Columnist John G. Browning has received an impressive first place award in a statewide press competition.

"Legally Speaking" won best column in the small daily paper category in the prestigious 2009 Texas Press Association Better Newspaper contest.

In addition to running weekly in the Southeast Texas Record, "Legally Speaking" runs in several other weekly and daily papers in Texas. The winning columns were submitted through the Daily Commercial Record in Dallas (not affiliated with the Southeast Texas Record).

The award was presented during the TPA's 130th annual summer convention June 18-20 in Austin at the Sheraton Austin Hotel.

One judge commented that "Legally Speaking" was the "Best set of columns I've read for this contest so far without question!"

Others called one of the columns "very engaging" and thanked Browning for "writing a 'legal' column that doesn't alienate those with four-year degrees."

The entries included "Law and the Fog of War" Parts I and II and "Lyrical Law," which both appeared in the Southeast Texas Record.

The convention program included a charity golf tournament, an opening evening reception at the hotel with view of the state Capitol, a "fajita feast" at the Oasis Restaurant overlooking Lake Travis and a closing brunch featuring the annual Texas Better Newspaper Contest Awards.

Convention attendees heard speakers on the Texas Free Flow of Information Act, the 81st regular session of the Texas Legislature, current postal issues, newspaper page design, technology for small newspapers and strategies for balanced living.

Also, attendees heard four TPA members who shared their personal accounts of unusual challenges their newspapers have faced recently, including Southeast Texans Danny Reneau of the Silsbee Bee and Michael A. Smith of the Galveston Daily News who spoke about Hurricane Ike and publishing during hurricanes.

Almost 200 newspapers from around the state submitted close to 2,000 entries in the Better Newspaper contest. The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association members judged this year's competition.

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