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.