The Bucks County Courier Times in Levittown, Pennsylvania, was recently announced as the recipient of the 2017 Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Foundation’s G. Richard Dew Award for its “Unwell Water” series.
The award is the foundation’s highest honor and is given in recognition of outstanding reporting that improves the quality of community life and furthers the public’s understanding of the role of the news media and how it relates to matters of public interest.
The paper’s “Unwell Water” series was an extensive, two-year investigative project that detailed chemicals at area military bases that were leaking into an underground aquifer and exposing residents to unsafe drinking water.
The series, led by reporters Kyle Bagenstose and Jenny Wagner, led to the closure of at least 22 public drinking fountains and sparked action by local and national politicians and advocates.
A judge wrote:
“This sprawling series took two seemingly tiny facts from two seemingly disparate spreadsheets and produced hundreds of stories over several years. All a result of old-fashioned reporting and modern data-sifting by Bagenstose and Wagner. I am in awe of the quality of the reporting, writing and editing; its evenhandedness, lack of sensationalism and fairness, along with its insistence on cutting through the resistance to find truths; the commitment of the newspaper to provide the times and resources required; and the responsiveness both of the newspaper to its community and of the community to its newspaper.”
The Intelligencer’s “Unwell Water” series, by reporters Kyle Bagenstose and Jenny Wagner, was named as the second-place winner of the Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding In-depth Reporting in the small market category by the Society of Environmental Journalists.
The SEJ Awards for Reporting on the Environment winners will be recognized at a celebratory luncheon in October.
Of the entry, judges said:
This series shows what’s possible when a small, local paper pursues a story and doesn’t let go. Reporters at the Intelligencer spent years covering how the chemicals PFOS and PFOA had contaminated residential drinking water, publishing 12 investigative reports and more than 100 stories. They clearly explained the complex science of chemical exposure and potential cancer clusters and showed how public officials had done little to protect residents from harm. The series triggered lawsuits, public pressure and political action at every level.
For more information, including a complete list of winners, visit the SEJ’s awards page.
The Florida Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recently recognized journalists from the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune at its annual Sunshine State Awards, which recognizes quality journalism from across Florida.
Josh Salman, Emily Le Coz and Elizabeth Johnson earned the both Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting and the First Amendment Foundation Freedom of Information Award for the Herald-Tribune’s Bias on the Bench project.
Former Herald-Tribune reporter Maggie Clark was a finalist for the James Batten Award for Public Service for her Medicaid coverage, Herald-Tribune’s Lee Williams was a finalist for the Integrity Florida Award for Public Corruption Reporting for his Prosecutor Pub Crawl piece and the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Lola Gomez was a finalist for the Diversity Award for her Living in the Shadows work.
Other awards in individual categories include:
Feature Reporting (Small) First-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Chris Anderson for Mason
Series First-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Josh Salman, Emily Le Coz, and Elizabeth Johnson for Bias on the Bench Second-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Maggie Clark for Medicaid
Commentary & Criticism – General Second-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Maggie Menderski
Commentary & Criticism – Arts Third-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Carrie Seidman
Profile Reporting First-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Chris Anderson for Mason Third-place: The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Suzanne Hirt
State and Local Election Reporting Third-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson
Presidential Election Reporting First-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson
Data Reporting Second-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Shelby Webb for Expulsions Third-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Josh Salman, Emily Le Coz and Elizabeth Johnson for Bias on the Bench
Editorial Writing Third-place: The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Scott Kent
Beat Reporting – Arts First-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Jay Handelman
Beat Reporting – Community Third-place: Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zach Murdock
The Tuscaloosa News was recently recognized with awards in both the Alabama Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and the Alabama Associated Press Media Editors’ newspaper contest for work done in 2016.
In each contest, the paper competed in the division that includes the state’s largest newspapers.
It earned 11 first-place, nine second-place and 10 third-place awards in the Alabama Press Association contest, including second place in the General Excellence category and first place in the Freedom of Information-First Amendment category.
