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Wagoner County American-Tribune wins multiple awards at Oklahoma Press Association Convention

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Wagoner County American Tribune Editor Justin Ayer (left) with Owasso Reporter Editor Art Haddaway (center) and Sand Springs Leader Editor Sharon Bishop-Baldwin (right) pose with awards at the Oklahoma Press Association annual convention in Oklahoma City.

The Wagoner County American-Tribune had a stellar representation at the annual Oklahoma Press Association Convention in Oklahoma City on Saturday, June 11, winning two first place newspaper awards, one second place and five individual awards for its division.

The Wagoner County American Tribune was placed in division 5 — weekly newspaper with a population between 7,000 and 19,000. Divisions stem from communities over 30,000 to less than 2,000. Members of the Iowa Press Association judged almost 1,400 entries from 68 Oklahoma newspapers.

The Wagoner County American-Tribune received first place in the News Content category for the newspaper as a whole, specifically from editions on Sept. 22, Oct. 13 and Nov. 3, 2021. Notable stories included the long-awaited One for Coweta sales tax increase and friends and family from Wagoner coming together in solidarity after a beloved member of the community passed away from COVID-19.

The newspaper also received first place in the Layout and Design category, while judges analyzed Wagoner County American-Tribune editions from Aug. 25, Oct. 20 and Dec. 29, 2021. Notable stories from those editions included the EF-1 tornado that startled Coweta schools and neighborhoods with damage, utility rate increases and a historic stone that finally arrived back to Wagoner Lumber Co.

The Wagoner County American-Tribune received second place for sports coverage, with newspaper issues spanning from Jan. 6, March 3 and Sept. 21, 2021. For all three of those issues, the newspaper had three, different editors: Christy Wheeland, Brittney Bennett and Justin Ayer. Pertaining to the sports coverage award, judges wrote, “Some of the best pictures among the entries.”

For the individual awards, Editor Justin Ayer received first place in the News Story and In-Depth Reporting categories. “Tullahassee leaders drive revitalization in Oklahoma’s oldest surviving all-Black town” and “Preservation versus cost: Roof needed at Wagoner’s historic Katy Depot,” were the stories judged to achieve those recognitions.

Ayer also won second place in the Education category for “12-year-old Wagoner boy emails mayor wanting a skate park.” Ayer won third place in the Feature Story category, again with “Tullahassee leaders drive revitalization in Oklahoma’s oldest surviving all-Black town” and third place in the Sports Story category with “Coweta basketball standout Jenni Bryant remembered for huge heart.”

“I’m grateful to work in a county where people care about what’s going on in their communities, as they should,” Ayer said. “Wagoner County is full of news every day, and I can only hope you’ve read one or two stories that made you smile, question something, or want to learn more. Community journalism is so important.”

The Oklahoma Press Association Awards Banquet and Convention was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Press Association is a trade organization serving more than 100 weekly and daily newspapers in Oklahoma.

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The University of Central Oklahoma recently awarded the President’s Leadership Scholarship to Wagoner High School graduate Ariel Luna in recognition of their demonstrated talent and distinguished achievement in leadership, citizenship, service and communication.

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