The Philadelphia Press Association has announced its "Best of the Best," the top stories in the metro region over the past year, and TIMES NEWS has received recognition in several areas.

The Philadelphia Press Association (PPA) is comprised of editorial staffs of daily newspapers, wire services and radio and television stations in the Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey region. At the PPA, all nominated newspaper stories are placed into one pool. There is no circulation breakdown, meaning the TIMES NEWS goes head-to-head against the largest daily newspapers of Philadelphia, the Greater Delaware Valley and tri-state area.

In the category of Special Subject Writing, PPA judges selected two competing full-page feature stories and awarded first place honors to both. Both works were TIMES NEWS entries.

'Within a whisper,' an investigative work that examines how a Tamaqua barber, the town's first black resident, reportedly tried to warn President Lincoln of his pending assassination, was one of two taking first place in the category. The story appeared on the TIMES NEWS Lifestyle page on June 3, 2009.

The other first place finish was, 'On the wings of angels,' a feature describing how volunteer pilots use their own planes to shuttle sick or disadvantaged patients to far-away medical facilities. The program, called Angel Flight East, is coordinated by Jen Hotsko, a Tamaqua native. The story appeared on the Faith and Family page on May 1, 2009.

Both winning stories were written by Donald R. Serfass, managing editor, features, with layout and graphics by TN Graphic Designer David W. Rowe.

Second place in Special Subject Writing went to the Philadelphia Daily News, and third to the Daily Local News. The TIMES NEWS finished off the category by earning honorable mention with 'Massacre at Wiggans Patch,' a story by Serfass about the unsolved 1880s murder of three Schuylkill County residents.

The TIMES NEWS also received second place in Business Coverage for a full page story about portrait artist Stephen Bennett, a Tamaqua resident. In that work, Serfass describes how Bennett's portraiture is helping to supply drinking water to Third World countries.

Serfass also received honorable mention in Newspaper Reporting for a series about one-room schoolhouses, and similar recognition in Sports Coverage for a story about the late Bo Tkach, a former Northern Lehigh High School scholar-athlete and his lifelong struggle against obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In addition, the TIMES NEWS received recognition when the team of Lifestyle Editor Karen Cimms, Palmerton Office Reporter Linda Koehler and Serfass took honorable mention in Enterprise Reporting for 'Ordinary people, extraordinary lives,' a special series that used stories about local residents to illustrate the power of the human spirit. In May, the Pa. Newspaper Association had awarded the series a first place finish in the annual Keystone awards.

The PPA awards were presented Friday at the Philadelphia Press Association's 65th Anniversary Dinner at the Bala Golf Club, Bala Cynwyd.