From coverage of Hurricane Ian to a school sex scandal, The News-Press and Naples Daily News recently have been recognized for journalism excellence.
The newspapers Thursday also took home 19 awards from the Florida Society of News Editors at a ceremony in Sarasota. And the staff of both newspapers also won the top prize Thursday: the Gold Medal for Public Service.
In addition, the papers in recent months won a Sigma Delta Chi Award ― one of the most prestigious honors in journalism ― and a Green Eyeshade Award for the newspapers’ staff coverage of Ian, which roared ashore Sept. 28.
All journalists and editors from both newsrooms ― with help from other members of the USA Today Network-Florida ― covered the aftermath of the strong Category 4 hurricane around the clock for days, including some whose own homes were destroyed.
Sigma Delta Chi, or SDX, Awards date back to 1932. The Southwest Florida newspapers won in the single-issue deadline reporting category for similar papers their size across the U.S.
“Demonstrating excellent work amid extreme conditions, the teams’ ability to think on their feet and figure out workarounds was apparent,” said SDX judges with the Society of Professional Journalists.
And the FSNE winners are …
The staff at both newspapers won first place in Breaking News Reporting for Hurricane Ian coverage.
Other winners, by category:
Investigative Reporting ― First place to Kate Cimini and Rachel Fradette ― who now works for the Indianapolis Star ― for their coverage of the sexual abuse scandal at Parkside Elementary School in Naples. Their coverage detailed how a teacher, a prolific and determined sexual predator, abused nearly two dozen elementary school children in Collier County’s Public School system.
Features Writing ― Janine Zeitlin won first place for her story Shrimp and Grit about Fort Myers Beach shrimpers who fought to save their fleet after the hurricane. Photojournalist Andrew West told the shrimpers’ story visually with gripping photos and videos that won him first place under Photo Story.
Zeitlin also won second place for her story Love, loss, miracles on Fort Myers Beach about how residents endured less than a month after Ian.
Beat Reporting ― Environmental reporter Chad Gillis won first place for his coverage, from algae blooms to manatees and many other stories.
Sports ― Dustin Levy took home second place while colleague Alex Martin won third place for their story collection, including high school sports that remain so popular with readers.
Business ― Dan Glaun won second place for covering the embattled property firm, Naples-based American Property Management Services.
Spot News Photography ― West and fellow photojournalist Ric Rolon won second and third respectively, both for hurricane photos.
Features Photography ― Amanda Inscore Whittamore finished second for her work throughout the year. In Sports Photography, Rolon also won a second place.
Breaking News Video ― Naples and Fort Myers swept the category. Andrea Melendez won first for the video Pine Island after Hurricane Ian; Melendez also won second, for Riding out Hurricane Ian; and Inscore Whittamore won third for Rescue of stranded Sanibel residents underway.
Features Video ― Fort Myers and Naples took all three awards: West (first) for his video on the shrimp industry and second for struggling coral reefs; and Melendez third for Braids are a sister’s life. Melendez left last fall for a job with WGCU.
The News-Press and Naples Daily News are members of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida, made up of 20 news operations across the state. The Network had a haul of it own at the July 20 media conference with 78 awards total and 30 first place awards.
BEST IN THE SOUTHEAST
The Green Eyeshade Awards, since 1950, have recognized the very best journalism in the southeastern United States.
This year, Fort Myers and Naples won four awards that recognized their work:
Disaster Reporting / All Dailies ― First Place: The News-Press & Naples Daily News – Staff, Hurricane Ian devastates Southwest Florida
Feature Writing / Small Dailies ― First Place: The News-Press & Naples Daily News – Janine Zeitlin, Janine Zeitlin Hurricane Stories, which included
Investigative Reporting / Small Dailies ― Third Place: Naples Daily News & The News-Press – Kate Cimini & Rachel Fradette, Hector Manley Child Sex Abuse Investigation
Business Reporting / All Dailies ― • Third Place: USA Today Network-Florida – Staff, The Amazon Effect Series, with reporter Laura Layden and Steve McQuilkin, News-Press and Daily News regional business and environment editor, playing a major role in the project that delved into Amazon’s rapid growth in Florida, covering effects on real estate, small businesses, the job market, politics and more.
Sunshine State finalists
Along with the entire News-Press and Daily News staff for hurricane coverage, Cimini, Glaun, Charles Runnells, West, Inscore Whittamore, Laura Layden and Levy are finalists in the Society of Professional Journalism Sunshine State Awards.
The placements will be announced at an August ceremony.
Barbara A. Petersen Freedom of Information Award ― Kate Cimini and Rachel Fradette, Hector Manley child sex abuse investigation
Disaster Reporting ― Staff, Hurricane Ian devastates Southwest Florida
Breaking News Reporting ― Staff, Hurricane Ian devastates Southwest Florida
Non-Deadline News Reporting (Large Papers) ― Kate Cimini and Rachel Fradette, Hector Manley child sex abuse investigation
Non-Deadline News Reporting (Small Papers) ― Dan Glaun for Toll surveillance and Perp walk
Story goes viral:‘I’m going to do it every single time’: A Florida sheriff took a 10-year-old’s perp walk global
Feature Reporting (Small Papers) ― Janine Zeitlin, Shrimp and Grit
Beat Reporting – Arts ― Charles Runnells, the arts and entertainment journalist’s collection of stories including one about hurricane waves breaching a Fort Myers theater or a holiday tradition the continued on Fort Myers Beach.
Beat Reporting – Business & Consumer ― Laura Layden, collection of stories from the business journalist like her coverage of a rental car company headquartered in Southwest Florida.
Beat Reporting – Sports ― Dustin Levy, Dustin Levy Collection
Breaking News Photography ― Andrew West, Hurricane Ian aftermath
Feature Photography ― Amanda Inscore Whittamore, Shaved heads fundraiser
Portrait/Personality ― Andrew West, Shrimp life after Hurricane Ian
Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram and Threads @lacrossewriter and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.