Heralds receive top honors in 2019 Press Club of Long Island contest

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Herald Community Newspapers took home top honors in the Press Club of Long Island’s annual Media Awards competition on June 6. Honors were presented before a crowd of nearly 240 at Watermill Caterers in Smithtown.

“Magical is a term that is perhaps too often used to described such occasions, but I have to say, this truly was a magical night,” said Scott Brinton, the Heralds’ executive editor and the Press Club president.

Among the honors, the Heralds received the Robert Greene W. Greene Award for Public Service, Small Market, for its 13-part, 16,000-word series, “Safety and the Second,” which examined guns and gun culture from all sides — student activists seeking stricter gun laws, gun owners, police, educators and lawmakers.

Among the staffers contributing to the series were Peter Belfiore, Brinton, Christina Daly, Matthew D’Onfrio, Erik Hawkins, Zach Gottehrer-Cohen, Melissa Koenig, Laura Lane, Tyler Marko, Nadya Nataly, Anthony O’Reilly, Brian Stieglitz and Ben Strack.

The award is considered among the Press Club’s highest honors, outside of the Hall of Fame. It is named for famed Newsday two-time Pulitzer Prize investigative reporter and editor Bob Greene.

The Long Beach Herald received third place for Best Community Newspaper. Long Beach Editor Tony Rifilato and former Assistant Editor Bridget Downes, who was recently promoted to editor of the Baldwin Herald, accepted the honor.

Ronny Reyes, reporter for the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, was named the James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year. Reyes, who also earned a first-place honor for Neighborhood News Coverage, lives in Elmont and came to the Herald a year ago out of Stony Brook University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Brinton received first place for Column Writing. He entered three columns: “These Stoneman Douglas survivors really got to me,” “The first job I ever loved” and “Nellie Bly: She came, she wrote, she conquered.”

Brinton and Stieglitz grabbed second place for Editorial Writing for “The enemies at our gates: gangs and pushers.” They co-wrote the piece on community backlash against law enforcement in the wake of a series of MS-13 murders in recent years.

Brinton, Stieglitz, Gottehrer-Cohen and James Mattone received second place for Health Coverage for their in-depth examination of an impending nursing shortage, titled, “Help wanted: Highly skilled nurses.” The four researched and photographed the piece, and Brinton wrote it.

John O’Connell, the Heralds’ former executive editor, who retired in 2016, received the Phil Spahn Award for service to the Press Club and journalism for his years of work to promote journalism and journalists across Long Island.

And Brinton, who is also an adjunct associate professor of journalism at Hofstra University, was re-elected as the Press Club president for his second year of a three-year term.

Press Club Hall of Fame inductees included J. Conrad Williams Jr., of Newsday; Pat Milton, of CBS News and the Associated Press; and Carol Silva, of News 12 Long Island.