OA wins top state awards

The Odessa American’s reporting on the one year anniversary of a tragic mass shooting in Odessa won top honors from the Associated Press Managing Editors statewide journalism competition.

The series, “Odessa Strong: 1 Year Later,” told the stories of those injured and killed in the mass shooting that occurred in and around Odessa. Gunman Seth Ator killed seven and wounded more than two dozen others during an Aug. 31, 2019, shooting spree that ended when Ator was shot to death by law enforcement in a field near Odessa’s Cinergy Theatre.

The series won first place in Community Service and second place in Team Effort.

“I couldn’t be happier and prouder of our staff,” OA Publisher Patrick Canty said. “During such a year, which saw so much of our society all but paralyzed by a pandemic, our reporters, photographers and editors put themselves out there and worked even harder to keep our readers informed.”

The reporting and photo team included: Royal McGregor, Ruth Campbell, Bob Campbell, Lee Scheide, Tony Venegas, Michael Bauer, Michael Merlo, Laura Dennis, Drew Howarton, Eli Hartman and Ben Powell.

“The entire newsroom worked for months to locate and talk with family members and victims,” Editor Laura Dennis said. “I can’t stress enough that it was our honor to be able to reach out and tell the stories of our friends and neighbors who were affected by this horrific event. It was important to honor the victims and to detail how Odessans came together in remarkable ways on that terrible day.”

The Odessa American also won the Freedom of Information competition for the third time in four years. That team included Laura Dennis, Royal McGregor and Mike Merlo.

The FOI entry was again centered on issues with the City of Odessa. This year’s winning entry was reporting on the continuing OA lawsuit that seeks to force the city to comply with state freedom of information laws.

The OA also won first place for editorial writing and reporter Bob Campbell won second place in business reporting.