Heralds bring home the gold in New York Press Association contest

Earn 15 honors in statewide competition

The Herald Community Newspapers crew at the New York Press Association convention in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., last weekend.
The Herald Community Newspapers crew at the New York Press Association convention in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., last weekend.

The Herald Community Newspapers came up big in the New York Press Association’s 2016 Better Newspaper Contest, taking 15 honors in the statewide competition, for which 184 newspapers submitted nearly 3,000 entries. The awards were presented at NYPA’s annual convention in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., last weekend.

Among the accolades were first-place awards for Rookie Reporter of the Year, In-Depth Reporting, News Series, Coverage of the Environment and Art Photo. Sixteen members of the editorial department were recognized for journalistic excellence. In all, the Heralds received 170 points in the contest, placing them among the top five community newspaper groups in the state.

“Our reporters, editors, sales executives and production staff produce some of the best local newspapers in the state,” noted Co-Publisher Stuart Richner. “I’m delighted that others in the industry have recognized the work they do week in and week out. It’s particularly rewarding to see our rookie reporters recognized for their outstanding work.”

“It takes a talented team to win,” said Rhonda Glickman, the Heralds’ vice president of advertising sales. “I am honored to be part of that team.”

Two top rookies

Oceanside-Island Park Herald Editor Ben Strack earned first place for Rookie Reporter of the Year, and East Meadow Herald Editor Stephany Reyes received honorable mention in the category. Both began as reporters for the Heralds. For their entries, they submitted five stories, including news and feature articles.

“Thorough reporting and effective writing make this entry a standout,” judges wrote of Strack’s entry. “Every story was fully — and appropriately — sourced, and the information was presented in a clear and logical format.”

Of Reyes’s entry, they remarked, “Stephany’s writing style is compelling — she really draws you in with her vivid descriptions of setting, [which] I noticed in all of her entries.”

“We have a talented young team in the editorial department, and that’s reflected in these awards,” Heralds Co-Publisher Cliff Richner said. “Ben Strack is a natural storyteller who gets to the essence of his stories. Stephany Reyes’s empathy for her subjects makes us feel like we’ve met them through her words.”

The Changing Face of L.I.

The Heralds took first place for In-Depth Reporting and News Series for a nine-part series on Long Island immigration, “The Changing Face of Long Island,” which examined how immigrants arrive on the Island and how they are shaping its economic, educational and political landscapes. The series was more than two years in the planning.

Executive Editor Scott Brinton was the series editor as well as one of its writers. Other writers included Micah Danney, Laura Lane, Reyes, Laura Shofer, Daine Taylor, Rossana Weitekamp and intern Alex Boyd. Christina Daly was the photographer.

Judges wrote of the series, “The best so far. Lots of good color in the stories, good data and research, and the editorial at the end bringing it home shows real planning and execution.”

They also commented, “A wide-ranging, face-of-the-situation series that breaks through the stereotypes and informs us in breezy, engaging detail … Obviously a lot of planning in this one, and photography propels the narrative.”

Environmental protection

The Merrick Herald Life was honored for Coverage of the Environment. Brinton wrote all five of the stories for the entry, which examined an underground toxic plume that is creeping from Bethpage into Wantagh-Seaford, foxes living at the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick, proposed legislation that would require labeling of food that contains genetically modified organisms, a county proposal to send treated wastewater from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant, and Long Beach’s plan to limit the use of plastic bags.

Laura Schofer, Nick Ciccone and Andrew Hackmack contributed reporting for the sewage treatment story.

“The entry was notable for the variety of environmental topics it tackled,” the judges wrote.

Editorial excellence

The Heralds earned second place for three editorials written by former Executive Editor John O’Connell. Judges wrote, “Well written editorials about child sex abuse, Clinton/Trump voting and showing respect for our [veterans]. Moving.”

Chasing Mangano

The Heralds also received a second-place award for News Story for their coverage of County Executive Ed Mangano’s arrest on corruption charges last fall. Writers included Brinton, Strack, Erik Hawkins and Anthony Rifilato, and the photographs were taken by Daly and Hawkins.

Rifilato also wrote a second story on elected leaders’ reactions to the arrest.

Judges remarked, “Teamwork pays off. This is journalism that taps readers on the shoulders and shows everyone newspapers are needed. Excellent effort.”

Toxic plume

Brinton received third place for News Story for his reporting on the Bethpage toxic plume. Judges wrote, “Investigative journalism always scores. Good work.”

Religion reporting

The Nassau Herald earned second place for Religion Reporting. Editor Jeff Bessen wrote the stories, which looked at a Christian group that proselytized in the Five Towns, as well as a Conservative Jewish prayer book.

Judges wrote, “The Nassau Herald produces enterprise stories and adds blurbs inviting readers to send letters to the editor, which helps to make the reports complete.”

Covering the schools

The East Meadow Herald took second place for Education Reporting. Writers included Reyes and Julie Mansmann, with contributions by Brinton.

Judges wrote, “The writers thoroughly covered each story by reaching out to administrators, school board members, parents and other involved to provide in-depth coverage.”

“The range of honors we received demonstrates the level of talent and dedication of our staff,” Brinton said. “I’m so proud to work alongside journalists who are truly committed to making a difference in the lives of our readers and in the world.”

The Awards

First Place

Rookie Reporter of the Year: Ben Strack

In-Depth Reporting: Alex Boyd, Scott Brinton, Christina Daly, Micah Danney, Laura Lane, Stephany Reyes, Daine Taylor, Rossana Weitekamp

News Series: Boyd, Brinton, Daly, Danney, Lane, Reyes, Taylor, Weitekamp

Environmental Reporting: Scott Brinton, with Nick Ciccone, Andrew Hackmack and Laura Schofer

Art Photo: Joe Abate

Second Place

Best Large Space Ad: Lynbrook-East Rockaway Herald

Editorial: John O’Connell

Education Reporting: Julie Mansmann, Stephany Reyes, with Scott Brinton

News Story: Scott Brinton, Erik Hawkins, Anthony Rifilato, Ben Strack

Religion Reporting: Jeff Bessen

Third Place

Best Multi-Advertiser Pages: Oyster Bay Guardian

News Story: Scott Brinton

Honorable Mention

Rookie Reporter of the Year: Stephany Reyes

Feature Photo: Christina Daly