A report detailing how a conservative Tallahassee think-tank shapes land-use politics in Florida has earned the Orlando Weekly and staff reporter Edward Ericson Jr. the top prize for investigative reporting among weeklies last year from the Florida Press Association.
The honor, announced June 13, was among 14 state and national awards -- including four for first place -- collected by Orlando Weekly staff members in two competitions whose winners were announced simultaneously in Daytona Beach and Washington, D.C.
At the state level, Ericson, Orlando Weekly's investigative reporter, was honored for Money Talking, which examined the financing and influence of The Madison Institute to reveal a compelling pattern. "In short," he concluded, "the Madison Institute is not a non-partisan, nonpolitical idea mill, but a sophisticated mouthpiece for five of the state's largest businesses, including Florida's largest land owner."
In addition, Ericson received a first-place award for environmental or conservation reporting for The Color of Money. That report examined development interests who had positioned themselves as environmental activists to push for government buyouts of land surrounding the polluted Lake Apopka. And Ericson received a third place for in-depth news reporting for Citizen Pain, an analysis of how federal welfare reform harms Central Florida's migrant workers.
The state association also awarded Orlando Weekly first place for overall graphic design, which recognized the work of Design Director Jessica T. Haland.
Other state honors:
Second place, Community Service, for the newspaper's promotion and staging of the inaugural Orlando Music Awards last October.
Third Place, Special Issue or Section, for the Orlando Music Awards program designed by Haland and conceived and written by Lindy T. Shepherd, Orlando Weekly's former Arts Editor and current Online Editor.
Third Place, Humorous Column, to Juice columnist Liz Langley.
Third place, General Excellence, recognizing the newspaper's overall content and design.
All state honors were awarded in competition with weeklies of 12,000 or more circulation.
Meanwhile, in the nation's capital, a competition sponsored by the national Association for Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) bestowed additional honors on Orlando Weekly in competition from among its 120 member papers.
Langley, the irrepressible back-page columnist who last year took top honors at AAN's annual convention, this year earned a second place for a portfolio of columns published in 1997. "Employing real wit and a quirky point of view, Langley even had some fresh things to say about such oft-explored subjects du jour as Barbie and (especially) the Versace murder," wrote judges who selected her work, and who included Editor James Fallows of U.S. News and World Report and op-ed columnist Frank Rich of The New York Times.
And Ericson's "Money Talking" was again awarded at the national level, this time with an honorable mention in the category of political reporting, whose winners were chosen in part by Bruce Shapiro of The Nation and Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair.
The editorial honors were awarded in competition with newspapers with a circulation under 54,000.
Also collecting multiple honors in AAN's annual advertising and promotional design awards was Orlando Weekly Art Director Lori Cope-Hamm, who captured a first, second and third place prize in two separate categories. And editorial Design Director Haland received an honorable mention for her design of the 1997 "Best of Orlando" project.