Palm Beach Post staff writers received nine honors, including Journalist of the Year, at the Society of Professional Journalist’s Sunshine State Awards ceremony Saturday at the University of Miami.
Post investigative reporter Pat Beall won Journalist of the Year for her work on The Post’s coverage of the heroin crisis, including profiles of the 216 people who died in 2015 from heroin-related overdoses, calculation of the cost of hospital care related to heroin treatment and a story linking Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to a fraudulent drug-screening company.
In its nominating letter, The Post cited her leadership behind the paper’s Nov. 20, 2016, front page identifying those who died from heroin-related overdoses, describing the painful phone calls involved. “When she spoke to family members, awaking them to the facts of their loved one’s addiction death nearly a year ago, they cried and she cried,” the letter said. “Every day, she came into the office dreading that next phone call. And every day, she picked up the phone.”
Beall, who has been with The Post since 2004, is the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for her series on private prisons, and a 2015 bronze Barlett & Steele Award, a national investigative business reporting honor, for stories on privatized health care in prisons.
The Post’s staff effort “Heroin: Killer of a generation,” took first place for Best Online Package. It included all the stories in The Post’s 12-page special section published in print on Nov. 20, plus videos, graphics and profiles of all 216 people who died from heroin-related overdoses in Palm Beach County in 2015. More than a dozen reporters and editors worked on the project.
Investigative reporter Joe Capozzi took home two awards, a second place for profile reporting, including stories on people who died from heroin overdoses, and second place for coverage of hardship issues.
Boynton Beach reporter Alexandra Seltzer finished second in community beat coverage for her work, including stories about a commissioner whose business had no city license.
In breaking news, 10 staff writers contributed to stories that won second place for coverage of the April 2016 mauling death of Palm Beach Zoo employee Stacey Konwiser by a tiger, including a story that identified the tiger despite zoo efforts to keep its identity secret.
Protecting Your Pocket, by Post business reporters Charles Elmore and Susan Salisbury, took second place for Best Blog. The reporters broke news on scams and consumer legislation and revealed information about two candidates for state insurance commissioner that led to immediate questioning and eventual rejection by the Florida Cabinet.
Food and dining editor Liz Balmaseda took third place in food and travel beat reporting for her coverage of local dining, including a story on her personal dining peeves, starting with servers who sit down while taking your order.
In government and politics beat reporting, The Post’s team of Andrew Marra, Wayne Washington and Jennifer Sorentrue took third for stories that forced community debate and ultimate rejection of the proposal to give not-for-profit cultural organizations a slice of a multibillion-dollar county-school district sales tax increase.