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A Buffalo News columnist and a graphic artist each won first-place awards in the New York State Associated Press Association 1999-2000 contest, and three other staffers placed second for their work in the large-newspaper division of the statewide competition.

Artist Daniel Zakroczemski, whose distinctive work appears throughout the newspaper, won first, second and honorable mention awards in the over-50,000 circulation graphics category.

The first place award was for a First Sunday magazine cover on summer vacation for which Zakroczemski earlier won a national award from the Sunday Magazine Editors Association.

Zakroczemski's taking the second-place award in the same category and an honorable mention means he won three of four available awards.

Local news columnist Donn Esmonde tied for first place for a collection of his columns. The other winner was Ian O'Connor of the Journal-News in White Plains.

Zakroczemski, a Buffalo native, joined The News in 1998 and has received numerous honors since. Esmonde, hired by The News as a sports columnist, became a local news columnist in 1994. He has been honored by the state AP association and the New York State Publishers Association for his work.

The News competes in the difficult over-125,000-circulation writing category that includes the New York Times, Long Island's Newsday and other large downstate papers. It also won second-place honors for depth reporting and editorial cartooning.

Staff Reporters Michael Beebe and Dan Herbeck were nipped by the New York Daily News, but placed ahead of the New York Times for a series of stories in the depth reporting category on Buffalo Bills fans. The category winner was on troubled teenagers, and the Times entry was about how hard medical interns work.

Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Toles took second in the editorial cartooning category for several examples of his work.

Also in the graphics category, for spot news presentation, News artist Vincent J. Chiaramonte placed third for his design of a page commemorating the career of former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

In the photography competition, in the over-50,000-circulation category, Harry Scull Jr. won third place in sports photos for a picture titled "Loose Ball."

Honorable mention awards also went to editorial writer Kevin Walter for his work on the Health Care Reform Act and features reporter Lauri Githens for her First Sunday story about deciding to give birth.

The awards were presented Wednesday at the NYSAPA meeting in Albany.

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