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Times takes seven first-place awards, 17 total in state contest

Two Times reporters are again winners of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism.

Published June 24, 2006

The St. Petersburg Times won seven first-place prizes Friday and 17 awards overall in the annual competition of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

Times reporters Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite won the Waldo Proffitt Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism in Florida, presented each year to recognize distinguished examples of reporting and commentary about environmental issues in the state.

Pittman won the Proffitt award two years ago, and this is the first time a newspaper has won it twice.

Pittman and Waite found out the federal agency in charge of protecting wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers, rarely denies a permit to wipe them out in Florida. And when they discovered the corps didn't keep track of the wetlands being destroyed, they analyzed satellite imagery to get the answer. Their series, "Vanishing Wetlands," exposed how a system that was supposed to protect the environment instead made it easier to destroy those vital resources, resulting in flooding and pollution woes.

The judges said "the St. Petersburg Times' series is an example of "watchdog journalism' at its finest." Pittman, 45, and Waite, 31, received a $1,000 check and a plaque named in honor of Proffitt, a former editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The Times photography staff won first place in the category of spot news photography for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Marc Topkin and Damian Cristodero also won first place in sports reporting for their series on the Devil Rays, "What Went Wrong."

Pop music critic Sean Daly won first place in criticism; Jim Webster won first place in headline writing; Steve Madden won first place in illustrations; and the front-page design staff won first in Page One design. Nikki Life and James Borchuck won first place in news/business page design, and Life also won third place in feature page design.

The Times received five second-place awards, including John Romano in sports columns, and Scott Barancik and Kris Hundley in business reporting. Hundley also received an honorable mention in business reporting.

Also winning second-place prizes were Jon East in editorials; Rossie Newson in illustrations; and the staff in special sections/sports. Other third-place winners were Ken Helle in spot news photography; Jack Reed in editorials; and Andy Braford and Anthony Perez in sports page design.

With 17 awards, the St. Petersburg Times took more print honors than any other large newspaper in Florida. This is the 10th consecutive year the Times has captured 10 or more awards in Division A (daily circulation of more than 125,000).

Donna Koehn of the Tampa Tribune received the Paul Hansell Award, presented each year to a journalist for overall excellence in reporting and writing.

Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, president emeritus and professor at Florida State University College of Law, received the First Amendment Foundation's 2006 Pete Weitzel Friend of the First Amendment Award.

In other action, the state newspaper organization elected Jeanne Grinstead, deputy managing editor of the St. Petersburg Times, as its vice president, and John Bartosek, editor of the Palm Beach Post, as president.

[Last modified June 24, 2006, 06:38:39]

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