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Our readers are the real judges of our work every day, but it's nice to hear kind words from our peers, too.

At last weekend's Texas Associated Press Managing Editors' annual convention, the Victoria Advocate received eight first-place awards, six second-places and three honorable mentions. We compete in a huge circulation category in a big state, so this recognition is particularly gratifying for the staff.

Please indulge me as I share a few of the judges' comments (which you may view by clicking here) about the staff's efforts:

-- Our first place in team page design was judged by a Chicago Tribune editor. He said:

"Of all the entries for team pages, this showed the most teamwork. It's clear that artists, designers, editors and reporters had to work together to pull all the elements together--and to pull off the vision for the artistic look. Maybe it could've been packaged better than having two jumps, but the bold idea and execution warrant the top prize."

-- Our first place for community service was judged by the editor of the Roanoke (Va.) Times. She said:

"As the Victoria Advocate itself noted, this was a decision that could 'change the face of Victoria.' At issue was the expansion of the University of Houston-Victoria from a two- to four-year institution. The newspaper, in simple and passionate language, championed this cause in its editorials. In the best tradition of community service, it provided that drumbeat of coverage that kept the issue out front for the public -- and decision-makers -- to see."

-- Our Star breaking news report of the year was judged by an Albuquerque Journal editor. He said:

"The writing is exceptional and the sidebar items and photography make for an incredible package. Considering the complete unexpected nature of the event, the staff showed great resiliency."

The tribute that resonated the most with me regarded our editorial board's first place in editorial writing. The judge focused on the newspaper's commitment to the community.

The managing editor of the Vicksburg (Miss.) Post wrote:

"Some strong writing, some clever. This paper is community-oriented, and that's so increasingly rare as to be priceless."

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