A hard-hitting series of reports that overcame numerous hurdles, unearthed several questionable street addresses, and ultimately overturned a tainted state basketball championship earned New Times a coveted Green Eyeshade award on Saturday, April 24.
The 1999 award for investigative reporting went to staff writer Robert Andrew Powell for his series of stories on the Miami High School boys basketball program. The series and the resulting Florida High School Activities Association investigation prompted the FHSAA to nullify the Stingarees' victory in the 1998 state championship game.
Staff writer Ted B. Kissell also won a first-place award in the nondeadline reporting category for his story "Parking and Politics." The contest, which recognized the best work published in 1998, is open to all media in eleven Southern states and is sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
They were the newspaper's fifth and sixth Green Eyeshades, considered the most prestigious journalism award New Times can actually win. They resulted from a combination of sophisticated computer analysis and old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.
"This is what newspapers are supposed to do," editor Jim Mullin told his champagne-soaked staff, "and it's especially sweet when you do what you're supposed to do and then get recognized with the highest honor in journalism ... that we can actually win."
Said publisher Michael Cohen: "Some of us are entitled to feel somewhat prouder today."
Miami High easily won the 1998 state championship, but its roster was stocked with ineligible transfer students. Sensing something amiss, Powell launched a major investigation. Although Florida law prohibited public release of students' addresses, the paper obtained a list and filtered it through sophisticated techniques of street-map analysis.
For his story in the non-deadline category, Kissell also sensed something amiss, but not so urgently.
Staff writer Jim DeFede sensed something amiss about state Sen. Daryl Jones's nomination to become Secretary of the Air Force. Unfortunately in the reporting of his Jones series, DeFede could not overcome numerous hurdles. As a result he was merely a finalist in the investigative reporting category.
Staff writer Kathy Glasgow was a finalist in the sports reporting division for her story "Lord of the Ring," a profile of Miami boxing historian Hank Kaplan. "I probably would have won if I had sensed something amiss," Glasgow said, "but there were just too many hurdles to overcome."
Other winners of the Green Eyeshade award included the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, the Palm Beach Post, and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. The Miami Herald failed to win in any category.
"I'm going to sound very pontifical here, but I believe that the whole point of journalism is to search for truth," said former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, when telephoned for comment on our triumph. "Winning an award in any form doesn't mean a darn thing. It might actually be a great disservice done to the community."
Then, after a fourteen-minute soliloquy on basketball, absentee ballots, Janet Reno, car shopping, and parking meters, he abruptly hung up.