Work produced in 2009 by members of the TIMES NEWS editorial department came up big in statewide writing and photography competition according to recent announcements.

The Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) association has announced that the TIMES NEWS earned four state writing awards in the APME News Excellence Competition.

A panel of Associated Press judges comprised of editors of AP member newspapers in Colorado and Utah singled out work by Donald R. Serfass, managing editor – features, awarding three first places and one second - the best finish of any writer in the AP's state competition.

Serfass took top honors in General News for 'Rare blood disease,' a series of stories related to the emergence of an unusually high number of cases of polycythemia vera in a three-county region.

He also took first place in Business Writing for 'Winter on the farm,' a full-page, in-depth look at agriculture during the non-growing season, focusing on the daily chores of Beth Leiby of Leiby Farms, Tamaqua.

Serfass also won first in Sports Feature Writing for 'Remembering Bo Tkach,' a story about the late Northern Lehigh H. S. scholar-athlete whose brave struggle against obsessive-compulsive disorder inspired a broad-based initiative to help others with similar challenges.

AP judges also awarded Serfass second place in Investigative Reporting for 'Within a whisper,' a story based on research into the life of an 1860s Tamaqua barber, one of the town's first black citizens, who reportedly tried to warn President Lincoln of his impending assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth.

The TIMES NEWS competes among AP member newspapers with a circulation of 15,000 or less and the competition annually attracts several thousand entries.

The TIMES NEWS also claimed five Keystone Press Awards of the PA Society of Newspaper Editors.

In photography competition, Bob Ford, staff photographer, won first place in the category of Sports for a photo of Panther Valley High School's Casey Lawrence sliding head-first into third base in a baseball game against Lehighton Area High School.

In addition, Ford was awarded second in Photo Story for images taken during a special media luncheon at Emeril's Chophouse at the Sand's Casino in Bethlehem.

In writing competition, Joseph Plasko, Tamaqua Bureau Chief, won a first place Keystone in Sports Event Coverage for an entry of three championship stories: Northwestern Lehigh's Evan Yenolevich winning a state wrestling title on his third trip to finals; the Tamaqua Area High School girls' basketball team winning their first District 11 Class AA championship since 1978; and Northwestern Lehigh's Lindsay Kerr winning the PIAA State Class AA cross country championship.

The team of Serfass, Karen Cimms, lifestyle editor, and Linda Koehler of the Palmerton office, combined to win a first place Keystone in Series competition for 'Faces of autism,' a revealing look at how the disorder impacts local families.

Serfass also took second place in Column Writing competition for 'I want to be skinny but I think I'll weight,' a humorous look at fad diets.

The Keystone awards are sponsored by the Pa. Newspaper Association in which the TIMES NEWS competes among daily newspapers under 20,000 circulation.

Pencor weekly publications also received Keystone recognition competing in nondaily divisions. In that competition, Linda Anthony of the Bethlehem Press won first in Photo Story. Bonnie Lee Strunk of the Parkland Press took first in Feature and second in Feature Beat, and first in Photo Story; Susan Bryant of the Parkland Press took second in News Photo; and Deb Palmieri, Parkland Press, took second in Headline Writing.

The Keystones reinforce excellence by individuals in the newspaper profession by recognizing journalism that consistently provides relevance, integrity and initiative in serving readers, and furthers First Amendment values.

Three TIMES NEWS writers also placed in the Pa. Women's Press Association's Excellence in Journalism Contest, competing against all Pennsylvania dailies of all sizes.

Cimms won first in Headline Writing and third in Travel, Arts & Entertainment.

Koehler was awarded first in Travel, Arts & Entertainment and honorable mention in Interviews/Profiles.

Serfass received second in Headline Writing, third in Health/Science and honorable mention in Sports.

Award presentations for all of the above named competitions will take place Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15, at the Pa. Press Conference to be held at the Harrisburg Hilton. The event is the state's largest journalism recognition ceremony.

In statewide competition sponsored by the Pa. Press Club (PPC), an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women, competition requires submission of multiple writing samples for specific categories, including special articles on a variety of subject matter. Several TIMES NEWS writers scored multiple wins in that contest.

Koehler was awarded 13 honors, including first in Business, Arts/Entertainment, Personality Profile, Fashion, Religion, Education, Hobbies/Crafts, Travel, Columns General and News Photo. Koehler also won second in Social Issues, third in Columns Humorous and honorable mention in Features.

Serfass earned 10 honors, including first in Features, Social Issues and Columns Humorous; second in History, Travel, Hobbies/Crafts, Columns General and Columns Specialized; and third in Columns Informational and Education

Writer Mary Ann Endy scored four wins, including first in History; third in Personality Profile and Hobbies/Crafts; and honorable mention in Features.

Cimms was awarded first in Food and honorable mention in Personality Profile and Hobbies/Crafts.

Writer Amy Zubek grabbed first in Health and honorable mention in Features.

In addition, the team of Koehler, Cimms and Serfass combined for first place in Special Series writing.

The competition is open to newspapers of all sizes, with no circulation breakdown.

In the nondaily division, Strunk captured eight awards for the Parkland Press.

The PPC awards will be presented Saturday at a luncheon in Myerstown.