BAR HARBOR — The Maine Sunday Telegram was named Maine’s top Sunday newspaper and the Portland Press Herald was named the state’s top daily newspaper Saturday during the Maine Press Association’s annual awards banquet held at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel.
Matthew Stone, a staff writer for the Bangor Daily News, was named Maine’s Journalist of the Year for his deep digging into a host of practices by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that adversely affected Maine residents, including the misspending of millions of dollars in federal grants by the department.
The Sun Journal, which received 21 first-place writing, design and photography awards, was named this year’s Freedom of Access Award winner for its work — in cooperation with the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and other FOI advocates — to reverse the Maine Judicial Branch’s decision to seal all dismissed criminal case files across the state. That decision was reached without public notice and in violation of the First Amendment. When challenged, the Judicial Branch reversed itself and all criminal case files in Maine were unsealed and now remain open.
The newspaper won top honors in investigative reporting for its project, led by Staff Writer Christopher Williams, uncovering the treatment of Androscoggin County inmate Meghan Quinn after she was arrested on a warrant for probation violation in Florida and transported to Maine by a private transportation company in November 2016. That investigation was also named Maine’s top court reporting story for the year.
Other first-place awards were:
Sports story, by Managing Editor Nights/Sports Justin Pelletier, titled “Buteau-ful Victory,” for coverage of the Oak Hill field hockey win over Winthrop in October 2016, with the winning goal scored by Zoe Buteau.
Pelletier also won first place for his profile of Lewiston High School varsity hockey co-captain Jeromey Rancourt titled “A quiet leader.” Rancourt’s father, David Rancourt, a member of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department dive team who drowned in 2006, had introduced his son to the sport.
Arts/lifestyle feature by Staff Writer Mark LaFlamme titled “Dear John,” a look at the world of toilet technology and extravagance on the eve of World Toilet Day won top honors.
LaFlamme also won first place in the food feature category for his piece “Coffee complexities: Have we gone too faruccino?”
The headline on that piece, written by Managing Editor/days Mark Mogensen, won first place in the feature headline category.
“Power of faith,” a feature published on Christmas Eve, was a compilation of vignettes about readers whose lives were changed or bolstered by faith, placed first in the religion category. As part of that package, the newspaper featured Sofe Silverman, who found faith in Judaism at Temple Shalom in Auburn. Her story of happiness was so compelling that it prompted Sun Journal reader Steven Gershman to want to meet her. The two fell in love and were engaged just over a week later.
Staff Writer Kathryn Skelton’s look at the bottled water industry won first-place in the environmental and business story categories and a second place award for analysis.
Staff Writer Lindsay Tice earned a first place for her health story titled “Biting ME.,” a look at the various insects in Maine that carry a growing number of diseases harmful to humans.
Lead designer Heather McCarthy won first place in front-page design for her presentation of Tice’s story, including graphics showing warming trends that more easily host insects that carry Zika, Lyme and EEE.
The sports staff took the top prize for page design for its look back on the Lisbon Greyhounds winning football season as the team prepared for championship play.
Pelletier won a first-place award in the graphic category for a layout of the athletic fields at the new Connors Elementary School in Lewiston.
Sports writer Wil Kramlich was first place for his news story titled “Home sweet home,” a report on the Scarborough High School ice hockey teams temporarily calling Lewiston’s ice rink home.
Each of the Sun Journal’s staff photographers — Russ Dillingham, Daryn Slover and Andree Kehn — earned top awards for their work, winning the spot news, feature and scenic photo categories, respectively.
Dillingham also won first place for news video.
Executive Editor Judith Meyer won first place in news writing for her report on a double fatal accident in Durham in September 2016. That report, along with additional reporting by Mark LaFlamme, also won first place for breaking news.
Inside Maine columnist Elliott Epstein won a first-place award for his Rearview Mirror column that appears monthly in the Sunday paper.
In addition to the first-place honors, the newspaper took home 16 second-place awards for political, education and feature writing, among others, and 15 third-place honors.
The Sun Journal swept the court reporting and feature headline categories, taking home first, second and third place awards in each.