Tampa Bay Times journalists win 17 awards in Florida contest

The Tampa Bay Times won 17 awards as the Florida Society of News Editors announced the results of its annual journalism contest Thursday in Sarasota.

The total was the most of any newspaper in the state competing in the large newspaper division, which includes the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. The Times led the field in first-place awards with seven.

Times journalists took top honors in the breaking news, enterprise, features writing and columnist categories, and for feature and sports photography.

The first-place award for breaking news went to the Times staff for its coverage of Hurricane Ian as the storm struck Southwest Florida in September. The staff also won the top award in the enterprise category for its series “Rising Threat,” which documented the Tampa Bay area’s extreme vulnerability to storm flooding.

The judges recognized another component of the “Rising Threat” project with a second-place award in the multimedia category for Times staffers Langston Taylor, Zachary T. Sampson and Eli Murray. Together, the three produced maps and visualizations depicting the dangers of storm surge.

Veteran Times journalist Lane DeGregory won the top award for feature writing for her story on a Ukrainian family’s escape from war and their journey to live with relatives in Gulfport. Stephanie Hayes took first place in the columns category for work that touched on reproductive health, the school shooting tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, and the downfall of former Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor.

Beth McCoy, a Times designer, won first place in page design for a layout that brought home the devastation of Hurricane Ian the day after landfall. And Chris Urso, one of the Times’ photo directors, captured first-place awards in two categories.

Urso’s photos of former Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren won for feature photography and his image of a slam dunk during the SEC basketball tournament at Amalie Arena won for sports photography.

Times staff members were recognized in other categories.

Reporter Olivia George won second place in the beat reporting category for her coverage of transportation and Tracey McManus received a third-place award for beat reporting for her work covering local government in Pinellas County and the Church of Scientology.

In the business category, reporter Sue Carlton won third place for her story on plans to demolish the Ardent Mills flour mill in downtown Tampa. John Hill, a member of the Times editorial board, won third place in the editorial category for work that highlighted Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Democrats.

Times designers Lisa Merklin and Sean Kristoff-Jones won second- and third-place awards respectively for page design. Merklin created an image of a palm tree made of books to accompany a story about the Times Festival of Reading. And in the wake of the November election, Kristoff-Jones designed a colorful graphic depicting Florida’s transformation from a politically purple state to a red one. With McCoy’s first-place finish in the design category, the Times swept all three awards.

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In the feature photography category, Martha Asencio-Rhine, photo director for projects and features, took second place for her photos of a terminally ill 74-year-old woman who flew in a small plane to fulfill a final wish. In the photo story category, photographer Dirk Shadd won second place for his images of a man undergoing cancer treatments, and his colleague Douglas R. Clifford took third place for a photo from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Tampa.

In the Florida Press Association contest for weekly newspapers announced Friday, Tampa Bay Newspapers, owned by Times Publishing Co., won 21 awards, including seven first-place honors. The weekly group won first-place awards in front page design; sports photography; portfolio photography; local government reporting; in-depth reporting; general column writing; and humor column writing. Chris George also won the annual Sally Latham Memorial Award for best overall column.