In the Associated Press Media Editors contest, it received 13 first-place awards, including the Freedom of Information award, in addition winning seven second-place and five third-place awards and the Sports Sweepstakes award.
Alabama Press Association awards included:
First place • Best Newspaper Website • Best Local Education Coverage • Best Sports Coverage • Freedom of Information-First Amendment – Drew Taylor • Best Sports Single Event Story – Tommy Deas • Best Use of Graphics or Illustrations • Best Special Section – Newsprint • Best Niche Publication • Best Periodical • Best Production and Printing • Best Advertising Campaign
Second place • General Excellence • Best Layout and Design • Best Spot News Story – Mark Hughes Cobb • Best Sports News In-depth Coverage – Aaron Suttles • Best Headline – Tommy Deas • Best Editorial • Best Special Section – Newsprint • Best Niche Publication • Best In-paper Promotion of Newspaper
Third place • Best Editorial Page or Section • Best In-depth News Coverage – Mark Hughes Cobb, Jason Morton, Stephen Dethrage, Drew Taylor, Cecil Hurt and Gary Cosby Jr. • Best News Feature Story Coverage – Stephanie Taylor • Best Human Interest Column – Lydia Seabol Avant • Best Sports Single Event Story – Joey Chandler • Best Sports Feature Story – Aaron Suttles • Best Sports Photo – Gary Cosby Jr. • Best Use of Graphics or Illustrations • Advertising Sweepstakes • Best Classified Display Ad
Associated Press Media Editors awards included:
First place • Freedom of Information – Drew Taylor • Sports Action Photo – Gary Cosby Jr. • Portrait – Gary Cosby Jr. • Photo Illustration – Gary Cosby Jr. • Sports Non-deadline Reporting – Aaron Suttles • Sports Feature Story – Aaron Suttles • Education Story – Drew Taylor • Sports Column Writing – Cecil Hurt • Non-deadline Reporting – Mark Hughes Cobb, Jason Morton, Stephen Dethrage, Drew Taylor, Cecil Hurt and Gary Cosby Jr. • Deadline Reporting – Angel Coker • Sports Deadline Reporting – staff • Non-deadline Page Design • Headlines
Second-place • Public Service – Stephanie Taylor, Gary Cosby Jr. and Michael James • Sports Deadline Reporting – staff • Sports Non-deadline Reporting – Joey Chandler • Photo Illustration – Gary Cosby Jr. • Photo Compilation – Michelle Lepianka Carter • Individual Portfolio – Gary Cosby Jr. • Deadline Page Design
Third place • Sports Deadline Reporting – Aaron Suttles and Tommy Deas • Photo Compilation – Gary Cosby Jr. • Spot News Photo – Erin Nelson • Humorous Photo – Erin Nelson • Lifestyle Feature – Mark Hughes Cobb
The newspaper received eight first-place awards, which is the most of any other newspaper in the 45,000-125,000 circulation class.
“What a strong showing for our newsroom — reflecting not only the depth of talent on staff, but the team spirit and commitment to community that makes the new staff special,” said Barry Lewis, executive editor. “I’m especially proud that for the second consecutive year we won the top award for Public Service. That really is our mission as a community newspaper.”
Public service: First place, reporters Leonard Sparks, James Nani and regional editor Paul Brooks, “Water Woes.” Third place, reporter Chris McKenna, “Albany Corruption.”
Headline writing: First place, assistant metro editor Doug Mohart, “Money Does Grow on Trees.” Second place, metro editor Michael Levensohn, “Golden Tickets.”
Column: Third place, executive editor Barry Lewis.
Feature writing: Third place, reporter Amanda Loviza-Vickery, “Teen Firefighters.”
Business writing: First place, reporter James Walsh, “Medical Marijuana.” Third place, reporters Hema Easley and James Walsh, “Construction Boom.”
Sports column: First place, sports editor Kevin Gleason.
Digital presence: First place, Times Herald-Record staff.
Multimedia storytelling: First place, Times Herald-Record staff, “Sam’s Point Wildfire.”
