Valley News Dispatch staffers honored by 3 Pennsylvania media groups

| Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

Valley News Dispatch reporters and photographers received numerous statewide awards on Friday night from the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and the Pennsylvania chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The awards were distributed during the annual Pennsylvania Press Conference in State College.

Valley News Dispatch photographer Eric Felack won a first place PAPME award for his feature photo, “School days begin,” which shows a mother saying goodbye to her child outside an elementary school on the first day of class.

Felack won the third place Spotlight Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in the daily news photography category for “Tragedy averted,” a photo that shows police talking a man out of jumping from the Tarentum Bridge.

VND photographers Jason Bridge and Erica Hilliard Deitz also were honored with SPJ Spotlight awards.

Bridge won first place in the daily feature photo category for “A Higher Calling,” his photo of a worker ascending a ladder at a Brackenridge church. The same photo won a second place Keystone award from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for feature photo.

Deitz won third place in the daily feature photo SPJ category for “Fun in the sun,” a photo of a man spinning his daughter in Harrison Hills Park, and a third place in the SPJ sports photo category for “Showdown set,” a photo of two high school soccer players trying to “head” a ball at the same time.

Writers honored

VND reporters Liz Hayes, Braden Ashe and Brian Rittmeyer won a second-place PAPME award in business writing for “Classes dismissed,” a story about the abrupt closings of the Newport Business Institute and Oakbridge Academy of Arts.

Rittmeyer and Hayes earned a second place PAPME award in spot news reporting for “Tarentum, Kiski miners hurt,” a story about two miners who were injured during a rock fall in a Kiski Township coal mine.

Mary Ann Thomas won a second-place PAPME award in feature writing for “Built on Bricks,” a story about the former General Refractories property in Bell Township.

VND writer Rex Rutkoski won a second-place Keystone award from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for feature beat reporting for his coverage of art and an honorable mention in the same category for his coverage of music. Both awards were for a section of his stories covering arts and music.

VND sportswriter Bill West won a second-place Keystone award for “Ace finds his place,” a sports story about a 31-year-old Leechburg native who gave up a promising pitching career to win big as a full-time poker pro who lives in Las Vegas.

Intern honored

VND reporting intern Emily Balser was honored by the Pennsylvania Women's Press Association on Saturday.

A Point Park University graduate, Balser received a first-place award for a collection of stories.

One focused on a blogger who encourages women to go without makeup. Another was about news that the bald eagle might no longer be endangered in the state. The third story was about a Blawnox business owner who raises money for underprivileged children.

Her stories appeared on the Point Park News Service website and were published by The Allegheny Front and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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