The Gainesville Sun, a newspaper based in Gainesville, Florida, recently took home two first-place awards at the Florida Press Club’s annual Excellence in Journalism Competition.
The competition, which has been held for nearly 70 years, recognizes some of the best journalism from around the state.
The keynote speaker at this year’s event was Daytona Beach News-Journal columnist Mark Lane, who shared his thoughts on the changes that have occurred in the newspaper industry over the past few years, particularly in regards to news organizations eliminating opinion sections.
One of the top honors of the competition was awarded to the Sun Sentinel’s “Crying out for Help” series, which won the Frances DeVore Award for Public Service and a $1,000 prize.
The series was an investigation into the thousands of calls to Broward County’s emergency dispatch that were going unanswered, sometimes with fatal consequences. As a result of the investigation, public concern about the situation led to raises of up to $29,000 a year for some dispatchers, according to the paper.
The Jacksonville-based Florida Times-Union earned the Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting for their coverage of federal indictments in the attempted sale of Jacksonville’s public utility.
In addition to these top awards, several former and current Sun staffers also earned first place in their respective categories at the event. Longtime journalist Cindy Swirko earned first place in the writing category for minority news in classes B and C. Her coverage examined how Dudley Farm Historic State Park in Newberry largely ignored its role in the enslavement of Black people even after emancipation. Swirko, who has since retired, also earned second place for her environmental reporting in the Class B category.
The Sun’s Andrew Caplan also earned first place for government reporting in classes B and C. His coverage focused on the Alachua County Commission and found that a pair of elected officials claimed to live outside the districts they were elected to represent at the time they took office, which violated state law. The investigation led to one official resigning from office, a lawsuit against the other and both elected leaders having to pay a combined $16,000 in back taxes and penalties.
Overall, the Florida Press Club’s annual Excellence in Journalism Competition recognized the outstanding work of journalists from around the state, with the Gainesville Sun earning multiple awards for their investigative and in-depth reporting.
The competition serves as a reminder of the importance of quality journalism and the impact it can have on the community.