Illustration or graphic: First place, Times Herald-Record staff, “A Butcher’s Guide to Legislative Pork.”
Feature photo: First place, photographer Kelly Marsh, “Funeral for Slain Firefighter.”
Photo story: Third place, photographer, Allyse Pulliam, “Newburgh Raids.”
Judges for the Digital Presence category noted:
Record on Line offers a clean layout and clearly lets its audience know which are the top stories of the moment. The site is easy to navigate; ads are embedded in an intuitive way. The content — photography, videos, articles — and social media presence give a true sense of community. And a sense of place. Well done.
For its outstanding work documenting significant racial inequities across Florida in sentencing, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is the winner in a strong category of entries. “Bias on the Bench” analyzed sentencing patterns of trial judges, revealing that blacks frequently received far longer sentences than whites convicted of similar crimes. Sarasota dug into data, documenting discrepancies across the state and looking at some individual judges whose sentencing was fraught with racial injustice.
Illinois lawmakers’ inability to agree on a state budget has become a national example of political inertia. The State Journal-Register led a collaborative statewide effort to show the impact of the budget stalemate. Newspapers across Illinois decried the legislative inaction through stories, editorials and columns, prompting tens of thousands citizens to respond. The State Journal-Register’s leadership was particularly impressive and unique since editorials drove their call for action. This was a strong example of leadership, determination and ingenuity.
By waging a 2 ½-year battle with the city of Peoria to obtain a police officer’s report about her colleagues’ and supervisors’ misuse of on-the-clock time, the Journal Star proved it had the moxie — and was willing to commit to resources — to fight hard for records that properly belong to the public. The Journal Star litigated the case to the appellate level, winning at every turn, and produced an investigative report — “Police Report Unmasked” — that revealed how officers went home or did other personal activities while they were on the taxpayer-funded clock. The police chief and many other department leaders ultimately left the city or were reassigned.
The City of Disparity project shows what can be accomplished by a small local staff with deep commitment to community engagement. An impressive turnaround for the paper’s image and meaning to the local community. The most meaningful part is the engagement is ongoing with agencies, city officials and the community. The project’s success rests in the community learning troubling facts about itself. This project was sure to spark conversation.
The Sarasota, Florida, Herald-Tribune earned an honorable mention for the Al Neuharth Award for Investigative Reporting for newspapers with a circulation up to 74,999 for “Bias on the Bench.”
At the heart of this entry was impressive analysis of tens of millions of records. That analysis and the study and reporting that surrounded it were presented in a sophisticated package that was as effective on digital platforms as it was in print. It’s no wonder it went viral, and no wonder state lawmakers were quick to act.
Corina Curry of the Rockford, Illinois, Register Star earned an honorable mention for the News Reporting Award for newspapers with a circulation up to 39,999 for “Sub Nation.”
Education reporter Corina Curry identified a potentially problematic trend and decided to find out the impact, not only on the region she covers but in other communities across the country. The breadth of her reporting on this important issue, which included filing dozens of records requests in myriad states, was impressive, especially coming from a smaller media outlet. That broader context was essential to giving Curry’s readers a full understanding of the increasing use of substitute teachers. The database is an added bonus. The graphics were attractive and informative.
The Bulletin of Norwich, Connecticut, was recently recognized with a number of awards by the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists’ at the organization’s annual awards dinner.
Top honors went to reporter Ryan Blessing, who earned the prestigious Stephen A. Collins Public Service Award, which is awarded for a story or stories having a significant impact on the public interest. His Derbygate reporting on a group of public officials who attended the Kentucky Derby broke in October 2016, and Blessing has kept up with the story with additional coverage since.
