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TimesLedger Newspapers win 14 awards for coverage

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The TimesLedger Newspapers won 14 awards in the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for 2003, including four first-place awards, two of them for photography and two for news coverage.

The honors were announced last weekend at the association’s annual convention in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

While the chain of 14 weekly Queens newspapers continued its strong performance in award categories for writing, this was the first year it won for photography as well.

“It’s a measure of the ongoing improvement of the papers,” said Steven Blank, who bought the Bayside Times and Little Neck Ledger in 1989 and then gradually opened the other publications. “The visual presentation has caught up with the content.”

In photography, Frank Koester won first place for sports action photo for the Ridgewood Times with a shot taken during a championship high school football game between Christ the King and Holy Cross. Uli Seit won first place for spot news photo for the Bayside Times and third place for sports action photo for the Jamaica Times.

For the spot news award, Seit photographed the son and grandfather of a Flushing firefighter killed in a fire, and a contest judge said the shot was a “fine moment” but “brutally painful to look at.” In the sports action photo, Seit shot a high school soccer game between Long Island City and Aviation High School.

This year reporter Courtney Dentch won first place in spot news coverage for the Jamaica Times. She filed a breaking story on the fatal shooting of City Councilman James Davis with the help of reports filed by staffers after the newspapers had left for the printer.

The entire TimesLedger editorial staff won first place for the Bayside Times for what a judge called “knockout coverage” of the August blackout that engulfed Queens and the eastern half of the United States.

The contest drew 3,937 entries from 193 newspapers and was judged by members of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, with the newspapers separated into different contest divisions based on circulation.

In-depth reporting, feature writing and sports writing by the chain’s staff were all honored, categories in which Blank said his reporters traditionally excelled.

“We don’t take it for granted, but as the awards indicate, we have one of the strongest departments of any weekly newspaper in the country,” said Blank, a former president of the association.

Reporters also took home three second-place awards. The staff won for in-depth reporting for a 14-part series on hunger in Queens, Tien-Shun Lee for a feature story on exiled Iraqi Jews living in the borough and sports writer Dylan Butler for a feature on two young basketball players from Queens whose efforts to keep their mother off drugs were chronicled in a short film nominated for an Oscar.

Judges called the hunger series “very compelling,” said Lee had a “good eye for an interesting story” and complimented Butler for understanding “that people are the story.”

Lee also took third place in the coveted Writer of the Year category. Judges said her news and feature work “showed a consistent quality rare among the 90 contestants for this award.”

Sports Editor Anthony Bosco captured third place as Sports Writer of the Year. The judges said his submissions demonstrated “great depth of coverage/feature skills.”

The Jamaica Times won third place for its editorial page, the Flushing Times gained third place for best front page and Tip Sempliner snagged third place for an editorial cartoon for the Bayside Times on how the SARS epidemic has affected borough mosquitoes.

Rounding out the winners, the Whitestone Times took second place for classified advertising.

As he prepared to open two newspapers in Jackson Heights and Woodside April 15, Blank said he was proud of his staff.

Said Blank: “I think we’re really operating on all cylinders.”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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