We enter journalism contests with mixed emotions. There’s something about journalists judging journalists that feels somewhat self-serving, and writing about these winnings feels unnecessarily boastful. Still, the staff at The Coastal Star are almost all freelancers and they work long and hard for modest financial compensation, so entering the fruits of their labor for professional recognition seems like the least we, the paper’s owners, can do.
This year our entries in the Florida Press Association Weekly Newspaper Awards Contest resulted in first-place recognition for two of our longest-tenured and hardest working employees: Tim Stepien and Rich Pollack.
Stepien has been with The Coastal Star since the beginning (almost 10 years!) and is our go-to photographer for everything from portraiture to breaking news. His first-place recognition for a portfolio of work over the past year seems especially appropriate.
The collection of photos included a touching image of a daughter with her 100-year-old mother and a robotic pet at a local senior living center, a fun shot of young boys viewing the total eclipse of the sun through special glasses at Florida Atlantic University, an intriguing look at work being completed at the rebuilt playground at Sugar Sand Park, ballroom dancers competing at the Boca Ballroom Battle and a sea turtle being released at Red Reef Park as it seems to wave goodbye to the gathered observers. This photo of the turtle also won first place for feature photo.
Also receiving a well-earned first-place award was Pollack. His award came in the business reporting category for his story showing how the president’s visits to Mar-a-Lago disrupt traffic at our busy local airports.
The story dug deep, looking at the number of aircraft and pilot registrations in Palm Beach County and how that compares with other parts of the country. Staff researcher Michelle Quigley helped with the research, and Rich turned the information gathered into an explainer quantifying the impact of the president’s visits on private aviation in our area.
Also recognized at the FPA Awards luncheon held Aug. 10 in Orlando were second-place winners Dan Moffett and Cheryl Blackerby in the agricultural and environmental reporting category for their package on local beaches and the area’s search for sand.
Also recognized with a second-place award was Stacey Singer Deloye in the health, medical and science reporting category. Her entry featured Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s use of honey as a healing agent for injured sea turtles.
Third-place winners included a trio of stories by Janis Fontaine in the faith and family reporting category, a trio of editorials by Coastal Star Editor Mary Kate Leming and the staff of The Coastal Star for overall graphic design. For the first time the organization created an awards category for best reader-generated photograph. Delray Beach resident Joseph Vincent placed third in this category.
The Coastal Star competes in FPA’s Division A, which includes the largest weekly newspapers in Florida. These are all excellent newspapers making a difference in their local communities.
We are proud to be a part of this group of Florida journalists and congratulate all of them on their awards. When you see any of the above Coastal Star winners, please congratulate them on the professional recognition they’ve received for their long, hard work.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor