The Tampa Bay Times took home 23 Sunshine State Awards — including 13 first place spots — on Saturday, July 9 at the 22nd Annual Sunshine State Awards, held at the Firefighters Memorial Building in Miami. Other big winners include The Palm Beach Post, Sarasota Herald Tribune, and Sun Sentinel.
SPJ Florida partnered with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ South Florida chapter to include Spanish-language awards for the third time. In those awards, Telemundo led the pack with four awards followed closely by el Nuevo Herald and WLTV-Univision 23 with three awards each.
Among the highest honors awarded was The James Batten Award for Public Service, given to Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick, and Lisa Gartner from the Tampa Bay Times for Failure Factories — a project detailing some of the worst public schools in the state and how they got that way.
“The reporting was thorough with so many voices. The writing was clear and concise and the graphics, photos and videos told the story in a way that words could not.” the judges said. “The result was a series of articles that garnered national attention— and prompted immediate changes. It’s no wonder this series was lauded locally, regionally and nationally. This is how local investigative journalism is done and proves once again why it’s needed.”
The Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting was also given to the Tampa Bay Times, in a partnership with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Leonora LaPeter Anton, Anthony Cormier, Michael Braga all won for Insane. Invisible. In danger: an in-depth investigation into what happened when Florida cut $100 million from its mental hospitals.
“This is some of the most powerful journalism we’ve seen this year. Truly an incredible investigation and a heart twisting series,” the judges said. “It’s such a shocking story that it required readers/viewers be shocked and the journalists did this, but in a very responsible and sensible way.”
Josh Salman from Sarasota Herald-Tribune won the Journalist of the Year. “The greatest compliment paid to someone in our business is not necessarily a Pulitzer or a raise (although those things are nice), it’s knowing that you’ve incited change,” the judges said. “Josh Salman’s work demonstrates dogged reporting, thoughtful prose, and the wonderful effect journalists can have on the world.”
Carol Marbin Miller from The Miami Herald won for the First Amendment Foundation Freedom of Information Award and WLRN-Miami Herald News won the Integrity Florida Award for Public Corruption Reporting. Tonya Alanez from Sun Sentinel won the Diversity Award. Laura Harris from ABC Action News, WFTS-TV took home Anchor of the year.
See the full list of winners.