20th Annual Sunshine State Awards
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The Sarasota Herald-Tribune took home 13 Sunshine State Awards on Saturday, Aug. 16 at the annual Sunshine State Awards, held at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. Other big winners include The News Press, The Miami Herald, and The Tampa Tribune.
SPJ Florida partnered with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ South Florida chapter to include Spanish-language awards for the first time. In those awards, El Nuevo Herald led the pack, followed closely by Univision Network News.
The chapter has recognized and celebrated Florida’s finest journalism for two decades, and for the first time solicited entries from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, leading to second- and third-place awards for the Virgin Islands Daily News.
Among the highest honors awarded was The James Batten Award for Public Service, given to the Tampa Bay Times and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting for their collaboration on “America’s Worst Charities.”
“The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting delivered an exhaustive, first-of-its-kind public service investigation on the nation’s worst charities, prompting three state investigations and Florida’s top charity regulator to announce that he would pursue an overhaul of the state’s laws,” judges noted. “Beautifully written, ambitious and critically important.”
The Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting was given to The Tampa Bay Times’ Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia for their story “A home, but no help,” a Pulitzer-winning series about a public housing operation that exploited the homeless. LaForgia also claimed the Integrity Florida Award for Public Corruption Reporting.
Judges commented on the thorough documentation as well as the “nice detail throughout the series,” including “the subject peeling hundred-dollar bills off a roll to give on-the-spot refunds to tenants, the smells of some of his rental units, [and] one resident with a skin infection.”
Athena Ponushis of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly was named Journalist of the Year. Said the judges: “Athena Ponushis clearly can handle a wide range of subject matter, telling each story with great detail, bright and engaging writing, clever turns of phrase and poignancy where warranted. Each piece is backed up with solid reporting, leaving the reader with lots of information — all woven together in a story well told.”
See the full list of winners here.