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Buffalo News photographers swept up all top photo awards in the 2011-2012 New York Newspaper Publishers Association competition among the state’s largest newspapers.

Chief photographer Derek Gee won best photo in the news photography category for news photo of Nick Wallenda’s historic tight-rope walk over Niagara Falls.

Staff photographers Charles Lewis and Mark Mulville also won top awards for their work.

Lewis’ Feb. 11, 2012, photo of a butterfly landing on a girl’s face while she was visiting the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, Ont., received the award for best feature photo.

Mulville won for his Sept. 6, 2012, photo of sweat spraying off of a Riverside High School soccer player as he head-butts the ball during a game.

Other News staffers won awards for business reporting, editorial writing, column writing, sports coverage, and page design and presentation.

The sports staff won best sports coverage for its NFL Preview, and Leah Samol, graphic artist, won the page design and presentation award for “Our Bodies, Our Canvas,” an August 2012 story about 18- to 29-year-olds who use tattoos to make personal statements.

The award for business reporting went to Emma Sapong for her story “The Patel-Motel Phenomenon.” The May 2012 article focused on immigrant entrepreneurs from the same region of India – many with the same last name, though not usually related – who dominate the hospitality industry in Western New York and around the nation. The hoteliers lay claim to at least 85 percent of the area’s budget lodging market.

Kevin Walter won the editorial writing award with his December 2011 editorial about the dismal state of Buffalo’s public education system. “Buffalo Can Do Better” pointed out that improving the low graduation rate and the educational dysfunction requires all sides – the School Board, principals, teachers, the teachers union and parents – to work together.

“State hits a new low in DeJac case” won the association’s column writing award. Written by Donn Esmonde, the December 2011 piece is about a legal injustice done to a South Buffalo woman who spent nearly 14 years in prison before she was exonerated in the murder of her 13-year-old daughter. Lynn DeJac Peters sued the state for millions in damages. But instead of negotiating a settlement, the attorney general chose to take the civil case to trial.