leader

    Questions swirl around trooper crash
    by John M. Wylie II

    A controversial crash in which a highway patrol cruiser slammed into a pickup truck left the citizens of Oologah asking many questions. Troop Z, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s elite accident reconstruction unit, is trying to unravel a situation where trooper Scott Shropshire was using his emergency lights and siren to respond at high speeds to an incident that was apparently under control. Wylie investigates a controversial story by reviewing radio logs and personally interviewing witnesses to find out if the crash could have been avoided. Two factors give the story a dramatic twist, as information reveals that Shropshire was suspended without pay for 10 working days prior to the accident, without a reason given. Also, there is a possibility the individual driving the other vehicle in the crash was intoxicated and may have switched roles with the passenger. Wylie digs to reveal more as the investigation moves forward, by writing a column and allowing readers to speak out on the subject of state troopers’ driving habits.


    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Community gripped by fear after shooting
    by Donna Hales

    “When Becky Martin’s family sits down to eat, a gun is on the table,” writes Donna Hales in a story tragic from the beginning. The small town of Iron Post is coping with the brutal murder of two local community members. Jack and Elaine Denney were found slain execution style in their home on Christmas morning. The security of the town is at the mercy of a anonymous murderer, while the authorities have no suspects in the case that has forever changed the lives of this community located between Peggs and Locust Grove. As the neighborhood mourns the loss of the Denneys, they also say this tragedy has “shaken our world” and are frightened to go outside, to let their children stray too far, or to trust anyone needing a ride or needing to use the phone. Hales’ ability to capture the mood of a town trying to overcome loss of friends, but all the while staying vigilant of new and old faces, is colorful and haunting.
  • March 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Countywide & Sun

    Trains creep from OKC to Shawnee while North Canadian takes control
    by Lori Goat

    Shawnee was once the Queen City of Oklahoma railroading and was founded on the day the first train entered her city limits. Today she has been reduced to a mere footnote in the chapter of railroad operations in 2008. Countywide & Sun reporter Lori Goat investigates the history and neglect of the 3,770 miles of track in Oklahoma, though nationwide railroad companies are investing $22 billion to update and expand operations. One of those neglected tracks is the only line still operating in Shawnee, the Shawnee to Oklahoma City corridor. Exploring the vast locomotive history, Goat reminisces about the success of the city of Shawnee, but today the railroad companies are ignoring the past, and the facts of geometry by surpassing the quickest routes to cater for a different customer, the overseas market. One saving grace could be House Bill 3207, which would renovate the dead track between Shawnee and McAlester, but there is still one threat ... the Canadian River and its ability to overflow and put a halt on railway operations.


    Daily Winner
    The Norman Transcript
    Noble officers charged with manslaughter handed tougher sentences than in original plea agreement
    by Julianna Parker

    District Judge Tom Lucas called it the most emotional case he’d ever heard. Transcript staff writer Julianna Parker reports on the heart-wrenching trial of two Noble police officers, Robert Shawn Richardson and Paul Bradley Rogers, who responded to an animal complaint Aug. 3 about a snake stuck in a birdhouse in a backyard. The officers attempted to knock the snake out of the birdhouse, but when that was unsuccessful Richardson, the field training officer, told Rogers, just out of CLEET school, to shoot the snake. The bullet missed the snake and struck Austin Haley in the head where he was fishing at a pond with his grandfather. The three-piece story followed the trial and ended with both officers tearfully apologizing and then pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of the 5-year-old Noble boy. A five-year deferred
    sentence, a one day a week community service and fines were issued to officer Richardson, while a two and a half year deferred sentence, one day a week community service for 26 weeks, and fines for officer Rogers were issued. Both officers also forfeited their CLEET certification and were forced to pay $500 to a victim’s fund.
  • February 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Oologah Lake Leader

    45,000 gallons of gasoline hit 4 Mile Creek
    by John M. Wylie II

    Word of a major oil spill into a major waterway began spreading in the Oologah area during January. Acting on a tip, marketing director Carolyn Estes photographed the spill and identified the source as a Magellan pipeline. Publisher and Editor John Wylie then took over the story and tracked down the key details including that it had been contained and no contamination had reached the Verdigris River, Oologah Lake or any public water supply. State regulators said Magellan had been a model corporate citizen in the cleanup.


    Daily Winner
    The Norman Transcript
    Coverage of the Kevin Underwood murder trial
    Reporters Julianna Parker and Tom Blakey covered the week-long trial of Kevin Ray Underwood, who was accused of killing 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin in Purcell. Bolin’s body was found chopped up in a tub in Underwood’s closet in April 2006. While covering the trial, the reporters worked with Web editor Jason Clarke, who updated the newspaper’s Web site four times each day. The trial was moved from McClain County to Cleveland County. Because the trial testimony was somewhat graphic, editors made the decision on several instances to put longer, less-edited versions on the Web and refer readers there. Underwood was convicted on Feb. 29.
  • January 2008

    Weekly Winner
    Oologah Lake Leader

    AT&T Wireless outage could have been disaster
    by John M. Wylie II

    When a massive AT&T Wireless outage shut down service to the 918 area code for more than two hours on Jan. 7, it endangered the lives of law enforcement officers who were searching for a felony suspect – and for a state trooper who reportedly had been seriously injured in a crash related to the manhunt. AT&T’s policy barred any public announcement of the outage and public safety agencies that called the utility customer services desk received inaccurate information. The Oologah Lake Leader dug out the truth and published it. Since then, OTEMS Ambulance authorized taking the needed steps to bring AT&T under state regulations to require proper notification of emergency service agencies of long-term outages. The Leader exposed a major problem affecting public safety and started a process to fix it.


    Daily Winner
    Muskogee Phoenix
    Parents face fines, jail for truancy
    by Donna Hales

    Staff Writer Donna Hales reported on the fines, court costs and other possible punishments parents or guardians may face if their child misses too much school. Hales interviewed Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore, who said schools, prosecutors and judges try to solve the problem without putting anyone in jail. He also discussed the correlation between education and crime, adding many criminal defendants have not finished high school. The article reported that during the semester that just ended, probably 150 to 200 Muskogee Public School students out of about 6,000 had problems with unexcused absences.
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