TULSA, Okla. — I was honored May 19 to win second place for “Best Reporter” from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists.
The award recognized my 2017 stories on Syrian refugees in Canada, the 50th anniversary of the Detroit race riot, Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, a woman who confessed to murder after her baptism and a prom for special-needs teens and adults.
The contest is open to Oklahoma-based news media, which includes The Christian Chronicle. Most of the competitors are secular news organizations. Because of our circulation size, we compete against the largest newspapers in the state.
CHICAGO — For the fourth year in a row, The Christian Chronicle — where I serve as chief correspondent — was recognized as the top national or international newspaper in the Associated Church Press’ annual “Best of the Church Press” contest.
I was blessed to receive six individual honors — including first place in four categories — at the April 20 awards banquet.
In case my mother is reading, here is a list of the awards:
First Place, Feature Article, for “In Canada, Syrian refugees find love and hope” from St. Catharines, Ontario.
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First Place (with Bob Smietana), News Story, for coverage of mass shooting at Tennessee church, including my story “For survivors of Tennessee shooting, healing will take time and patience.”
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First Place (with Chellie Ison), In-depth Coverage, for coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, including my stories “Faithful mobilize shelters for Hurricane Harvey flooding victims” from Belton, Texas, “In a small town, a church becomes a hub for Harvey relief” from La Grange, Texas, “After Harvey, hope for heroes and victims” from Houston and “18 vans, 150 volunteers, 465 miles, one goal: to help Harvey victims” from Houston.
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First Place (with Chellie Ison and Lynn McMillon), Theme Issue, Section or Series, for coverage of faith and opioids, including my stories “South Carolina church battles opioids ’emergency'” from Surfside Beach, S.C., ” “The leprosy in my neighborhood is addiction” from Pontiac, Mich., and “One church’s ‘compassionate and Christ-like’ approach to the opioid crisis.”
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First Place (staff award), Best in Class, National or International Newspaper, for The Christian Chronicle.
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Second Place, News Story, for “Catholic faith moves Houston’s ‘Mattress Mack’ to shelter Hurricane Harvey victims” from Houston. (This was a freelance piece I wrote for Religion News Service.)
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Third Place (with Bob Smietana), In-depth Coverage, for coverage of mass shootings at churches, including my stories “For survivors of Tennessee shooting, healing will take time and patience” and “Texas hero risked life to save others.”
Lloyd Lee Ross, my grandfather, was born on March 24, 1918. Today would have been his 100th birthday.
Papa Ross was one of a kind. And I — like so many others whose lives he touched — loved him so much.
After he died in 2011, I wrote a column about him that appeared in the Father’s Day edition of The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, Tenn.:
By Bobby Ross Jr. | Special to The Commercial Appeal
CEDAR GROVE, Tenn. — The name and the dates on the tombstone jumped out at me immediately.
Danial Ross. Born: 1791. Died: 1842.
My grandfather, father, brother and I drove out to this middle-of-nowhere cemetery in rural West Tennessee, about 100 miles northeast of Memphis, on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Leaves crumbled under my sneakers, and the sun bore down on my balding head as I explored this piece of my family’s past.
At first glance, I told myself, this could be any old country cemetery. The ugliness of faded plastic flower arrangements and skinny, branch-exposed trees struck me. I smelled dust and saw weeds and wondered how often anyone ventures out to this seemingly forgotten patch of God’s green Earth.
Yet, I sensed that I was experiencing something significant, that somehow this was sacred ground for me.
A father and soon-to-fly-away daughter enjoy a travel adventure north of the U.S. border.
By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle
TORONTO — “A six-hour layover, eh?”
I posted that wisecrack on Facebook as my 17-year-old daughter, Kendall, and I awaited a connecting flight.
It was early afternoon on a snowy, late winter day at Toronto Pearson International Airport. My youngest child and I were in the middle of a four-city, 20-hour travel adventure that was part work and part something deeper.
The work part is easy to explain: I was chasing stories — as I love to do — for The Christian Chronicle.
The something deeper part requires more explanation: I was trying — as much as possible — to create memories that will sustain me (and keep the tears from overwhelming me) as my baby bird grows up and flies away.
In just a few months, this intelligent young woman — who is every bit as sassy, charming and fun to be around as her mother and every bit as driven, argumentative and (sometimes) insecure as her father — is leaving home. She’s decided to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
I couldn’t be more proud of her.
