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Democrat newsroom takes home nine MPA awards


The Democrat newsroom took home nine awards, one of which was first place, in the Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for work published in 2022.

The awards were presented at the 2023 Missouri Press Association convention in St. Louis on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Democrat competed against other daily newspapers of similar circulation size.

“I’m proud every year when I get to bring awards home to our Democrat newsroom, and this year is no different,” Editor Nicole Cooke said. “Our news team works hard every day to provide the best local news and sports coverage for our readers, and I’m happy to see them being recognized for those efforts.”

The Democrat staff received first place in Best Online Newspaper or Website and second place in Best Local Business Coverage.

The Democrat staff also received third place in Best News or Feature Special Section for “20 Under 40.”

“I really liked this and like the idea and in another competition this might have placed first. (This was a very small but strong competition),” the judge wrote. “The stories were fun to read and the pictures were quite good. I really enjoyed the variety of people featured. Good work!”

Reporter Chris Howell received second place in Best Breaking News Story for “Man dead after exchanging gunfire with Sedalia Police,” which covered the fatal Memorial Day shooting on West Broadway Boulevard involving a suspect and Sedalia Police Department officers.

“Heavily sourced story on what could have been a typical rewrite of a release from the police department,” the judge wrote. “Way to dig out the details.”

Howell shared a third-place award in Best News Story with Cooke and reporter Faith Bemiss-McKinney for their coverage of the Heckart Community Center’s grand opening in March 2022.

Bemiss-McKinney also received third place in Best Feature Story for “The house that love built,” a feature story about Jeff McKinney, who learned how to make stained glass windows for his now late wife, Timarie. Bemiss-McKinney and McKinney first met when the Democrat reporter interviewed him for the story last year, and in a twist of fate, the two were married earlier this month.

“Truly a touching story,” the judge wrote. “While reading, I couldn't help but smile after learning Mr. McKinney enrolled in a four-week course and learned how to create stained glass after the love of his life mentioned she felt their home needed some stained-glass windows. Such an amazing act of love for Timarie. The stained-glass window created in her memory and installed at the First Baptist Church is absolutely beautiful! You did an excellent job on this story and it was very enjoyable to read!”

Former reporter Skye Melcher received second place in Best News or Feature Series for “A look inside Sedalia 200,” a series of profiles about Sedalia School District 200 employees who work in various parts of the district. Melcher shared a third-place award in the same category with Howell for “Marijuana in Missouri,” their series looking at recreational marijuana being legal in Pettis County.

Contributing columnist Liz Schleicher received third place in Best Columnist-Serious for her weekly columns that appear in the Democrat’s Saturday editions.