Palm Beach Post dominates Florida Press Club contest with 10 firsts

Palm Beach Post reporters dominated a statewide newspaper contest Saturday with 10 first-place finishers among 28 finalists in the 66th Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Competition presented in Sarasota.

The Post’s “Heroin: Killer of a Generation” special section won the Frances DeVore Award for Public Service. More than a dozen Post staff writers and editors contributed to telling the stories of the 216 people who died from heroin-related overdoses in Palm Beach County in 2015.

“Your online package is simply amazing,” judges wrote. “You demonstrated that opiates are not discriminatory, they don’t have ageism or an agenda, color and religion mean nothing. … Your pictures — especially the wall of photos — tells more than a simple article can. It gave readers the human equation.”

The prize carries a cash award of $1,000.

The heroin package also won the Lucy Morgan In-Depth reporting award, with a set of five stories by reporters Pat Beall, Christine Stapleton, Lawrence Mower and Joe Capozzi. The judges added: “What can one say other than ‘Wow,’ about such an amazing package.”

Stories on misconduct in the sober home industry by Stapleton, John Pacenti and Mower received an honorable mention in the in-depth category.

The Post’s Mike Stucka and Eliot Kleinberg took the Freedom of Information Award for crafting an online scorecard to track legislators’ votes on public records laws. They led the project on behalf of the Florida Society of News Editors and Florida’s First Amendment Foundation.

Reporters Capozzi, second place, and Hannah Winston, third place, were honored for their work on stories that pick up on the strangeness of life in Florida in the “That is so … Florida” class. Capozzi’s stories included his coverage of a python eating an alligator. Winston’s stories included coverage of flesh-eating murder suspect Austin Harrouff.

Post reporters won all three awards in the large-newspaper commentary writing category. Beall received first place for her story of suffering sexual abuse as a child; Frank Cerabino took second for his columns, including one about a porn star shark attack; and Pacenti finished third for his reminiscences of the Chicago Cubs before, and after, their World Series victory.

Post reporters also dominated the field of health writing, with Stapleton finishing first, Pacenti second and Charles Elmore third.

The competition considered work published between June 2016 and June 2017. Other awards to Post reporters and their finishes:

Best Affiliated Blog: Protecting Your Pocket by Elmore and Susan Salisbury, second place.

Best Online Package: Mark Buzek, Capozzi, Thomas Cordy and Melanie Mena, for “A mom’s desperate fight,” second place.

Breaking News, staff, for coverage of the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, first place.

Business Reporting, Jeff Ostrowski, second place; and Elmore, third place.

Community News, Alexandra Seltzer, third place.

Education Writing, Andrew Marra, first place.

General News, Alexandra Clough and Pacenti, second place.

Government News, Wayne Washington, second place.

Light Feature Reporting, Barbara Marshall, first place; Capozzi, second place.

Opinion Writing, Rick Christie and Howard Goodman, second place.

Public Safety Reporting, Jane Musgrave, second place; Julius Whigham II, third place.

Sports Feature Writing, Hal Habib, first place.

Sports Writing, Jodie Wagner, first place.

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