Blank Slate Media received 15 awards for excellence in journalism at the Press Club of Long Island awards dinner in Smithtown last Thursday – more than any other weekly group on Long Island.
The company, which publishes six weekly newspapers covering the North Shore in Nassau County, won first place for crime reporting, education reporting, nonlocal news/features, humor and headlines, second place for entertainment, environment, headlines, website home page designs and best website, and third for breaking news, cartoons, editorials, commentary, government/politics, headlines and humor.
Steven Blank, editor and publisher of Blank Slate Media, said: “I am very proud of the staff and their work. I am very happy for the recognition they have received.”
On Blank Slate winning in so many categories, Blank said, “It pretty much covers the waterfront for what papers do.” Citing the company’s best performance to date at the ceremony, Blank commended the organization’s “commitment to quality reporting and editing.”
Blank Slate Media cartoonist Matt Bodkin won third place in the “Cartoon” division for his visual “That’s the Home Economics Teacher.”
Reporters Janelle Clausen, Amelia Camurati, Rebecca Klar and Luke Torrance placed first in the “Education Reporting” division for their coverage of North Shore schools.
Camurati covered the Parkland shooting’s effects on North Shore schools’ safety protocols in her article “Parkland shooting sparks North Shore school safety reviews.”
For “North Shore schools see fewer ELA opt-outs than Nassau average,’ the four reporters worked together to research the ELA opt-out rates at schools in their coverage area.
Clausen compared how much each district pays per student in her article “Proposed North Shore school spending varies widely.”
Clausen, Camurati and Torrance also shared first place in the “Crime and Justice” division.
Clausen followed a slaying in her article “Police investigating fatal stabbing of woman in Great Neck.”
Camurati reported that a Nassau county judge had released a murder suspect weeks before committing a murder/kidnapping.
Torrance connected former Flower Hills Mayor John Walter with President Donald Trump’s alleged tax schemes for an article.
Having placed in multiple categories Clausen said, “Doing journalism in and of itself is rewarding, but seeing my colleagues and I be honored for our work is amazing too. They’re the hardest working people I know and deserve that recognition.”
Clausen placed third in the “Government/Politics” division for an article showing how political alignments are shifting due to demographic changes.
Clausen said, “We try to do stories that matter to our readers. I think the judges recognized that.”
Reporter Teri West won third place in the “Breaking News” division for an article in the Manhasset Times titled “Manhasset couple dies in plane crash.” It covered the deaths of Jodi Cohen and Dr. L Michael Graver in a Massachusetts plane crash.
The plane crash was West’s 12th story for the paper. “To be honored for something I covered so early in my career is pretty special,” she said. She reflected on how packed their funeral was, symbolizing how important they were to the community, and how it drove her to take great care with the story.
Blank won third place in the “Editorial/Commentary” division for his editorial “Library district says no to hate.”
On what makes his publications special, Blank said, “It’s news that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s sort of a commitment. It’s providing coverage to local people.”
Grace McQuade placed second in the “Entertainment” division for her pieces “A concert as sweet as cream,” “John Oates return to music roots” and “98 Degrees heats up the holidays again.”
Patti Wood placed second in the “environment” division for her column “Water and politics don’t mix in N.Y. State.”
For headlines, Blank Slate Media won all three places. The first was Klar’s headline in the New Hyde Park Herald Courier “Kinkajous and porcupines, oh my!” The second and third were Blank’s “False prophets, fake bomb at exec building” headline in the Williston Times and “Schools see big pressure, little help from state” headline in the New Hyde Park Herald Courier.
Blank Slate Media columnist Judy Epstein won first place for her column “Making sure no leftovers left behind” and third for “The adventures of prince valium.” Klar also won first place for her feature “Dad needed a kidney. I had 1 to give.” The feature was a personal story of Klar’s decision to donate a kidney to her father.
Blank Slate also won second place for both Best Website and Website Homepage Design, second only to Newsday and Long Island Weekly. T
o Blank, to be recognized for this work is important for a community newspaper in the digital age. On the changing media landscape, Blank said, “It’s a challenging job in a challenging time.”