Tampa Bay Times staff writers Leonora LaPeter Anton and Kelley Benham won top state honors Friday from the Florida Society of News Editors.
Anton won the Paul Hansell Distinguished Journalism Award, which recognizes overall excellence in reporting and writing, for a body of work in 2012.
Benham won the Gold Medal for Public Service in the large newspaper division for the series "Never Let Go."
The Times and its websites won 15 first-place awards and 30 overall in this year's FSNE competition, making it the most-honored news organization in the state. The awards were announced during the FSNE-Florida Press Association Convention in Orlando.
"You will not find a more dedicated, hard-working team of journalists than those in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times," said editor and vice president Neil Brown. "Our entire organization shares in these honors, epitomized by the powerful work of Leonora and Kelley. This recognition is extremely gratifying."
Anton, 48, who has been a journalist for 25 years and at the Times for 13 years, received $1,000 and a plaque named in honor of Hansell, a longtime Associated Press bureau chief in Florida. Her entry included "The Agony of Gretchen M," a Floridian magazine piece about a rare sexual disorder that had tormented a woman all her adult life; stories about protests leading up to and during the Republican National Convention; and an article about the life of a biracial girl.
FSNE's Gold Medal awards honor meritorious public service by a newspaper through distinguished reporting, writing and presentation. Benham, 39, also won the competition's first-place award in feature and arts writing for the three-part series on the premature birth of her daughter.
The Times competes in the large newspaper division. Its other first-place winners were:
• Ben Montgomery, Kris Hundley, Connie Humburg, Susan Taylor Martin, Kameel Stanley, Michael LaForgia, Chris Davis and William Higgins for the "Stand Your Ground" series of stories in investigative reporting.
• Laura Reiley for food and restaurant coverage in beat reporting.
• Joey Knight for a collection in sports.
• Joni James for a collection in editorials.
• Mimi Andelman for a collection in headline writing.
• Samantha Puckett for "50 Years of Bond Girls" in feature page design.
• Jennifer Hiatt for "Daytona 500" in sports page design.
• Melissa Lyttle for "The Best Sister" in photo story.
• Angie Drobnic Holan and Becky Bowers for fact-checking the first presidential debate in online breaking news.
• Staff for The Buzz in blog/online commentary.
• Chris Zuppa for "Florida's Vanishing Springs" in video.
• Staff for PolitiFact Florida in niche site/channel.
• Carolina Hidalgo for "One of the Team" in enterprise online slideshow.
• Staff for Tropical Storm Debby coverage in use of social media in breaking news.
The Times' second-place award winners were John C. Cotey in Sports; Jody McMaster in headline writing; Jennifer Hiatt in sports page design; Kathleen Flynn in feature photography; Melissa Lyttle in photo story; Kathleen Flynn and Chris Zuppa in video; and Eve Edelheit in enterprise online slideshow.
The third-place winners from the Times were Marc Topkin in sports; Sue Carlton in columns; Kate Brassfield in headline writing; Chris Kozlowski, Paul Alexander, Matt Decker, Jennifer Wright, Suzette Moyer and Tom Bassinger in page one design; Brittany Volk in feature page design; and Home Team staff for niche site/channel.
Other awards in the large newspaper division included four first-place honors each for the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and one first each for the Florida Times-Union, Palm Beach Post and Tampa Tribune. Judges for the annual contest are journalists outside of Florida.
Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel won the 2013 Waldo Proffitt Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism in Florida, presented by the University of South Florida, for a series "Florida Rivers in Crisis."
Times managing editor Mike Wilson is a member of the FSNE board of directors.