By Tao Woolfe

The Coastal Star scooped up 16 writing awards — for everything from breaking news stories and features to commentary — from the Florida Press Club’s 2021 Excellence in Journalism competition.
The Jan. 22 annual awards celebration — which was held as an online event to shield participants from omicron exposure — honored stories, design, commentary and photographs appearing in publications statewide between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021.
Mary Kate Leming, Coastal Star editor, said she was delighted by the awards and gave all the credit to her staff.
“We don’t enter contests to compete with other journalists, we submit entries to recognize the efforts of the excellent journalists who contribute to our publication each month,” Leming said. “They are what make the paper valuable and entertaining to our readers. I’m thrilled they were recognized by this statewide group for their efforts.”
Coastal Star reporter Rich Pollack picked up prizes for writing public safety news (first place), government news (second place), breaking news (third place), and serious features (third place), and was among the Coastal Star staffers who collected more than one award.
Other Coastal Star double winners were Larry Keller, who won writing prizes for environmental news (third place) and minority news (second place); Charles Elmore, who won for writing breaking and business news stories about the coronavirus (second and third places); and Mary Hladky, who shared the breaking news award with Pollack (third place) and won for her pandemic coverage (third place).
Other Coastal Star winners were:
• Ron Hayes, who won first prize in the “That is So Florida” writing category, awarded to weird Sunshine State stories.
• Larry Barszewski, who won for environmental news writing (second place).
• Joyce Reingold, who won for health writing (second place).
• Willie Howard, who won for sports column writing (second place).
• Brian Biggane, who took first prize in the sports features writing category.
• Leming, who won for commentary writing (third place).
The Coastal Star staff also was awarded a prize for coronavirus pandemic features reporting (third place).
“These awards show the breadth of reporting: from lighthearted stories about legless crabs to in-depth features on local residents and deep dives into municipal shake-ups concerning public safety,” Leming said of the awards’ diversity.
The Coastal Star won most of its awards in the Class C category, which is for smaller daily and non-daily newspapers and websites, but took some overall prizes awarded for general excellence.
For nearly 70 years, the Florida Press Club has been honoring the best in Florida journalism from layout to photography to writing, according to the club’s awards announcement. 
“It was originally called the Florida Women’s Press Club, as no other clubs allowed women to compete when it was started. Honorees have expanded to include men and digital-only publications,” the club said.

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