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The Buffalo News won the top two places in the columns category, two first place awards for graphics and eight other awards in the 1996-97 New York State Associated Press Association annual contest.

The awards were presented at the association's annual meeting Thursday in Saratoga Springs.

Jeff Simon won first place in competition among columnists from newspapers with more than 150,000 circulation, while Donn Esmonde placed second.

"Buffalo is lucky to have these two columnists; I was unlucky enough to have to choose between them," wrote the judge, who reviewed columns from New York City newspapers.

Alison Tranbarger and Jerry Goldberg won first place in news presentation for their front page design of Jumbletron, the collapse of the Jumbotron at the Marine Midland Arena. Daniel Zakroczemski and John Davis won first place in graphic illustration for the Night of the Living Bed.

In the editorials category, editorial writer George Gates took third place for his assessment of the fallout from the State Court of Appeals decision on back pay for Buffalo teachers, while colleague Larry Paul received honorable mention for his commentary on "The Blosat Verdict."

The News also won third place in the business/finance category for stories by Niki Cervantes and Rose Ciotta about the inequities in property tax assessments in Erie County.

Among photographers for newspapers with circulation over 50,000, Robert Kirkham of The News won second place in the features category, Mike Groll won second place in sports and James P. McCoy took second place in portraits and personalities.

In the category of informational graphic, non-spot news, Allen Dise and Chris Fisher received honorable mention for Operation Northern Lights.

Glynis Sweeney and John Davis received honorable mention in the g category for their Uncivil Wars.

Four other Western New York newspapers received awards.

In the 25,000 to 50,000 circulation division, the Niagara Gazette took third prize in depth reporting.

Among newspapers under 25,000 circulation, the Batavia Daily News received honorable mention in editorials, the Olean Times-Herald took third prize in continuing coverage and the Jamestown Post-Journal received an honorable mention in continuing coverage.

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