The annual newspaper competition is sponsored by the Tennessee Press Association and The University of Tennessee.
A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Willsie joined the Banner in June 2010, and was named a State Press Award winner in her first year in the UT/TPA journalism contest. Her top award came for a “Personality Profile” published Aug. 23, 2010, featuring longtime Bradley County Register of Deeds Ray “Scootie” Swafford, who was retiring.
The front-page profile was titled “Living a dream a long time in the making.”
Willsie’s selection was announced during the annual State Press Awards Luncheon held recently in Nashville.
The Banner received awards in three additional categories, including:
- Public Service: A Fifth Place ranking in recognition of staff writing, photography and editorials surrounding the Interstate 75 assault from a McMinn County overpass by three assailants in November 2010 against a bus carrying members of Lee University’s Voices of Lee a capella group. Contributing newsroom staff included Greg Kaylor, David Davis, Donna Kaylor and Rick Norton.
- Best Personal Column: A Fifth Place ranking for an “Inkspots” Editorial Page piece titled “Veterans Day a time of great compassion.” Published Nov. 11, 2010, the personal column was written by Norton.
- Best Spot News Coverage: A Fifth Place ranking for a front-page article and sidebar announcing Whirlpool Corporation’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing with the company’s plans to construct a new $120 million factory and distribution center in Cleveland. Published Sept. 1, 2010, both pieces were written by Norton.
In a judge’s critique of Willsie’s feature on Swafford, which explained the origin of the former Register of Deed’s nickname, the out-of-state reviewer wrote, “Who would imagine a story about a public official retiring could make such captivating reading? But from her ‘Scootie’ lead to her descriptive telling of a man’s dream to retire and fish, Lucie Willsie puts us in that fishing boat with Ray Swafford. You can hear him talking, feel him shift in the boat and know his spirit. This could have been a run-of-the-mill feature, but Willsie’s storytelling prowess hooks readers from the start and reels us in!”
Stephen Crass, publisher and editor of the Cleveland Daily Banner, congratulated Willsie on her First Place distinction in the “Best Single Feature” category.
“Lucie is an extremely talented writer who brings a unique and creative style to her work, especially in her features writing,” Crass said. “Her ‘Personality Profile’ on Raymond Swafford was a popular and very well-read piece. It was greatly appreciated by those who know the former register of deeds.”
He added, “I congratulate each of the newsroom staff members who played a role in helping our newspaper to earn these statewide distinctions.”
Group IV is considered one of the most competitive newspaper categories in the statewide contest. A few of the state’s leading award winners in this year’s group included The Jackson Sun, Bristol Herald Courier, The Greeneville Sun, Johnson City Press, Elizabethton Star, The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro), The Daily Herald (Columbia) and The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville).
UT/TPA contest groupings are based on circulation.