NEW YORK (AP) — The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press and the Virgin Islands Daily News won top awards in the annual Associated Press Media Editors' Journalism Excellence Awards.
APME also said three media companies are finalists for its seventh annual Innovator of the Year, one of which was a finalist last year.
More than 30 winners were announced in the 2013 contest in the categories for media organizations.
"We had a large number of high-quality entries in this contest, but I find it interesting how smaller news organizations like the Virgin Islands Daily News continue to compete very well in this contest every year," said APME President Brad Dennison. "Overall, we saw incredible amounts of watchdog and enterprise reporting, as well as news innovation. I find that very encouraging for our industry."
There were 244 entries this year, including those for the separate AP staff awards.
The Asbury Park Press was voted as the 43rd annual Public Service Best of Show for its multiplatform news coverage as well as its online Resource Center for Superstorm Sandy. The award carries a $1,500 prize.
"With its community wrecked along with much of the New Jersey shore by the furor of Superstorm Sandy, the Asbury Park Press staff performed a public service like few others," the judges wrote. "And it demonstrated hard-hitting investigative journalism on causes and effects and by donating profits of books to the Red Cross.
"APME Public Service judges considered some incredible work this year, but Asbury Park's Sandy coverage stood above the rest."
The Virgin Islands newspaper was a winner in the under 40,000 circulation category for its "Our Money, Their Failure" project, which exposed a plan by the Islands' governor to build a $30-million sports complex with private partners who had questionable backgrounds.
It was also named The Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes Award winner for its project "The Battle for V.I. Senators' Spending Records," which spotlighted how government officials were using millions of dollars in taxpayers' money to "live large." The award carries a $1,000 prize.
"The Virgin Islands Daily News team's tireless reporting set the standard for what embodies the highest standards of commitment to results," the judges said. "This scrappy newspaper clearly overcame 'significant official resistance to legal application of the First Amendment or FOI laws.' The V.I. Daily News demonstrated both fluency with the local FOI law and tenacity in asserting the public's right to know under the law."
In the Innovator contest, The Arizona Republic became a finalist for the second year with its AZ iPad app of an evening news magazine for the iPad. It will compete with the two other finalists, WLRN-Miami Herald News radio and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, at the annual APME conference in late October for the award. The winner will receive $1,000. The sponsor is GateHouse Media Inc.
WLRN-Miami Herald News radio was selected for its "News as a Shared Experience," and the Dispatch was cited for the "bold, new format" for its print product.
"It was exciting to choose three finalists with such different but innovative projects," the judges said. "It shows again how news organizations are willing to adapt and innovate to meet of the changing needs of their audiences."
APME also announced award winners in three other innovation categories as well as Digital Storytelling, International Perspective and others. Awards will be presented at the awards luncheon Oct. 30 during the conference in Indianapolis.
Judges did not participate in discussions or vote on categories involving their own news organizations' entries.
Here are the winners:
43rd Annual Public Service:
—Winner of Public Service Best of Show and $1,500: The Asbury Park Press, "Superstorm Sandy."
Under 40,000 circulation:
—Winner: The Virgin Islands Daily News, "Our Money, Their Failure."
—Honorable mentions: The Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Ark., "Mayflower Oil Spill"; and The Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, "Making a Difference in the Life of Every Child."
40,000 to 149,000 circulation:
—Winner: The Asbury Park Press, "Superstorm Sandy."
—Honorable mention: The Columbus Dispatch, "Credit Scars."
Over 150,000 circulation:
—Winner: The New York Times, "Unlocked."
—Honorable mentions: The Denver Post, "Failed to Death"; and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Side Effects."
Judges: Bob Heisse, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.; Otis Sanford, Hardin Chair of Excellence in Journalism, University of Memphis, Tenn.; and AP Managing Editor Kristin Gazlay.
Finalists for the Seventh Annual Innovator of the Year:
—The Arizona Republic, for its AZ app of an evening news magazine for the iPad.
—WLRN-Miami Herald News radio, for its "News as a Shared Experience."
—Columbus Dispatch, for its bold, new print format.
