2007 Sunshine State Awards Report

Phil MeyerIf you missed this year’s Sunshine State Awards dinner, you missed a good party and an important presentation by Phil Meyer, the research guru who teaches that good journalism is good business. Meyer’s presentation on May 19th was somewhat more hopeful than his book, The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism n the Information Age.

Meyer urged that we enhance our standing as a profession by:

  • Shedding light on violators of our Code of Ethics,
  • the competence of journalists, and
  • Emphasizing the public service that journalism performs.

“We should promote the idea that the business we are in is the influence business,” he said, crediting Hal Jurgensmeyer with the concept. We have influence to the degree that we are accurate, fair, reliable and timely.

In the awards part of the night, the reporting team of Debbie Cenziper and Larry Lebowitz at The Miami Herald won 2007’s top honors, the James Batten Award for Public Service, for their series House of Lies, about years of failure by a Miami-based public housing agency to build promised homes and apartments for low-income families.

The same body of work also won a first in the large-newspaper category of the Gene Miller Awards for Investigative Reporting, presented in honor of the late Herald reporter and editor. Among small newspapers, first went to Janine A. Zeitlin and colleagues at the Naples Daily News, whose reporting on “human trafficking” took them to Guatemala for a close-up look at families so impoverished they sell their daughters.

The complete list of winners is here. The 1,282 entries of 2006 work by writers, editors, artists, broadcasters, photographers and web producers were evaluated by professional journalists from SPJ chapters outside Florida. The contest supports the Society’s South Florida professional-development programs and scholarships for young men and women preparing for journalism careers.

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