General aviation vitality, 'Aviation Journal,' 'Flying Circus' reports capture prizes in 2001 AOPA Max Karant Journalism Awards

August 11, 2001

A newspaper editor in Massachusetts, a video producer in Michigan, and a freelance radio journalist in Virginia were all first-place winners in this year's AOPA Max Karant Awards for Excellence in Aviation Coverage.

The AOPA awards, presented annually, recognize excellence in non-trade journalism on general aviation subjects and carry a $1,000 award. This year's honors will be presented November 8 at AOPA Expo 2001 in Fort Lauderdale to Andi Esposito of The Worcester Telegram-Gazette, Worcester, Massachusetts; Aviation Journal producer Frank Benesh of Farmington Hills, Michigan; and freelance radio journalist James Rea of Arlington, Virginia.

"Winners this year demonstrated very well the journalistic qualities our judges look for—fair, accurate, and insightful reporting," said Keith F. Mordoff, AOPA senior vice president of communications.

Print: General aviation's vitality

Print category winner Andi Esposito of The Worcester Telegram-Gazette, Worcester, Massachusetts, won top honors by reporting on "The 'Other' Airport." Her in-depth report on general aviation and regional airline activity at the Worcester Regional Airport opened the eyes of many area residents, who routinely thought only of nearby Boston Logan International Airport when considering airports.

Esposito's article provided convincing evidence of GA's vitality and its vast range of service to a community and the advantages of on-demand, point-to-point travel.

Esposito, a graduate of Boston University who also earned a master's degree in journalism at Penn State, previously worked at the Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio, and the Christian Science Monitor in Boston.

Honorable mentions in the print category were garnered by Brad Knickerbocker of Christian Science Monitor, Ashland, Oregon, for "Small Plane, Big Plane" and J.P. Bender of The South Florida Business Journal, Hollywood, Florida, for "Emergency Flights in South Florida."

Video: 'Aviation Journal'

Frank Benesh of Farmington Hills, Michigan, earned a special video Max Karant Journalism Award for his monthly TV series, Aviation Journal, which airs weekly on Time Warner Cable in four cities in southeast Michigan. Benesh earned the special award for a "substantial body of work that continues to broaden understanding and appreciation of general aviation's reliability and accessibility, and its importance to the community."

His Aviation Journal series, with a variety of field reports and studio interviews on diverse general aviation topics, consistently presents a well-rounded view of GA, with emphasis on personal flying and smaller airports. A recent episode took viewers along for a ride in a hot air balloon and included exciting video both from the air and on the ground.

Benesh flew during World War II and after that was a radio/television journalist for 20 years. He most recently retired from a public affairs position at Ford Motor Company. He has an FAA commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating.

Radio: 'Flying Circus'

James C. Rea, a freelance reporter and producer based in Arlington, Virginia, won top Max Karant Journalism Award prize in radio category for The Flying Circus, which aired on Washington, DC's WAMU.

In developing the story for the National Public Radio affiliate, Rea went beyond the superficial "what is a flying circus" and probed the psyches of participants and spectators. Careful editing and superior use of sound effectively portrayed the excitement of flying and brought excitement to today's aviation by celebrating its long tradition.

Rea has produced news stories for both radio and television and most recently created a new breed of multimedia stories that will stream over the Internet.

Aviation remains one of Rea's favorite subjects. A private pilot and AOPA member, Rea traces his love of flying to childhood trips in his father's airplanes. Rea's father flew from AOPA birthplace Wings Field near Philadelphia as a member of the Penn Flying Club, often with his friend, J.B. "Doc" Hartranft, Jr., AOPA's first president.

Honorable mentions in the radio category were won by Richard Murphy Werry of WXPK in Denver, Colorado, for Flight Without Fear and Jill Roberts of WZCS in Fort Pierce, Florida, for Mid-Air Collision.

The competition judges entries solely on their fair, accurate, and insightful coverage of general aviation. Entries are judged by persons with direct experience in each media segment both on and outside the AOPA staff.

The AOPA Karant Awards memorialize former newsman, AOPA pioneer, association senior executive, and first editor of AOPA Pilot magazine, Max Karant. He died in February 1997.

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