The Orlando Sentinel won a first-place award from the American Society of News Editors on Wednesday for its in-depth reporting on race relations in Central Florida following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Reporters Martin Comas, Arelis Hernandez and Kate Santich won the Freedom Forum/ASNE Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity. The award, one of journalism’s top honors, came with a $2,500 prize.
The reporters’ work was part of the seven-part “In the Shadow of Race” series, which was published from July through October 2012 and examined issues such as the history of racial tensions in Sanford, the stereotypes battled by young black men and the blurring of ethnic identities.
In announcing the award, the society’s judges wrote that the Sentinel’s “multi-platform series not only tackles the history of race relations, but also delves into the complexity of ethnicity and race in order to shatter stereotypical myths. The reporters and editors accomplished this under tough conditions — a tragic shooting that went viral internationally.”
Sentinel Editor Mark Russell said he was “ecstatic” about the award.
“I’m happy we were recognized for something we put a lot of hard work into,” Russell said. “It’s an affirmation of what we do.”
Several other Sentinel staffers contributed to the series, including writers Hal Boedeker, Jeff Kunerth, Darryl Owens and Anika Myers Palm. Photographer Gary Green shot photos and video, and videographer Sean Pitts shot and edited video.
The series was edited by Kim Marcum and Sal Recchi with photography editor Cassie Armstrong. Interactive content and print design were produced by Todd Stewart.
“In the Shadow of Race” was prompted by the February 2012 death of Trayvon, a black 17-year-old who was shot and killed in Sanford by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
News outlets from around the world covered marches and rallies in Sanford sparked by Trayvon’s death, but Russell said a diverse team of Sentinel staffers was asked to take a deeper look at how Central Florida is affected by race.
Russell said a goal of the series was to prompt conversations about race, stereotypes and the state’s “stand your ground” law.
In addition to the series, the Sentinel hosted a forum on race relations at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford. More than 200 people attended.
The Sentinel won its last ASNE award in 2007.
The Washington Post and the Argus (S.D.) Leader were finalists for the diversity award. The South Florida Sun Sentinel was a finalist for the society’s Distinguished Writing Award for Local Accountability Reporting for a series on police officers driving at excessive speeds — both on and off duty.
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