The St. Petersburg Times and its Web sites on Friday won 11 first-place prizes and 22 overall in the annual competition of the Florida Society of News Editors, more than any other large-circulation news organization in the state.
The paper also received the award for the best writer in Florida.
Times staff writer Lane DeGregory won the Paul Hansell Distinguished Journalism Award, which recognizes overall excellence in reporting and writing, for a body of work in 2008. Included in her entry was "The Girl in the Window," the moving account of a Plant City child whose mother kept her locked in a filthy room, and the adoptive family who worked to overcome her feral beginnings.
DeGregory, who has been a journalist for 22 years and at the Times since 2000, received a $1,000 check and a plaque named in honor of Hansell, a longtime Associated Press bureau chief in Florida, at FSNE's annual convention.
DeGregory also was awarded the first-place prize in Features & Arts Writing for "The Girl in the Window."
Times Tallahassee staff writer Alex Leary won first place in Investigative Reporting for his stories in late 2008 that revealed House Speaker Ray Sansom's deals with Northwest Florida State College. Leary's exposure of Sansom's methods of getting funding for the school resulted in indictments of Sansom, the college president and a developer.
Staff writer Jeff Testerman captured a first-place award in Beat Reporting for his stories that exposed a raft of problems with Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, from political cronyism to misappropriation of funds. After the stories, multiple state agencies and the FBI opened investigations into Johnson's personal finances and his spending of taxpayer money as elections chief.
Times' online and visual entries also received multiple honors this year.
Winning first in Home Page Design was the staff of tampabay.com, with the judges citing its organization and easy navigation. First place in Niche Site/Channel went to the staff of Politifact.com, which during the presidential campaign sorted the truth of political statements by and about candidates.
Staff photographer Melissa Lyttle won first place in the Photo Story category for her photographs in "The Girl in the Window." In Feature Photography, staff photographer Edmund Fountain won first place for "Independent Thinking," a portrait of a woman and her quadriplegic boyfriend.
Times staff won first place in Page Design for a presentation of the "Amazing Rays" heading to the American League Championship Series. The first-place award in Innovation That Drives Digital Audience was captured by the staff of "Friday Night Rewind," an online report on high school football in the Tampa Bay area.
The Times swept two contest categories this year. In Blog/Online Commentary, entertainment news editor Steve Spears won first place for Stuck in the '80s, his blog on music, movies and culture in the 1980s. The politics team took second with the Buzz, and the Deal Divas blog won third place for staff writers Stephanie Hayes, Nicole Hutcheson, Colleen Jenkins and Letitia Stein.
In Online Slideshow, senior online designer Lee Glynn, photo/multimedia coordinator Ted McLaren and staff photographer Carrie Pratt won first place for "Quest for Respect: The Civil Wars," a report about a special etiquette education program. Staff photographer Chris Zuppa and McLaren won second place for "Paws in Prison," and Zuppa also placed third for "Lockup: Mental Illness."
Second-place awards also were captured by the Times staff in Page One Design; staff senior artist John Corbitt in News Graphics/Illustrations for "Feeling Old?"; and DeGregory and Lyttle, and Desiree Perry, Jack Rowland and Ted McLaren in Multimedia for "The Girl in the Window."
Also winning third-place awards were staff writer John Barry in Feature & Arts Writing for "Winter's Tale"; staff writer Kris Hundley in Business for "Testing Grounds"; staff photographer Brian Cassella in Sports Photography for "Amazing Rays"; and Zuppa in Feature Photography for "Lockup: Different Paths."
Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Daytona Beach News-Journal again won the 2009 Waldo Proffitt Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism in Florida, presented by the University of South Florida.
Pat Gleason, special counsel on Open Government in the governor's office, was presented the Pete Weitzel Friend of the First Amendment Award from the First Amendment Foundation.
Patty Cox, managing editor/presentation for the Times and tampabay.com. was elected on Friday to the FSNE board of directors.
FSNE this year changed its name from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors to News Editors to reflect the many ways today's journalists provide news to audiences.