Other awards included:
Honorable mention: “With high-tech firms investing in state, skilled workers are in big demand;” Francesca Kefalas
Third place: “‘I’ve had a good journey’;” Ryan Blessing
First place: “Hinchey, Bilda went on $340,000 trip;” Ryan Blessing
First place: “Senior exercise class gains devout following;” Lauren Flaum
Third place: “Taxes are taking a big bite in smaller towns;” Ryan Blessing
Second place: “‘Fake news’ swindles the gullible, hurts real thing;” Brendan Cox
Third place: “Norwich trainer fights to get back in the ring;” Brett Poirier
Second place: “Coaches emerge from NFA;” Owen Poole
Third place: “Fitch walks off with title in another 1-run thriller;” John Shishmanian
The evidence that GateHouse Media newsrooms #DoJournalismWithImpact was on full display at our 2016 Best of GateHouse contest, and we could not be more proud to announce our Newspapers of the Year and Editors of the Year.
Challenges in the industry have only emboldened these leaders and their newsrooms to deliver enterprising work that reveals systemic injustice and demands change. The expanding horizon of digital storytelling has provided new avenues of creativity and interaction with readers — and our top editors and newsrooms are leading the way.
A huge thank you goes out to our judges from Ball State University’s College of Communication, Coordinator of Unified Media Juli Metzger and Ball State Daily News adviser John Strauss, for making incredibly difficult decisions amid our largest-ever number of phenomenal submissions.
Also of note, Mark Baldwin, executive editor of the Rockford Register Star, has been awarded the first GateHouse Media #DoJournalismWithImpact Leadership Award.
“Mark is a national advocate and expert for news literacy, and his engagement efforts in the Rockford community have been courageous and thoughtful,” said Bill Church, senior vice president of news. “He exemplifies an editor who understands the importance of high-touch journalism.”
Please join us in congratulating these talented individuals and tenacious newsrooms.
EDITORS OF THE YEAR DIVISION A WINNER: Dennis Anderson, Journal Star, Peoria, Illinois, for demonstrating high-level community engagement by nurturing relationships with his readers and doing important journalism, including uncovering how local law enforcement were doing personal business on the taxpayer’s clock. RUNNER-UP: Mike Smith, Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina
DIVISION B WINNER: Angie Muhs, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois, for leading a wide range of reader engagement programs and directing bold coverage, concentrated on state and government accountability, including a front page editorial calling for resolution to the state budget impasse. RUNNER-UP: Lynne Sullivan, Herald News, Fall River, Massachusetts
DIVISION C WINNER: Eric Dundon, Courier-Post, Hannibal, Missouri, for demonstrating sophisticated reader engagement using social media, events and public service journalism. This may be a small newsroom but it shows focus and grit, executing on impactful journalism and using analytics to increase its reach across platforms. RUNNER-UP: Jason Hunsicker, Daily Express, Kirksville, Missouri
NEWSPAPERS OF THE YEAR DIVISION A WINNER: Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, Florida This newspaper sets the gold standard for community journalism. It has powerful design, smart reader engagement and killer enterprise. Their investigatory journalism goes beyond the ordinary. In fact, there is nothing ordinary about the Herald-Tribune. RUNNER-UP: Register Star, Rockford, Illinois
DIVISION B WINNER: Herald News, Fall River, Massachusetts In a very competitive field of smaller newspapers, the Herald News stands out with its big ambitions, local community leadership, excellent print presentation and creative digital storytelling. The newspaper made an impressive demonstration of not only setting a news agenda, but fostering solutions-based community engagement. RUNNER-UP: Gainesville Sun, Gainesville, Florida
DIVISION C WINNER: Courier-Post, Hannibal, Missouri This newspaper developed new ways to engage readers including a monthly health and wellness insert celebrating New Year’s resolutions and thoughtful reporting in several multi-day series throughout the year. This scrappy newspaper also dived into social media, and made smart use of Google Analytics to decide how and when to play stories, demonstrating an understanding for the technology, which in concert with strong journalism grows digital traffic.
DIVISION D WINNER: Wareham Courier, Wareham, Massachusetts This newspaper has a strong local, local presence. Photos are included with nearly every story and headlines are engaging. This paper also interacts with readers in print and online. The digital presence is equally strong, with videos and photos. The Facebook page is an intimate snapshot of life in Wareham.
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