Jun. 3, 2009  

2009 Sunshine State Awards Recap

Rob Barry and Matthew Haggman2009 Sunshine State Awards Honor Florida’s Best Journalism

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., May 30, 2009–Three Miami Herald reporters won top honors Saturday in the Sunshine State Awards, a statewide competition honoring Florida’s best journalism of 2008.

In their series “Borrowers Betrayed,” The Herald’s Jack Dolan, Matthew Haggman and Rob Barry disclosed lax regulation in Florida’s home-mortgage industry that let swindlers and other felons working as loan originators coax thousands of home-buyers into borrowing more than they could afford to repay. The series forced the resignation of Don Saxon, director of the state’s Office of Financial Institutions and Securities Regulation.

2009 Awards PresentationThe Miami Herald team was honored by the contest sponsor, the South Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, with both the James K. Batten Award for Distinguished Public Service and the Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting. The Batten Award, named for the late Knight-Ridder chairman, recognizes reporting that corrects a wrong, brings an issue to light or adds significantly to the public debate. One of the judges, XM Radio host Bob Edwards, said of the work: “The Herald’s series … is good, old-fashioned investigative journalism involving a lot of time and resources – the very thing rapidly disappearing from our profession. The series reflects the big mess afflicting the whole country. It also brought very swift action that one hopes will prevent catastrophe for more Floridians.”

Julie KayAmong smaller publications, the Gene Miller Award also was awarded to Robert Napper, Natalie Alund and Duane Marsteller of The Bradenton Herald for “Loopholes in the Sex Predator Law,” which resulted in changes in state law and new background-check rules at hospitals and other facilities.

More than 700 entries – from print, television, radio and online – were evaluated by news professionals in other states. The Orlando Sentinel took the most first-place honors, 11 of the 77 awards. The Miami Herald won nine, and The Daytona Beach News-Journal six. View the complete list here: 2009 Sunshine State Awards Winners.

“While all news media faced serious and troubling challenges this year, outstanding journalism is still being done in Florida,” said Julie Kay, president of SPJ South Florida. “All the winners and finalists should be proud.”

Art & Culture CenterThe Society of Professional Journalists is the oldest and largest professional journalism society in the country, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Sunshine State Awards were presented Saturday evening at the Art & Culture Center of Hollywood.

To see more photos of the event, click the link below.

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