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News staffers top state AP awards with 9 first places

Nine Buffalo News staff members will receive first-place honors this week from the New York State Associated Press Association for their stories, columns, blogs, graphics and photographs.
The News garnered nine first-place awards, more than any other newspaper in its circulation category.
In all, the paper won 21 awards in the 2011-12 writing, graphics and photo contest, tops among large newspapers. The News competes in the largest circulation category against downstate newspapers such as the New York Times, the New York Post and Newsday.
The News was cited for Patrick Lakamp's courthouse coverage, Donn Esmonde's columns, Bills beat reporter Tim Graham's sportswriting and education reporter Mary B. Pasciak's School Zone blog. Also receiving top honors were business reporter Emma Sapong, photographer Derek Gee, deputy editorial page editor Kevin Walter and graphic designer Daniel Zakroczemski.
Lakamp and Esmonde also shared another first-place award, along with Brian Meyer, for their online coverage of Dr. James G. Corasanti's hit-and-run trial.
The News won at least one award in 10 of the 14 writing categories, winning first-place awards in half of the categories.
The awards will be presented Wednesday at the organization's annual meeting in Saratoga Springs.
Esmonde won first place for his columns, marking the fifth time he has won the top award for column writing since 2000 and the 12th time he's received an award in the category since 1989.
His award-winning entry included columns on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the legal injustice done to Lynn DeJac-Peters and the Corasanti verdict.
Lakamp won top honors for beat reporting for his state and county court coverage, becoming the third News reporter since 2005 to have won first place in the category.
Lakamp's coverage included a special report on criminal judges' reversal rates on appeal across upstate New York, the Corasanti trial and accusations that an estate lawyer wrongfully steered money to himself from the estates of the late June M. Farrington and her surviving brother.
With their shared online award, Esmonde and Lakamp are just the third and fourth staffers to win two first-place awards in the same year in the past 25 years of the contest.
Graham achieved the rare feat of winning three awards in the same year.
The sportswriter won a first-place sportswriting award for "Kevin Everett Faces Life After Football," a story about the former Buffalo Bill's life since a devastating injury.
Graham and Bills reporter Mark Gaughan won second place in the sports category for "Bills Bounty System Alleged."
And Graham won a third-place award for feature writing for his account of mother-and-son hoarders in Niagara Falls,
Education reporter Pasciak won top honors in the blogging category for her School Zone blog, the second year in a row she has won top honors in the category.
Walter, the paper's deputy editorial page editor, was the only winner in the editorial category, for his "Crisis in Our Schools" series. It is Walter's fifth first-place award for editorial writing, and ninth award overall, since 2000.
Sapong won first-place honors in the business/financial reporting category for her report on how immigrant entrepreneurs from India, many with the same last name of Patel, now dominate the hospitality industry here and around the nation. Her award is The News' fourth first-place award in the business category in the past six years and marks the 11th straight year the paper has won an award of some type in the category,
Gee, the paper's chief photographer, won first place in spot news photography for his photo of a father looking out of his daughter's bedroom window, which was shattered by vandals in race-related attacks in the Lovejoy neighborhood.
Gee also won a second-place photography award in the portraits and personalities category.
Zakroczemski won a first-place award in the graphic illustration category. He won top honors for illustrating a Spotlight piece by sports columnist Jerry Sullivan, who spent a week reading about sex, swimsuits and weight loss in women's magazines.
Zakroczemski has won at least one award in the annual contest in seven of the last eight years.
Three News staffers won second-place awards for their reporting:
Albany News Bureau reporter Tom Precious for beat reporting, for his coverage of state government; Sandra Tan for continuing coverage, for her stories about the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old who had struggled with bullying and had threatened suicide multiple times; and Scott Scanlon for business reporting, for his series of stories on the threat posed to businesses by the expansion of casinos.
Leah Samol won a second-place graphics award in the news presentation-non-spot category for "Blacklisted in Buffalo," which detailed FBI surveillance of Buffalo's Milton Rogovin and Manny Fried.
Rod Watson won a third-place award for his columns, his seventh award overall in that category since 1998.
Rich Donaldson of The News' copydesk won a third-place award for his headline, Degrees of Debt - Rising Bankruptcy Rates and a Lack of Jobs Among Holders of Bachelor's Degrees Leave Many Asking, "Is College Worth It?"
Donaldson is the 10th News staffer since 2002 to have won an award in the brightest headline category.
Six staffers who contributed to the Politics Now blog won third place in the blogging category: Aaron Besecker, Denise Jewell Gee, Robert J. McCarthy, Jerry Zremski, Precious and Meyer.
In the photography category for features, photographer Harry Scull Jr. won third place for his photo of 7-year-old quadruplets waving at a passing fire truck during a Clarence Center parade.
Design director Vince Chiaramonte won third place in the graphics category of presentation-non-spot for "Wanted: A Perfect 10," a piece about the NFL Draft.