VMS staff members receive honors

March 5, 2019

HARLINGEN — It wasn’t quite as good as last year, but the Valley Morning Star staff still hauled in a total of eight honors in the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors 2018 award ceremony this past weekend.

The awards, which were announced at the organization’s annual conference in Austin, recognizes the best work in 2018 by Texas newspapers in several categories, from writing, to design and more.

Heading the top of the list for the VMS was Rick Kelley, who followed up last year’s top honor of Star reporter of the year with a first place in feature writing for Gator Bait. The story was about alligators in the South Padre Island Convention Center boardwalk area. It was written in May of 2018 and ran on the front page of the Valley Morning Star.

“The feature category in newspaper awards are typically among the most competitive and winning the top spot in one of these is truly an accomplishment,” VMS Editor Lisa Seiser said.

The judge’s comments stated, “Lots of juicy facts and information for readers to sink their teeth into. Concise, and interesting reading. “

Photographer Maricela Rodriguez nabbed a second with her feature photo that ran in the Sept. 17, 2018 edition of the Star, of a green Valley lizard.

“Gorgeous photograph, beautifully executed,” the judge from the Seattle Times wrote. “Everything works in this photograph. The color, and especially the black background makes the entire composition pop and the lizard in particular snap. First and second place images distinguished themselves by excellent technical features you don’t see that often. A slight nod to the winner for an edge in content.”Page designer Ana Villaurrutia earned a pair of thirds, including for Star designer of the year. Last year fellow VMS designer Victor Cerda won the Star designer of the year award. She also received a third for her infographic on voting in the May 12 edition that accompanied Fernando Del Valle’s story about local turnout and the amount of money spent on the elections.

Seiser received a third place in the deadline writing category for her story about Palm Valley Police Chief Alvaro Garcia from May of 2018.“Instead of writing a straight news lede – a tempting thought when on tight deadline – Lisa Seiser elevated her story with a descriptive top about the embattled chief. She took the straightforward assignment of covering a city council meeting and gave it life by sprinkling in dialogue,” the judge wrote.Honorable mentions went to the VMS staff for efforts during the January 2018 winter weather blast here in the Valley, former VMS reporter Raul Garcia for his online package about Murray Blackwell and his battle following a 10-year stint in prison. The third honorable mention went to the VMS staff for the website.

“Overall, I am pleased for the staff members who received honors,” Seiser said. “This is a great editorial staff here at the Star and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year’s awards.”The VMS competes in the AA class, which is the third largest out of four divisions. Among the other papers in the division include sister papers the Brownsville Herald and Odessa American as well as other papers in Lufkin, College Station, Killeen, Clute and San Angelo just to name a few.