Jun. 11, 2011  

2011 Sunshine State Awards Honor Florida’s Best Journalism

NEWS from SPJ South Florida Pro Chapter
Contact: Tim Dodson, tim@timdodson.com / 305-562-5796

2011 Sunshine State Awards Honor Florida’s Best Journalism

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., June 11, 2011 – An Orlando Sentinel night police reporter in his first year as a journalist won top honors Saturday in the 2011 Sunshine State Awards. The statewide journalism competition, which recognizes Florida’s best work of 2010, is presented by the Society of Professional Journalists’ South Florida Chapter. The awards were presented in a ceremony at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel.

Orlando Sentinel rookie reporter Jeff Weiner upheld the best tradition of journalism by uncovering government abuse of power, earning him the James K. Batten Award for Public Service. In his series Criminal Barbering, Weiner showed the Orange County Sheriff’s Office circumvented the law by teaming with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation to conduct warrantless searches of barbershops owned by blacks and Hispanics in a drug and weapons crackdown. The story resulted in dismissal of three state officials, several state investigations and calls for a federal probe of civil-rights violations.

Michael LaForgia, of The Palm Beach Post, captured the Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting for his stories on sex offenders and other felons who ran camps for homeless kids. LaForgia ran background checks on the people operating taxpayer-funded summer camps serving some of the community’s most vulnerable children.

In this year’s competition, more than 600 entries – from print, television, radio and online media – were evaluated by news professionals in other states. The Orlando Sentinel took home the most first-place honors, claiming 12 of the 65 awards. The Miami Herald (five first-place awards) and Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers (four) rounded out the top three finishers.

View the complete list of competition results here.

“Despite trying times for our profession, the daily work of Florida journalists continues to serve citizens well,” said Michael Koretzky, president of SPJ South Florida.

SPJ South Florida also partnered with The Florida College Press Association to present a competition for student journalists. Winners were announced in 12 categories. Eckerd College’s student newspaper, The Current, earned three first-place awards, including Best College Newspaper. University of Florida journalism student Rebekah Shepherd was named College Journalist of the Year.

View the complete list of FCPA competition results here.

The event sponsors of the 2011 Sunshine State Awards are Greenberg Traurig and The Betsy Hotel.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the oldest and largest professional journalism organization in the country. SPJ’s South Florida Pro Chapter, which serves journalists in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties, was named 2010 Chapter of the Year. Net proceeds from the chapter’s Sunshine State Awards competition support scholarships for high school and college students and professional development opportunities for working journalists.

More on the 17th annual Sunshine State Awards competition…

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