Daily News staff earns state reporting award

The Daily News has been recognized by the NYNPA for its coverage of the May 27, 2020, tractor-trailer pursuit.

Staff at The Daily News has been recognized for distinguished reporting by the New York News Publishers Association.

The NYNPA announced winners of its 2020 Award for Excellence competition on Friday morning. This year’s winners will be officially recognized at a banquet on a date to be determined at the Hearst Media Center in Loudonville.

Eight members of The Daily News and its sibling publication, The Livingston County News, were named in the paper’s award for “Distinguished Breaking News Coverage.”

The award reflects the paper’s coverage of a tractor-trailer pursuit in May 2020 that began in Le Roy and zig-zagged across three counties before ending in Geneseo.

Individuals cited by the NYNPA are Ben Beagle, Alex Brasky, Scott DeSmit, Michelle Dries, Matt Leader, Brendan McDonough, Matt Surtel and Brian Quinn.

On May 27, 2020, an evening traffic stop of a tractor-trailer for speeding in Le Roy took a strange turn that would ultimately end about an hour later with a police shootout in Geneseo. Before it ended, the tractor trailer driver would lead police across three counties on a 46-mile pursuit that at times reached high speeds and saw the truck driver shoot at pursuing law enforcement officers.

Coverage began in Batavia with videographer Alex Brasky providing updates via social media that were transferred into a story on the websites of The Daily News and The Livingston County News. Brasky stayed with the pursuit while other staff joined in and picked up on various threads.

Coverage expanded through the night as staff gathered eyewitness videos and statements. The story expanded the next day as details were learned of the trucker’s past, including social media posts that called for revolution, and a law enforcement briefing showed the destruction wrought on police vehicles - including one bullet hole that came within inches of where an officer’s head could have been during the pursuit.

Staff took on various aspects of the story - Leader delved into the trucker’s past and spoke with a variety of law enforcement experts; McDonough and DeSmit covered the perspective of Livingston and Genesee county law enforcement officials who were most involved in the pursuit; and other staff, including Matt Surtel and Brian Quinn talked with witnesses.

Also included in the paper’s coverage was a timeline of the night’s events created by Dries, a graphic artist at The Daily News.

Winning entries in “Distinguished Breaking News Coverage” demonstrate effective newspaper response to deadline demands; and clarity, thoroughness, balance, and aggressiveness in the coverage of local spot news,” according to the Association.

The annual contest recognizes journalistic excellence among the Association’s member newspapers. Newspapers competed against one another in five circulation classes: Under 10,000; 10,000-24,999; 25,000-49,999; 50,000-75,000 and Over 75,000.

Contest judges selected winners from 388 entries submitted by 20 New York State newspapers. The Daily News was recognized in the Under 10,000 category.

The judges were: Barbara Lombardo, retired executive editor of The Saratogian and The (Troy) Record and a journalism professor at the state University of Albany University; Donna Donovan, retired publisher of the Observer-Dispatch in Utica; Mike Spain, retired associate editor of the Times Union, Albany; Dave Bohrer, retired editor of The Meridian (Miss.) Star, Meridian, and Kathleen Norton McNulty, professional lecturer in journalism at Marist College School of Communication, Poughkeepsie.

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