BANGOR — Former Sun Journal staff writer Christopher Crosby was named this year’s Bob Drake Young Writer’s Award winner by the Maine Press Association on Saturday.
The award is presented each year to a journalist with less than two years of full-time experience in the field, and whose work shows talent and promise. According to the MPA, judges consider balance, imagination, thoroughness and writing ability, among other qualities.
In his application for a job with the Sun Media Group, Crosby wrote: “Journalism marries my profound curiosity for the world with a desire to share it, peeling back the layers to find untold stories.”
While with the Sun Journal, Crosby covered municipal government and the courthouse beat, wrote features and reported on the growing brewery scene in Maine.
In his first courtroom assignment for the Sun Journal, Crosby covered the sentencing of Kristina Lowe, who was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident that resulted in the deaths of her back-seat passengers, Rebecca Mason and Logan Dam, in 2012.
In the letter nominating Crosby for the Drake award, Sun Journal Managing Editor/Days Judith Meyer wrote, “At that time, the defense team was still in shock about the guilty verdict and the victims’ families were screaming for a long jail sentence. Mr. Crosby was pushed and pulled from both sides and maintained a professional and even keel.”
The Oct. 1, 2014, sentencing was conducted under heavy security, intimidating the standing-room-only gallery into silence. In that tense environment, Crosby captured the grief and fear in the room, and reported what would be Lowe’s first public statement about her role in the deaths of Mason and Dam.
Based on the dynamic of that sentencing hearing, Crosby pursued additional reporting on the Lowe case, talking with the victims’ families about how the accident had changed their lives. The resulting “Trial of grief” published last October told a startling story “of how grief changes us, giving our readers a glimpse of the pain and suffering that comes with death,” according to the nomination letter.
According to Meyer, “Mr. Crosby’s storytelling ability is solid, as is his ability to gather and report information that is important to our readers,” including developments at the Oxford Casino, municipal spending, economic development and exploring social problems, such as gambling addiction.
As the Maine Legislature considered a bill to require bars and restaurants that advertise a “pint” of beer to actually serve 16 ounces, Crosby was assigned the task of visiting businesses in the Sun Journal’s readership area to test the pour.
What he found, after measuring service in 12 businesses, was that a short-pour is not a big problem in Maine, which he reported in his May 3, 2015, investigation, “In search of an honest pour.”
“Journalism is like traveling,” Crosby said, “and the road, or story, leads where it will. Just like traveling, it’s the ride I enjoy.”
In August, as Crosby was preparing to leave the Sun Journal to enroll as a full-time graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, Paris attorney Sarah Glynn sent the Sun Journal a note “to laud the reporting of Christopher Crosby … to make sure that your editors know that he will be missed.”
She said that she’d had occasion to observe Crosby in a variety of settings, including the courtroom and at public meetings in Paris, and found him to be “attentive, accurate and unbiased in his reporting.”
Glynn noted that in his role as a reporter, Crosby often had to listen “to individuals spew venom. He has a knack to sift through the superfluous bias, and the end product is thorough, researched and accurate reporting of what actually occurred.”
According to Glynn, “I know that many local attorneys (on both sides of the fence), as well as our local Superior Court judge, also think of Chris as highly as I do. His shoes will be tough to fill.”
According to Rex Rhoades, Sun Journal executive editor, “Chris was excited by and interested in every assignment. He loved what he was doing, and he made no attempt to hide it. He was up for anything, all of which showed up in his writing, which was always full of energy, humor and attention to detail.”
In her nomination letter for the award, Meyer said Crosby “is a talent that we are eager to see continue to grow, report and inform.”
Crosby is a 2011 graduate of the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs.
While at UMaine, he worked as a staff writer on The Maine Campus newspaper, where he covered student government and founded “Brew Maine,” a weekly microbrewery column.
After graduation, he served as an intern at the Mount Desert Islander in Bar Harbor, where he also worked as the assistant manager at Atlantic Brewing Co.
Crosby was hired full time at the Advertiser-Democrat in Norway in September 2013 and moved to the Sun Journal eight months later.
The Bob Drake award is named after the late Robert G. “Bob” Drake, a longtime editor for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and assistant general manager for the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. Drake was named Maine Press Association Journalist of the Year in 1985 and is a member of the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame.