Downtown Express’s coverage of last year’s fatal Deutsche Bank fire earned top awards in the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, whose winners were announced last week in Albany.
“Paper’s coverage of deficiencies and hazards at Deutsche Bank site was relentless and meticulous,” wrote a judge from the North Carolina Press Association, which gave the paper first place in the In-Depth Reporting category. “A blend of plumbing agency records and a solid coverage kept the spotlight on.”
Two days before the Aug. 18 deadly fire, the Express published a news brief pointing out recent Dept. of Buildings violations at the damaged building across from the World Trade Center site, including sanctions for using blow torches too close to combustible materials. Prior to the fire, the Express reported on the high number of safety violations on the project. In June, the paper was the first to report that Charles Maikish, who was then the head of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, warned that the rush to dismantle the building led to a large pipe falling off the building. The paper wrote an editorial prior to the fire calling for better oversight of the project.
Most of the Deutsche Bank articles were written by associate editor Josh Rogers, reporter Julie Shapiro and Skye H. McFarlane, who has since left the paper.
The North Carolina judges were also impressed with the Express’s front-page editorial taking government officials to task for ignoring the danger signs at the project prior to the fire. The paper’s editorials won first place in Division 4, NYPA’s largest circulation category. It was also the paper’s first front-page editorial in its 21-year-old history.
“The Downtown Express did a terrific job seeking accountability, detailing a history and seeking to have a dangerous problem addressed in the deaths of two firefighters,” wrote one judge.
The Express also submitted an editorial backing congestion pricing to help earn the award.
The judges awarded the paper first place honors for Coverage of the Environment. The Downtown Express issues submitted included articles about an idea to park garbage trucks on Pier 40 by Rogers, and two by Shapiro -- the aftermath of a flood at 90 West St., and legislative proposals to reduce pollution in the wake of reports of high asthma rates near the W.T.C.
“Strong, clear writing on relevant well-researched issues,” a judge wrote. “Focused and comprehensive.”
Nick Brooks won a third place spot news photo award for his pictures at the Deutsche Bank fire, including one of a firefighter standing on scaffolding outside the blazing building.
“These are levels above the routine spot photos; composition is about as perfect as you can get,” a judge wrote.
The Express also won two advertising awards. The Dining Out guide took second place in the Multi-Advertiser Pages category. “Great food guide…. Makes it very easy to choose a restaurant,” one judge wrote.
The paper’s ad for Zen Spa took third place in the Best Small Space Ad category. “Grabs hold of you the moment you look at it,” wrote a Carolina judge.
Downtown Express’s sister Community Media L.L.C. publications also did well with The Villager winning first place awards in business coverage, obituaries and headline writing, and Gay City News and Chelsea Now winning awards for political coverage and in-depth coverage. Community Media won 19 awards and finished fourth in the state in total contest points. In all, 170 NYPA newspapers submitted over 3,400 entries.