The honor is one of five given by the Keystone Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for work done in 2009.
In a separate statewide competition, the Exponent received five Keystone Press Awards, including second place in the category of "Niche Publication."
Executive editor Lisa Hostein earned first place for editorial writing in both state contests.
In addition, SPJ-Keystone bestowed the staff with first place for enterprise reporting among weeklies. The newspaper's yearlong series, "Tough Times Hit Home," focused on the myriad ways the recession was affecting the local Jewish community.
Staff writers Bryan Schwartzman and Aaron Passman were the lead writers in the series, probing the economic impact on Jewish philanthropies, organizations and educational institutions; on summer-camp enrollment and simcha celebrations; on the delivery of social services; and on the economic and emotional toll taken on the unemployed and their families.
Other contributors to the series included former staffer Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg, who wrote of the recession's impact on senior citizens, and freelancer Fredda Sacharow, who probed how synagogues were dealing with the financial fallout.
The Keystone Press Awards also honored "Tough Times Hit Home" with second place in its series category.
The Keystone awards, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, also honored:
· Staff writer Aaron Passman, who garnered second place in business reporting for "It's Pricey; Still, You Do It for the Holiday," which examined the high cost of purchasing kosher-for-Passover food.
· Managing editor Carin M. Smilk, who won first place in the headline-writing category for "Sea Sees Water Slipping Away," a story about Israel's dwindling water resources; "A Merry Little Chanukah?" which focused on intermarried families raising their children Jewishly, though celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas; and "Hungry to Send a Message, Eco-Friendly Bus Makes Most of Leftovers," about a vehicle that runs on vegetable oil being used to highlight environmental awareness.
The SPJ-Keystone awards also recognized:
· Staff writer Bryan Schwartzman, who got second place for spot news for "Saligman Saved as Merger Deal Comes Undone in 11th Hour," about the decision in March 2009 to keep open the Saligman Middle School of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School.
· Features editor Michael Elkin, who earned second place in the headline category for "Sundays With a Cherub on Top," a piece on actor Billy Crystal and his local appearance in the show "700 Sundays."