SERIOUSLY GOOD JOURNALIST - Demonstrating that doing good and important work can also involve having fun, The Beacon staff clowns a bit after picking up prize hardware at the Florida Press Association convention in Sarasota. From left are Publisher Barb Shepherd, and writers Eli Witek, Noah Hertz and Al Everson.

The West Volusia Beacon won six awards for local news coverage at the Florida Press Association Media Conference Weekly Newspaper Contest in Sarasota.

The annual contest had 1,167 entries from 51 Florida weekly newspapers, and was judged by newspaper professionals from all over the country. 

During the conference July 14-16, three Beacon staffers were honored with three first places, one second place and two third places.

Beacon reporter Al Everson took home a third-place award for COVID-19 general news coverage for his story Justice on hold: Pandemic is creating a huge backlog in criminal cases.

The West Volusia Beacon did an excellent job with its report on delayed trials, postponed hearings and added costs in the running of a key component of a free society,” one judge commented.

Beacon reporter Eli Witek took home a total of four awards — in addition to a special award — for news coverage, including a third-place award for in-depth, non-investigative reporting for Keeping kids out of jail: Local police are making uneven progress; a first-place award for agricultural and environmental reporting for the story Ghost forest: A battle between environmentalists and bass anglers locks the Ocklawaha in purgatory; a second-place award for online breaking news coverage for the story Police, citizens clash after peaceful DeLand memorial block party; and a first-place award for general news story for the story ‘I fit a description’: Deltona man detained while jogging.

“Very well-written, well-organized and a complete package with concise sidebars,” the judge said about the Ocklawaha story.

The story about Deltona man Joseph Griffin, who was pulled over by sheriff’s deputies for fitting the description of a wanted individual, also won the Gwen Stevenson Memorial Award for news coverage. Stevenson, the award’s namesake, was editor of the Suncoast News for more than 10 years.

“Overall, an article the writer can be proud of,” the judge commented on the story about the Deltona man.

Beacon reporter Noah Hertz also took home a first-place award for breaking news for his story Black Lives Matter protest and counter-protest in Crawfordville Saturday covering a June 2020 protest and counterprotest in Crawfordville that Hertz wrote while working for The Wakulla News in Wakulla County. "Very important topic during this time and handled brilliantly," the judges wrote. Sharing the award with Hertz was photographer Hali Tauxe for her coverage of the event.

The Beacon thanks all of its subscribers for supporting award-winning local journalism and keeping the lights on so we can shed a light on all of West Volusia.