In the end, the judges from the Tennessee Press Association chose the Hays Free Press as the best newspaper in Division 7 (medium-large weeklies) in the state of Texas by virtue of the newspaper placing in the top four places in a number of categories. (Each place is given a numerical score, with the top scorer noted as the best in its division.)
In recent years, the Hays Free Press has won Sweepstakes in 1988, 1989, 1998, 1999 and 2010.
The Hays Free Press won first place in the categories of General Excellence, Feature Story, News Photo and Column Writing; second place in the categories of Feature Photo, Sports Photo and Page Design; third place in News Writing and Column Writing; and fourth place in Sports Coverage.
For General Excellence, the category is judged on overall appearance, typography, use of color, headlines and quality of writing. Page Design is judged on readability, innovation, graphics, design features and photos.
For many categories, specific items are chosen by the newspaper and entered into the contest. The first place in News Photos was given for two different photographers: Sean Kimmons’ photo of the death of Marine Cpl. Christopher Cody Dahl. “Excellent capture of sorry family, with haunting photo of Marine in casket.”
The other photo included the photo of Hays High Senior Joel Young showing his emotions after the Rebel’s loss in the playoffs.
The feature stories awarded first include Kimmons’ story on back taxes, and Wes Ferguson’s story on Uhland alderman Gordon Sassman’s “last stand” in the town’s feud.
Brenda Stewart took first place for her columns “Attack of the Tighty Righties” and “The Religious Animal.”
Other categories and staff members awarded include second place in Feature Photos (Jen Biundo for her weiner dog race and Ferguson for unicycle football), second place in Sports Photos (Slovak-Barton for Pole Vault at Myers Stadium and Rebel football vs. Smithson Valley), third place in News Writing (Kimmons for “Mom shoots son” story and Ferguson for “Is Monarch bad for business?”, third place in column writing (Clint Younts for “Summertime in Texas” and “What’s floating in my pool”) and fourth place in Sports Coverage.