Judges: Joe Hight, editor, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Meg Downey, managing editor, The Tennessean, Nashville; George Rodrigue, managing editor, The Dallas Morning News, and Laura Kessel, managing editor, News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio.
Second Annual Innovator of the Year Awards for Radio and TV
—Winner: Cognoscenti, sponsored by WBUR in Boston, for its platform which takes the concept of "letters to the editor" and infuses it with performance-enhanced perspectives.
Judges: Martin Reynolds, senior editor- community engagement, Bay Area News Group, Oakland, Calif.; Elbert Tucker, director of News, WBNS-10TV, Columbus, Ohio; and Greg Peppers, AP executive producer, domestic video.
Second Annual Innovator of the Year Award for College Students
—Winner: "Campus Lifeline: A Report on College Suicide," a project of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University. The special project examined suicide, the second-leading cause of death among college students.
Judges: Chris Cobler, editor, Victoria (Texas) Advocate; Angie Muhs, executive editor/Interactive, Portland (Maine) Press Herald; and Martin Reynolds, senior editor- community engagement, Bay Area News Group, Oakland, Calif.
Fourth Annual Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism
Winners in the Fourth annual Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism. Each will receive $2,500 in prize money:
—75,000 and below winner: The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y., "District in Crisis."
—Above 75,000 winner: The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, "Battle Lines: Gangs of Toledo."
Judges: Alan Miller, managing editor, The Columbus Dispatch; Jim Simon, assistant managing editor, The Seattle Times; Debra Adams Simmons, editor, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer; Brad Dennison, president/large daily division, GateHouse Media Inc.; and Kurt Franck, executive editor, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.
43rd Annual First Amendment Award and Citations
The Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes Award. The winner will receive $1,000 in prize money.
Winner: The Virgin Islands Daily News, "The Battle for V.I. Senators' Spending Records."
Winner: The Wall Street Journal, "Watched."
Winner: The Tennessean, Nashville, "Department of Children's Services Special Report."
Honorable mention: The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., "Ernest Withers' Secret."
Winner: The Virgin Islands Daily News, "The Battle for V.I. Senators' Spending Records."
Judges: Teri Hayt, executive editor, GateHouse Media Ohio, Canton Repository; AP Senior Managing Editor Mike Oreskes; Andrew Oppmann, adjunct professor of journalism, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Mark Baldwin, executive editor, Rockford (Ill.) Register Star; Bill Church, executive editor, Herald-Tribune Media Group, Sarasota, Fla.; Bob Heisse, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.; and AP corporate counsel Vikram Bhagat.
Digital Storytelling Awards (previously Digital Storytelling and Reporting Awards)
Winner: The Detroit Free Press, for its examination of the defunct Packard Plant, "now home to graffiti artists, illegal dumpers, scrappers, urban explorers and thieves who rob and mug them, arsonists, firefighters who risk their lives and camera crews from around the world."
Honorable mention: The Seattle Times, "Glamour Beasts."
Honorable mention: The Boston Globe, "68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope."
—40,000 to 149,999:
Winner: The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., for its digital narrative telling the dramatic story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s last hours before his assassination.
Honorable mention: The Roanoke (Va.) Times, "The Damage Done: How heroin claimed one young life and devastated another."
Honorable mention: The Tennessean, Nashville, "Abortion in Tennessee."
—Less Than 40,000:
Winner: Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, for its coverage of two missing girls and the long, tragic search that followed.
Honorable mention: Press & Sun Bulletin, Binghamton, N.Y., "The Face of Courage."
Judges: Laura Sellers-Earl, digital development director, EO Media Group, Astoria, Ore.; Monica Richardson, managing editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and Alan English, publisher, Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Ark.
International Perspective Awards
Winner: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Paper Cuts," John Schmid and Mike De Sisti.
—40,000 to 149,999
Winner: Omaha World-Herald, "China Connection," Paul Goodsell and Matt Miller.
Winner: Argus-Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D., "South Dakota to South Sudan," Steve Young,
Judges: Jim Simon, assistant managing editor, The Seattle Times; Gary Graham, editor, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.; AP Senior Vice President John Daniszewski; and Jack Lail, director of digital, Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel.