Christiana Lilly and J.W. Arnold

This past weekend the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter announced the winners of their annual awards contest, the Sunshine State Awards, Florida’s premier journalism awards contest.

SFGN walked away with five awards including first place wins in the Commentary & Criticism – Arts category for J.W. Arnold, SFGN’s A&E editor, and Beat Reporting – Minority Issues category for SFGN correspondent Christiana Lilly.

Arnold won for his reviews of “The Twilight of the Golds: Family Drama at Stage Door Raises Ethical Questions,” “Miami City Ballet Dazzles in Final Program,” and “Florida Grand Opera Takes Risk, Reaps Rewards.”

The judge was impressed by Arnold’s ability to review multiple forms of art. “Expertise in one art is a must for a critic, but this entry excelled in its ability to credibly review three different forms of art.”

Lilly won for her collection of work that included an in-depth look at homelessness in the LGBT teen community, “LGBT Teen Homelessness in South Florida” Part 1 and 2, and an SFGN special report “Trans Behind Bars.” Additionally her portfolio included a profile, “Armed With a Syringe,” on a New York City doctor, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, that vaccinated thousands of gay men at nightclubs during last year’s meningitis scare; a light hearted feature on a local gay motorcycle club “Knight & Gay: How a South Florida Gay Motorcycle Club Made Its Own,” as well as a historical piece on the stonewall riots, “A Brief History of the Stonewall Riots.”

“These stories offer a powerful and personal look at important issues facing sexual minorities,” the judge said of Lilly’s work. “The writing is compelling, and the reporting places individuals’ stories in the larger context of issues such as homelessness.”

Lilly also took home third place for Best Profile in the magazine division for her Mirror story, “The Real Doogie Howser: At 16 Jack Andraka Invented a New Way to Detect Pancreatic Cancer.”

One of SFGN’s student reporters, Regina Kaza, took home first place in the student category for Best Profile for her piece “Mandi Hawke Raises Awareness for LGBT Youth with Her Life Story.”

“A close call between two well-written profiles,” the judge said. “Interviewing skills put this one on top.”

Lastly the Mirror Magazine took home an award for Best Single Issue for its Fall 2013 issue.

“Good mix of lifestyle, more serious issues and a bit of sex,” the judge commented.

“Congratulations to J.W., Christiana and Regina. These awards are well deserved. I am so proud of my team here at SFGN,” said Jason Parsley, associate publisher. “These wins only touch upon the amazing work do week in and week out here in the newspaper and online.”

A sunburned kid seeking cool air for a few minutes. A teen using the computer to apply for jobs.

While the LGBT Visitor Center in Miami Beach is primarily the center of the city’s tourism, its rainbow flags have also become a signal to gay teens living on the street that it’s a safe haven.

Karen Brown, the executive director of the center, said she has about a dozen homeless teens, both straight and LGBT, come into the center on a regular basis to apply for jobs at the computer center, charge their cell phones, cool off, or get snacks. When she first started, she naively gave them some cash to take the bus. She quickly learned the kids weren’t using it for that.

“I can’t be mad at them for trying to survive,” she said. “You still have to be compassionate.”

“Why does your bike have glitter all over it?” Carlos asked, looking over at his friend’s red candy-painted Harley.

“I had it in drag the other night and can’t get it off,” Dennis replied, laughing.

With the blue skies above and the waves crashing on the sand, it’s another Sunday for the Stonewall Knights, a gay motorcycle group, as they ride down A1A.

Read full articles at