She studied hard, made top grades and was honored as one of her high school’s valedictorians. She joined our home congregation, the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma, on mission trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Utah and Colorado. She starred in school plays and excelled in debate. She taught herself to knit and worked at a yarn store. In fact, she made me a black cap for this trip.
She plans to major in political science and history and then, at some point, become president of the United States.
In my mind, though, she’s still the little girl with a red hair bow who would stand by the bathroom door and watch me shave. She’d see the white cream on my cheeks and pretend I was Santa Claus. “Daddy, will you buy me a present?” she loved to ask.
This column appears in the June 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.
My Christian Chronicle colleague Chellie Ison reports:
CHICAGO — For the third year in a row, The Christian Chronicle has earned top honors in the “Best of the Christian Press” contest, sponsored by the Associated Church Press.
The Chronicle was awarded the first-place “Award of Excellence” in the prestigious “Best in Class” category for national and international newspapers.
“The Christian Chronicle is consistently well planned, written, edited and produced,” one judge commented. “The stories are compelling, the art is professional and the headlines clear and tight.”
Winners were announced April 28 at the ACP’s national convention in Chicago.
In all, the Chronicle — an Oklahoma City-based international newspaper for Churches of Christ with 260,000 monthly print readers — received 14 awards for content published in 2016.
Since 2007, the newspaper has won 87 national ACP awards and been recognized in the Best in Class contest for 11 consecutive years. This is the fifth time the Chronicle received first-place honors in the category, winning previously in 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
My half-dozen individual honors included first place for the news story “In the GOP primaries, do politics Trump values and character?” from Oklahoma City. That piece that also won top honors for election reporting from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists.
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April 28th (that’s today) is shaping up to be a nice day for the Ross family. Maybe this could count as our Christmas letter — only four months late since we usually don’t do a Christmas letter.
— Twenty-seven years ago, on the day after my graduation (mostly) from Oklahoma Christian University, I married my college sweetheart, Tamie Dillard Ross. I could play her a country song to celebrate, but instead, I’ll go with what she likes (just today) and avoid playing her a country song. The last several years as she’s battled all her autoimmune diseases have been tough on her (and to a much lesser extent, on me). Just yesterday, she had her latest infusion treatment. But she also got her hair done in anticipation of today’s festivities, and it looks wonderful (no surprise there). I don’t always do the best job of showing it, but I love her. She is my world. Happy anniversary, babe!
— Brady Ross, our oldest son, will graduate from Oklahoma Christian today (for the second time in a year and a half), this time with his master’s degree in ministry. Our daughter-in-law, Mary Ross, also is an Oklahoma Christian grad, circa 2016. They live and work in Waco, Texas, where Brady is the youth minister for the Crestview Church of Christ. We are so proud of both of them!
— Keaton Ross, our middle son, finished his freshman year at Oklahoma Christian this week. He’s anticipating a 3.9 grade-point average for his first year of college. For those doing the math, that’s all A’s and one B. He’s majoring in journalism and contemplating being the one kid to follow in his parents’ writing footsteps. He’s still looking for work this summer, so if you have any leads for an intelligent, dependable young man who sometimes wakes up before 10 a.m., please let us know. We are so proud of him!
— Kendall Ross, our daughter and youngest child, likes to forge her own path, such as being too cool for Facebook. She’ll be irritated (if she finds out about this note) that I mentioned her last just because she’s the youngest. She is a senior at Deer Creek High School and being honored at an awards assembly this morning as one of her school’s valedictorians. She excelled in drama and debate at DCHS, starring in several shows and placing at the state level in speech and debate. She is headed to Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., this fall and tentatively plans to major in political science and history before becoming president of the United States. And yes, we are so proud of her!
We are thankful for all our blessings and praise God for all that he has given us! Thank you for being a friend!
My stories on Donald Trump and other Republican candidates campaigning in Oklahoma City last year earned a first-place award for election reporting.
I received the honor in the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists’ 2017 contest.
The winning package included the main story “In the GOP primaries, do politics Trump values and character?” along with a column “GOP presidential politics, professional wrestling style” and a related story “Elephant in the pews: Is the GOP the party of Churches of Christ?”
I had a fun time at the April 22 awards banquet with my son Keaton, a journalism major at Oklahoma Christian University.
UPDATE: The same coverage also won a first-place award in the Associated Church Press national contest.