NEW YORK (AP) -- The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press and the Virgin Islands Daily News won top awards in the annual Associated Press Media Editors' Journalism Excellence Awards.
APME also said three media companies are finalists for its seventh annual Innovator of the Year, one of which was a finalist last year.
More than 30 winners were announced in the 2013 contest in the categories for media organizations.
"We had a large number of high-quality entries in this contest, but I find it interesting how smaller news organizations like the Virgin Islands Daily News continue to compete very well in this contest every year," said APME President Brad Dennison. "Overall, we saw incredible amounts of watchdog and enterprise reporting, as well as news innovation. I find that very encouraging for our industry."
There were 244 entries this year, including those for the separate AP staff awards.
The Asbury Park Press was voted as the 43rd annual Public Service Best of Show for its multiplatform news coverage as well as its online Resource Center for Superstorm Sandy. The award carries a $1,500 prize.
"With its community wrecked along with much of the New Jersey shore by the furor of Superstorm Sandy, the Asbury Park Press staff performed a public service like few others," the judges wrote. "And it demonstrated hard-hitting investigative journalism on causes and effects and by donating profits of books to the Red Cross.
"APME Public Service judges considered some incredible work this year, but Asbury Park's Sandy coverage stood above the rest."
The Virgin Islands newspaper was a winner in the under 40,000 circulation category for its "Our Money, Their Failure" project, which exposed a plan by the Islands' governor to build a $30-million sports complex with private partners who had questionable backgrounds.
It was also named The Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes Award winner for its project "The Battle for V.I. Senators' Spending Records," which spotlighted how government officials were using millions of dollars in taxpayers' money to "live large." The award carries a $1,000 prize.
"The Virgin Islands Daily News team's tireless reporting set the standard for what embodies the highest standards of commitment to results," the judges said. "This scrappy newspaper clearly overcame 'significant official resistance to legal application of the First Amendment or FOI laws.' The V.I. Daily News demonstrated both fluency with the local FOI law and tenacity in asserting the public's right to know under the law."
In the Innovator contest, The Arizona Republic became a finalist for the second year with its AZ iPad app of an evening news magazine for the iPad. It will compete with the two other finalists, WLRN-Miami Herald News radio and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, at the annual APME conference in late October for the award. The winner will receive $1,000. The sponsor is GateHouse Media Inc.
WLRN-Miami Herald News radio was selected for its "News as a Shared Experience," and the Dispatch was cited for the "bold, new format" for its print product.
"It was exciting to choose three finalists with such different but innovative projects," the judges said. "It shows again how news organizations are willing to adapt and innovate to meet of the changing needs of their audiences."
APME also announced award winners in three other innovation categories as well as Digital Storytelling, International Perspective and others. Awards will be presented at the awards luncheon Oct. 30 during the conference in Indianapolis.
Judges did not participate in discussions or vote on categories involving their own news organizations' entries.
Here are the winners:
43rd Annual Public Service:
--Winner of Public Service Best of Show and $1,500: The Asbury Park Press, "Superstorm Sandy."
Under 40,000 circulation:
--Winner: The Virgin Islands Daily News, "Our Money, Their Failure."
--Honorable mentions: The Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Ark., "Mayflower Oil Spill"; and The Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, "Making a Difference in the Life of Every Child."
40,000 to 149,000 circulation:
--Winner: The Asbury Park Press, "Superstorm Sandy."
--Honorable mention: The Columbus Dispatch, "Credit Scars."
Over 150,000 circulation:
--Winner: The New York Times, "Unlocked."
--Honorable mentions: The Denver Post, "Failed to Death"; and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Side Effects."
Judges: Bob Heisse, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.; Otis Sanford, Hardin Chair of Excellence in Journalism, University of Memphis, Tenn.; and AP Managing Editor Kristin Gazlay.
Finalists for the Seventh Annual Innovator of the Year:
--The Arizona Republic, for its AZ app of an evening news magazine for the iPad.
--WLRN-Miami Herald News radio, for its "News as a Shared Experience."