First place winner: Musicians (left to right) Thomas Manuel (trumpet) and...

First place winner: Musicians (left to right) Thomas Manuel (trumpet) and Ellis B. Holmes III (drums) travel between gigs in a classic 1957 Plymouth convertible as they perform in outdoor locations around the village of Stony Brook. The "Jazz Loft" staged small, socially distant concerts during the pandemic. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

A team of Newsday reporters took first place in the 87th Annual National Headliner Awards competition for their environmental writing and coverage of "The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit." Photographer Thomas A. Ferrara also won for best Portrait and finished second in the Pictorial category for best photo.

The awards were founded in 1934 by the Press Club of Atlantic City, and the contest is one of the oldest and largest in the nation recognizing journalistic merit in the communications industry. This year's winners were announced Wednesday.

The winning environmental series was reported by David M. Schwartz, Paul LaRocco and Jeffrey Basinger. The judges said of the Grumman plume series: "This is the best of environmental reporting: Painstaking research and determined reporting that unearthed decades of deceit and gross negligence by a corporation and outlined the failures of a number of federal agencies that were responsible for the safety of residents."

Newsday's series on the Grumman Plume led to "a historic agreement"...

Newsday's series on the Grumman Plume led to "a historic agreement" for containment and cleanup, judges noted. Credit: Newsday/Jeffrey Basinger

The series led to action, the judges noted: "Less than a year after publication, a historic agreement was reached to conduct full containment and cleanup of severe problems that threatened Long Island’s sole source of drinking water."

The editor of Newsday, Deborah Henley, said of the winning environmental entry by Schwartz, LaRocco and Basinger: "Paul and David’s relentless reporting over nine months revealed the mostly hidden history of Long Island’s biggest environment crisis. 'Decades of Deceit’ is the definition of watchdog journalism. Working with Jeff, they presented a story that got results — an agreement to address an environmental disaster."

Ferrara took first place in photo Portrait for "Jazz Musicians, Out Cruisin' '" and second place in the Pictorial category for "Raindrops." The judges said of the winning entry: "A photographer captures a genuine moment of everyday life. Color and composition add an element to the winning image than the rest of the other entries. Great work."

Newsday Director of Multimedia Newsgathering, John Keating, said of the winning work by Ferrara: "We are thrilled to see Tom recognized by the National Headliners Association. Tom has a knack for finding the extraordinary moment in an ordinary situation, and his award winning picture, ‘Jazz Musicians, Out Cruisin’ is another example of that."

Other Newsday winners in the competition:

  • The Newsday photo staff, second place in the Staff Photo Portfolio category for "A Season of Protest."
  • Second place in the Multiple Day Photo Story category to J. Conrad Williams Jr. for "Justice for George Floyd protests."
  • Second place to Scott Vogel in Special of Feature Column on One Subject by an Individual for his coverage of Long Island's restaurant scene, from exploring new trends (over the top cookies) to restaurant reviews to the impact of coronavirus on dining out.

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