By Shoshanna McCollum
The Annual Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) Media Awards were bestowed during a dinner ceremony at Woodbury Country Club on June 7, 2018, where Fire Island News received honors in four separate categories – a record number for this publication within the news year cycle. Two of the awards cite reader contributors as lead recipients. Fire Island News now has a total of six awards from this prestigious professional organization to its credit since 2016. If we have learned anything, there is always a story behind the story for news articles and photographs that cross this threshold, and group decisions are usually the driving force behind them.
Jeremy Brownie, Second Place, Visual/Drone Photography: When an unsolicited photograph arrived in our in-box on a dreary December day in 2016, we knew the vice president of Brownie Companies had sent us something special. The compelling bird’s eye view of a massive house being moved out of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dune line of condemnation in Ocean Bay Park spoke on many levels. The staff considered it for our first cover to open the 2017 season, but creative differences happen within a team of players, and ultimately that idea was nixed. However the publication’s visual design director, Pamela Gurman, was not about to give up. “If we can’t put it on the front cover, we are putting it on the back cover!” she exclaimed. In short order this editor was penning an article to accompany the image, and “Fire Island on the Move!” was born. Because Gurman fought for this image, and created a beautiful page for it, she shares the honor with Brownie, as does this writer/editor.
Lorna Luniewski, Third Place, Narrative/Arts: Luniewski has been our managing editor and eagle-eyed proofreader since 2015. Last year she decided to try her own hand at bylined articles. It did not take long before we were relying upon her for important assignments. When Noel S. Ruiz Theatre invited us to review their production of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” in June of 2017, there was no question about who would be asked to do the job. At first she hesitated, saying she had never reviewed a theater production before. “Lorna, you can do this,” we said. So our managing editor, who proofed countless theater reviews written by others, hit one out of the ballpark first time at bat.
Lauren Chenault, Second Place, Visual/Sports Photography: Chenault has been a staff photographer with this publication since 2016. Her compelling images of the Fire Island Ocean Charity Swim last July had it all – action, drama, and emotion. Fact is we have entered Chenault’s work in PCLI competitions before. The question is not why she won, but what took the PCLI judges so long to recognize what we knew all along?
Trevor Butterworth, Third Place, Visual/ Newspaper Front Page Layout: Last year’s FIN 60 Diamond Anniversary Reader/Contributor Photo Contest sent many beautiful photographs our way last season. Butterworth of Kismet stood out among them early on. The Irish born executive director of Sense About Science sent images to us almost every week. Ultimately he did not win the FIN 60, but it was a true photo finish, as he came in second place by only one vote. In the newsroom we had become fond of Butterworth, and put his image “Stars over Kismet” on our cover as consolation for our final issue of the season. We met him in person for the first time only days ago, as his fellow honoree Chenault took his portrait for this article. “Yeah I was disappointed when I didn’t win last year,” he said. “But this is way better.” Gurman closed out last year’s publishing season much like she started it – fighting for the image. She shares the award with Butterworth, as her graphic design gave his luminous photo of a Kismet house under starry Fire Island skies a home in which to live.
In other PCLI news, Fire Island News columnist Timothy Bolger took home awards that night as well in connection with his work as Editor in Chief of Long Island Press, including the Government/Politics and Crime & Justice categories. “Who is the Girl with the Peach Tattoo?” was a haunting update of the Gilgo Beach murders, penned by Bolger and co-author Christopher Twarowski. Their diligent reporting will not allow these grisly, unsolved crimes to be forgotten.
Fire Island was also the subject of focus for our distinguished colleagues with other news media outlets. Waldo Cabrera of MyLITV won honors in the Video/Education Reporting category for “Ride on the Beach and Go Inside the Fire Island School.” And finally, Fire News – the Suffolk County based publication that serves the fire, rescue, and EMS community – took home a top award as well for “Two Houses Destroyed in Fire Island Pines,” their imagery documenting the fire that devastated the Pines during the early hours of Friday morning, June 16, 2017.
Press Club of Long Island is among the largest professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists in the country. Its mission includes protecting and advocating for First Amendment rights, furthering ethical standards, and offering ongoing training opportunities.
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