The Orlando Sentinel won two awards for journalism excellence in the national EPPY Awards, earning honors for a podcast and its business website, GrowthSpotter.
“Joel Greenberg: The Man, The Scandal, The Players” series was distinguished as the best podcast for websites with 1 million or more unique visitors. GrowthSpotter won for best business/finance website with fewer than 1 million unique visitors, representing its fourth EPPY award since the website’s 2015 inception.
The awards, presented by Editor & Publisher magazine, received more than 400 entries representing more than 200 websites.
The podcast series, which includes seven episodes, was a collaboration between Wesley Alden, the Sentinel’s video and podcast producer, and Jeff Weiner, editor for the Justice & Safety team.
Joel Greenberg was elected as Seminole County’s tax collector in 2016 as a political outsider replacing a longtime incumbent. Sentinel reporter Martin Comas focused on the new official closely, detailing controversies involving a false traffic stop and a plan to allow employees to openly carry firearms.
It was later revealed that Greenberg handed out contracts to friends and family and misused taxpayer funds. Sentinel staffers Annie Martin, Jason Garcia, Scott Maxwell, Steven Lemongello, Monivette Cordeiro, David Harris and Lauren Ritchie diligently reported on his cronyism.
“It was a whole constellation of criminal behavior that was going on behind the scenes,” Weiner said. “The reporting we did had the result of getting federal and local investigators to pay attention to him … It really shows that without something like the Orlando Sentinel and without a journalist like Martin Comas, I don’t know that Joel Greenberg would have ever gotten caught.”
Greenberg has since faced charges in several federal indictments and pleaded guilty to six felonies, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, bribery of a public official and stalking. The podcast helps untangle his web of controversies and connections to other powerful political figures, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.
“This podcast proved to be another way to highlight the many layers of this scandal and those impacted by it,” Alden said in an email. “I’m thrilled that Editor & Publisher recognized the hard work of so many journalists at the Orlando Sentinel with this best podcast EPPY Award.”
GrowthSpotter was created by Orlando Sentinel editor-in-chief Julie Anderson to provide Central Florida readers with in-depth coverage of real estate and development.
“Julie Anderson was prescient in recognizing the early growth trends in the Orlando market and identifying the audience willing to pay a premium rate for quality journalism,” said Laura Kinsler, GrowthSpotter editor, in an email. “Our readers are among the most loyal in the industry, and we’re on track this year to grow our number of paid subscribers by 20 percent.”
Kinsler and reporter Amanda Rabines write with authority on all sectors of the industry, whether it be a new housing development, an industrial park, a downtown skyscraper or resort hotel.
To see the full list of EPPY Award winners, visit eppyawards.com.