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Herald staff honored for coverage of I-75 inferno

PALM BEACH — The reaction was swift, the coverage accurate, revealing and explanatory.

When a gasoline tanker truck slid off an Interstate 75 overpass and burst into flames in East Manatee County, the story became much more than a 3,000-degree fire that buckled steel and snarled traffic. People in other vehicles escaped, all southbound lanes were closed, and drivers stood and watched in awe. Then they had to plot alternate routes.

The Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald had the big picture, eyewitness accounts and minute details of the June 4, 2008 accident, including maps of those alternate routes for drivers to ponder over the morning coffee. And because of their work, the news staff was honored Friday with first place in Daily Deadline, Division C, newspapers up to 60,000 circulation, by the Florida Society of News Editors.

A judge of the contest wrote: “Specific, graphic details of a horrific crash, almost minute-by-minute. It puts the reader on the scene. The witnesses’ tales, broken out as individuals, were a great touch.”

Executive Editor Joan Krauter accepted the FSNE award and four others in Palm Beach.

“Our staff won important recognition with these awards for both their print and online work in a challenging year,” Krauter said.

The additional Herald awards:

n Columns, Second Place — Bradenton Herald, Roger Mooney, Baseball

n Page One Design, Third Place — Bradenton Herald, Brent Conklin

n Blog/Online Commentary, Third Place — Bradenton Herald, Brian Neill, Taking Stock

n Online Slideshow, Third Place — Bradenton Herald, Tiffany Tompkins-Condie, MMA Comes of Age in Florida

Lane DeGregory, of the St. Petersburg Times, won the Paul Hansell Award, given annually to an outstanding reporter and writer.

DeGregory was honored for her story, “The Girl in the Window,” about a neglected young girl discovered in a roach-infested room, unable to talk or feed herself, who was adopted by a new family. DeGregory also won a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for the same story.

Pat Gleason, director of Cabinet affairs and special counsel on open government in Gov. Charlie Crist’s office, received the Pete Weitzel/Friends of the First Amendment Award from the First Amendment Foundation.

The foundation awarded its James C. Adkins/Sunshine Litigation Award to Sarasota attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen, for her role in a successful case against the city of Venice for open government violations of the state’s sunshine law.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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