The Winter Park-Maitland Observer won awards for its reporting in five categories at the Florida Press Association Better Weekly Newspaper awards on Friday, July 11, in Coral Gables.
Turnstile Media Group’s Community Media Division shared in winning nine FPA awards between the Observer and its sister paper the Seminole Voice.
• Associate Editor Sarah Wilson won first place for the Observer in the Community History category for her story “Revisiting the spirit of Jack Kerouac,” which elucidated the efforts of modern writers to keep the spirit of the famed author alive in the College Park home that inspired his most famous works. One judge remarked that her story was “head and shoulders above” her competition in the category.
• Managing Editor Isaac Babcock won first place for the Observer in Agricultural and Environmental Reporting for “Resurrecting the Senator,” which reconstructed the history of a lost project that would, by fate, give a 3,500-year-old cypress tree a perfect clone to grow its legacy after a fire destroyed it in 2012.
• Staff writer Brittni Larson placed third for the Observer in the Health, Medical and Science Reporting category for “Local docs fight to end risky elective deliveries,” chronicling the push by doctors touting the health benefits of natural deliveries, going against the medical establishment.
• Associate Editor Tim Freed won first place for the Seminole Voice in Faith and Family Reporting for his two-part series “Life after the clock runs out,” and “The home that keeps kids from jail,” following the organizations in Seminole County that keep kids safe from dangerous family environments. "In a category with over two-dozen entries, this two-part series was the clear winner," a judge wrote. "Tim Freed is an excellent writer...and is able to capture the hope, and desperate need, for an organization that aims to provide support for at-risk children and teens. Solid work."
• Wilson also placed second for the Observer in the Faith and Family category for her story “Pinwheels for a purpose,” which followed a family’s daily life as they ran a floral shop and raised money to fight Down syndrome, which affects their son. "Sarah Wilson delivers the whole package with this touching, well-written feature story, complemented with strong photography," wrote one judge.
• Freed also won first place for the Seminole Voice in the Arts, Entertainment and Review Reporting category for “Remembering a dark Sunday,” a profile of a group of preteen girls who created a dance routine to honor the victims of the Birmingham church bombing in 1963. One of the judges commented, "Wow...this story really captured not only an emotional dance routine, but also the emotion of a historic event that led to the dance. Excellent storytelling."
• Babcock also placed third for the Observer in Arts, Entertainment and Review Reporting for “Ageless Ambition,” profiling artist Josh Garrick’s sudden ascent to worldwide acclaim for his photography.
• Babcock and Freed won first place for the Seminole Voice in the Sports Feature Story category for “Running with heart: a coach’s survival story,” retelling the story of the day Oviedo track and field coach Tom Hammontree came close to death while watching his team compete, and delving into how a heart transplant saved his life and helped him keep coaching.
• Columnist Karen McEnany-Phillips placed second for the Voice in the Serious Column category for “Kids House leads child advocacy,” commenting on the frustrating fight to end child abuse and helping connect readers with organizations that can stop it. "Good column, with a knockout lede," wrote one judge. "[Phillips] took a serious national topic and made it intensely local."