TimesLedger wins 13 journalism awards at NYPA

TimesLedger wins 13 journalism awards at NYPA
By Rich Bockmann

TimesLedger Newspapers was honored by the New York Press Association with 13 journalism awards, which recognized individual reporters, editors and the collective newsroom for excellence in their coverage of Queens.

TimesLedger covers the diverse neighborhoods of the borough each week with editions in Astoria, Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, Laurelton, Little Neck, Queens Village, Ridgewood and Whitestone.

Awards for the NYPA’s 2010 Better Newspaper Contest were presented over the weekend in upstate Saratoga, N.Y. The contest received 2,634 entries from 171 newspapers, which competed for awards in 60 categories.

The TimesLedger won six first-place awards, six second-place awards and one third-place award.

Reporter Connor Sheets, who covers Flushing, Whitestone and College Point, won first place for Writer of the Year. Of the 10 stories he submitted in the category, Sheets believed his Making of a Candidate series best exemplifies the comprehensive efforts required of award-winning journalism.

Sheets built sources for over a year for the multi-part series, which detailed the underbelly of Queens politics during the 2009 campaign.

“It showed what really goes on — the horse-trading, the backroom deals,” said Sheets. “It was a lot of after-hours reporting.”

Photographer Christina Santucci, whom the NYPA commended for her “balance [of] artistry and acuity,” received the first-place prize for Photographer of the Year. One of her winning submissions was chosen for the cover of the contest’s awards journal. The photo captures the outpouring of emotion displayed by a young Jamaica woman shortly after the murder of her brother.

Santucci also won first-place prizes in the categories of Picture Story for her coverage of a Flight 587 memorial and Spot News Photo for a fire in Jackson Heights. She also captured second-place awards for Feature Photo and Art Photo.

“I’m very proud and happy I can represent the talent I believe is at this paper,” said Santucci. “There’s no way I could do what I do without the support of this tremendous staff.”

The newsroom staff received first place prize for the Best News Series, which is an ongoing effort on the part of the paper to track the impact of the Haitian earthquake on the large Haitian community in Queens. The paper also won second place for Best Editorial Page.

Managing Editor Ian MacFarland, who produces the QGuide arts section, and staff and freelance contributors won a blue ribbon for coverage of the arts in Queens.

Reporter Ivan Pereira, who has covered southeast Queens for more than three years, won second place in the categories of Spot News, for a story on the murder of a homeless Good Samaritan, and News Story, for covering an attack on a cab driver. The three articles he wrote on the one-year anniversary of the swine flu outbreak in Queens won third place for Best Feature Series.

“I was fortunate enough to have an interview with the wife of the city’s first victim. I think it put a good emotional aspect to the anniversary of the outbreak,” said Pereira.

The award-winning series framed the story in the context of what Pereira called a “failing health system” trying to cope with the outbreak after the closings of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals.

Former TimesLedger reporter Anna Gustafson took second place in the Feature Story category for her coverage of women from Queens delivering the last babies at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan before it closed.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.