Times Observer reporters receive Keystone awards

It takes a certain kind of person to write award-winning columns.

The Times Observer has at least two of those people on staff.

News Reporter Stacey Gross and Sports Reporter Brian Hagberg each received awards in the 2018 Professional Keystone Press Awards contest.

Gross took second place for columns. Hagberg won honorable mention for sports columns.

It is the second Keystone for Gross. She has won awards in each of the full years she has been with the Times Observer. She started in December of 2015 and has submitted the second-place columns each of the last two years.

It is Hagberg’s first award with the Times Observer and he won his award in a truncated year. He didn’t move back to Warren and start with the newspaper until June.

“This is my first individual award,” Hagberg said. “While at the Schriever Sentinel — Schriever AFB, Colorado Springs, Colo. — we earned second-place print publication, competing against all other print publications across the Air Force, in 2017.”

The rules for both column and sports column call for a submission to include three samples. There is no requirement that the entered columns be related to one another.

Gross’s were and she entitled them “Honestly Funny Parenting.”

“In my opinion, they were the funniest ones I wrote last year,” she said. “Humor is a really good way to make serious topics less overwhelming.”

“In one, I rewrote the story of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day from a mom’s perspective. For the second, the theme for the month had been, Things That I Say to My Kids. The lede in that column was ‘We do not lick the car.’ That turned out to be a column all about how children are basically tiny drunks. The third was about the girls going to kindergarten. While it was nostalgic to see them growing up, I was also very excited for the day when I could take them to the bus stop and not have to worry about the rest of the day.”

“I think parents, especially moms, have a lot of expectations… that they’re supposed to be reverent and serious all the time,” Gross said. “I think it creates some pretty significant dissonance between the way that we really feel as parents sometimes and the way we think we’re supposed to feel.”

Recognition in the column category is particularly satisfying for Gross. “Columns are totally my jam.”

“This is the first time I’ve written a regular column,” Hagberg said. “I wouldn’t say columns are ‘my jam,’ but if I’m writing one, it’s because I feel passionately about the subject matter. Most of the things I write about are emotionally charged and I’m usually pretty good at being able to step back and give a more logical perspective to the situation.”

“In the sports media sphere, people can find 1,000 opinion pieces on just about every subject available,” he said. “When I write one, I want it to be done in such a way that the reader can see I’m not just blowing smoke or looking for clicks. I want my work to be taken seriously and actually matter.”

He entitled his entry “Tackling the Issues.” The issues covered angry parent fans, officiating conspiracies, and NFL rules disputes.

In the first, “I witnessed fans nearly come to blows over a lost baseball game,” he said.

“The level of griping I was hearing about at the time seemed excessive/conspiratorial” regarding the second, he said.

Finally, “people were turning a simple rule into something more complex than it was… and the argument they were making wouldn’t have changed the call,” Hagberg said.

The Times Observer competes in Division IV — circulation 15,000 and under — in the Keystone Press Awards.

“I’m extremely happy for Stacey and Brian,” Publisher Robert Patchen said. “It’s always nice to be recognized during the newspaper award season and it speaks volumes to the hard work done by our entire staff.”

To see more columns by these award-winning journalists, keep an eye on the Times Observer.