NORTHPORT — The Sun Journal was named Maine's top Sunday newspaper Saturday night at the Maine Press Association conference at Point Lookout.
"I'm just extremely proud of the entire staff and the management of the Sun Journal and the Costello family," Executive Editor Rex Rhoades said.
The Portland Press Herald was named Maine’s top daily newspaper.
The awards were given for the newspapers’ overall general excellence in news and sports reporting, photography, illustration, advertising and opinion.
Steve Mistler, who covers politics for the Sun Journal, was named this year's Journalist of the Year.
The Sun Journal was honored with this year’s Freedom of Information Award, the 12th consecutive year the staff of the Lewiston newspaper has earned this award.
In its entry for the FOI award, the Sun Journal included examples of its work seeking access to public documents and meetings, such as holding Paris selectmen and the Regional School Unit 36 Board of Directors accountable for voting in public; reporting the driving records of political candidates; pressing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for names of rescue victims; and reporting the disciplinary records of Androscoggin County Jail employees.
“This award represents our unyielding commitment to open government and the public's right to know," Rhoades said. "People in our newsroom work at every level to ensure public access, from testifying at legislative hearings in Augusta to standing up at selectmen's meetings and objecting to closed-door proceedings. This is a professional obligation we take seriously.”
The Sun Journal was also named winner of the best website among the state's seven competing daily newspapers.
The award "is recognition of the Sun Journal's commitment to break news first online, cultivate our electronic community and produce quality multimedia storytelling," Web Editor Pattie Reaves said.
"Our staff worked throughout the year to improve our online experience and learn new storytelling techniques just for the website," she said. "And, it is a huge honor to receive this award this year when there were several other comprehensive and innovative news websites also considered for this award."
"It's quite an honor for us to win General Excellence, to have the Journalist of the Year and the best website in the state," Rhoades said. "It's just a reminder of the continued enthusiasms and skills of the staff we have."
The Sun Journal entered 40 of the 43 newsroom contest categories, winning first place awards for 18 of those entries. In addition to the website award, they are:
* Christopher Williams’ daily news story titled “Choosing sides,” examining the ongoing feud between two local families years after Kenny Jellison Jr. was killed in a car accident;
* Business reporting by Scott Taylor and Bonnie Washuk for their joint investigation of the “Changing face of Lisbon Street” and the emergence of immigrant-owned businesses there;
* Lindsay’s Tice’s health report on the compensation of hospital employees titled "Health & Wealth II: Analysis reveals perks, quirks and pay," which contest judges called a "clear winner" in this category.
* Education reporting for Washuk’s work on Mainers’ growing burden of debt in pursuit of a college education in a January report titled “Dreams drowning in debt”;
* Justin Pelletier’s sports feature on the various teams and communities of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in a two-part report titled “Tough times for tough hockey”;
* Specialty page design for Corey LaFlamme’s work in the Sunday B-Plus section;
* Best staff blog by State House reporter Steve Mistler, who writes “Political Pulse” for the Sun Journal’s online and print editions;
* Best online breaking news report by the newspaper staff for its work on the Route 136 collapse last fall that included an online locator map and brief report of the collapse just 3 minutes after emergency workers were called, an e-mail alert to readers within 25 minutes to report the road was closed indefinitely and mapping how that evening's commuter traffic would be rerouted;
* Photographer Daryn Slover and Regional Editor Scott Thistle were honored for their online multimedia presentation for writing, still photography and videography marking the 10th anniversary of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail titled “Canoe trail turns 10”; and
* Newspapers in Education Award for the staff-produced weekly series titled “Maine during the Civil War,” which featured a collection of war-era letters archived by Maine’s Department of the Secretary of State.
* Editor Rhoades won first place among Maine’s daily newspapers for editorial writing and the newspaper’s staff won first place for its editorial pages.
* Staff photographers Amber Waterman, Slover and Jose Leiva all won first place awards for their work in sports, news and features.
Waterman's entry, "Shortstop ends up on his head," depicted Oxford Hills' shortstop Cody Hadley landing on his head after catching the ball for an out during the 2010 Class A State Baseball Championship at St. Joseph's College; Slover was honored for his shot "First day of hunting," an image of Mike Cote and his son, Matthew, hanging a 175-pound buck hours after the opening of hunting season; and Leiva's image of Bates College senior Uriel Gonzalez — who is seeking United States citizenship — earned top prize in the people photo category.
* Freelance columnist Douglas Rooks was awarded first place for his opinion writing for the Sun Journal’s weekend Perspective section;
* Freelance columnist Emily Tuttle won MPA’s first-place critic’s award for her work in reporting on the local entertainment scene.
In addition, the Sun Journal was awarded 15 second-place awards and 14 third-place awards for writing, design, photography and advertising.
For a complete list of awards, go to http://mainepress.wordpress.com/.