The Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized the Jewish Exponent as the best non-daily newspaper in the state for the second year in a row, citing its "brilliant" cover design and graphics, diverse mix of stories and overall readability.
Executive editor Lisa Hostein called the honor "truly gratifying."
"This shows that even with our limited staff and resources, we are able to provide our community with a top-notch product, a 'must read' for anyone who cares about what's going on in Jewish Philadelphia," Hostein said.
While most journalism contests pit newspapers against other publications of similar size, the SPJ Keystone Pro Chapter "Spotlight Contest" only has two categories: daily and non-daily.
"Pete Seeger next to Tea Party on cover -- that's diversity!" one judge commented, citing one 2010 edition.
In addition to "best weekly," staff members received nine other state honors between the annual SPJ competition and the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association's Keystone Awards. Awards for both competitions were presented during an association conference in State College on May 21.
Staff members also won five additional awards from the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
In the Keystones, staff writer Bryan Schwartzman raked in three awards: first place general news reporting for non-dailies with "Cemetery Ad Stirs Up a Stinging Controversy," which reported the adverse reaction to a funeral home touting cremation as an option; second place news feature for "It's a Distinct Sign of the Times," a piece about the demise of a longstanding Conservative synagogue in Havertown; and second place for news beat reporting for his coverage of the 2010 elections.
Two freelancers made waves in the sports category: Allison Kaplan Sommer took second place for "Her Life in the Fast Lane, as a Professional Ball Player," about a local woman playing professional basketball in Israel; and Jared Shelly earned an honorable mention for a profile of basketball statistician Harvey Pollack, "The Sage of Statistics at Every Sixers Game."
SPJ's Philly chapter also honored Schwartzman's cemetery story with a second place in deadline reporting; and Kaplan Sommer's basketball feature with a third place in its sports writing category.
In headline writing, senior editor Robert Leiter won a Keystone for his clever one-liners, which included "Parsing the Language of Names," "The Environmental Pecking Order," and "Calamine Lotion, Bug Juice, Maybe Even an 'I Do.' "
In the SPJ's statewide Spotlight contest, Managing Editor Carin Smilk won a second place award in the feature category for "Islamophobia? Not in This Quiet Neighborhood," an exploration of the symbiotic relationship between a neighboring shul and mosque in Chester County that judges called "a hopeful" look at "the possibility of overcoming religious intolerance."
She also garnered a second place from SPJ Philly for the same story.
In that same category, "Inside Magazine" contributor Kit Feldman took third place statewide for "Doing Time, Keeping Faith" about Jewish life in prison.
Freelancer Jared Shelly also garnered second place honors in the sports category for his Pollack profile.
In the local SPJ contest, freelancer Fredda Sacharow won third place for non-deadline writing for "From a Chaotic Life to a New One of Familiar Order," a profile of a young African-American woman who overcame challenges with the help of a Jewish family."
Said Hostein, who won third place in the SPJ Philly contest for editorial writing,"The individual accolades reaffirm the value of focusing our energy on local coverage, reporting in depth on issues that matter -- from politics to the changing nature of our Jewish community."