BAR HARBOR — Sun Journal staff writer Lindsay Tice was named the Maine Press Association’s 2013 Journalist of the Year on Saturday night.

A reporter for the Sun Media Group since 2001, Tice has won more first-place writing awards than any other daily journalist in Maine over the past three years.

She is best-known for her recurring “Health & Wealth” series examining the salaries and benefits of top hospital officials across the state, including multimillion-dollar salaries of CEOs and million-dollar salaries for doctors.

Her work over the years also parsed how much Maine’s hospitals spent on travel and professional conferences, often to exotic locations where little or no “conferencing” was done.

In the years since Tice first wrote about the health and wealth of Maine’s hospital groups, hospital administrators have cut back perks, stopped paying directors who serve on their boards and have been pressured by readers to be more conscious of their public images, particularly given the rising cost of health care and some readers’ inability to pay for that care.

Tice has earned 16 MPA awards in the last three years, including awards in 2010, 2011 and 2012 for the hospital series, and was named a first-place winner this year for her health report, “Born addicted,” an analysis of the growing number of infants born with opiates in their systems.

She was part of the Sun Journal team that earned a first-place MPA award in this year’s continuing story category for a project examining the dangerous intersection at Route 4 and Lake Shore Drive in Auburn, including a look at the rate of serious accidents and neighbors’ ongoing concerns about safety.

“Lindsay’s a bulldog in sheep’s clothing,” said News Editor Mark Mogensen, Tice’s direct supervisor. “She’s tenacious without being offensive. She is unrelenting about getting information from public sources, but a consummate professional the whole time.”

He added, “Then, what she does with that information is wring the blood out of it. She doesn’t leave a stone unturned. And she crafts all that information into extremely accessible, clear, compelling stories.”

A graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, Tice worked at the Journal-Tribune in Biddeford, the Suburban News in Windham and the Portland Press Herald before coming to the Sun Journal. Although Tice is generally regarded as the Lewiston newspaper’s health-beat reporter, her scope of work is much broader than that.

In 2006, she was lead reporter of an investigative report on school security that earned a first-place MPA investigative award and the New England Newspaper Association’s Publick Occurrences award. Tice and other reporters visited 37 schools in the Sun Journal’s readership area and walked through front doors and school corridors without first checking with the front office.

The exercise was an attempt to test whether Maine’s public schools were vulnerable to strangers making contact with students, and Tice’s team found that they were. The resulting report, titled “How long did it take your school to respond?” angered a number of school administrators for its audacity, but those same administrators then turned to their respective school boards for funding to increase security, including installing keypads and surveillance cameras at school entrances.

And, within 10 days of publication, former Education Commissioner Susan Gendron called on the state’s emergency preparedness task force to tackle school security. Now, in Maine, it is a rare occurrence when someone can freely walk through public school buildings without passing through security.

Tice’s work to push for public access to records and meetings has been a critical part of the Sun Journal’s continuing record of public access success and more than a dozen years of MPA FOI awards.

On Feb. 27, 2012, Tice wrote to administrators at Penobscot Valley Hospital seeking access to the hospital’s IRS 990 form after having received that documentation — a public document — from all other hospitals as part of her “Health & Wealth” reporting. She was informed that the requested document would be made available within 30 days of our request.

That’s not the law in Maine.

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act requires delivery of requested documents within a “reasonable amount of time.” Believing that the hospital couldn’t possibly need 30 days to copy and mail a 990 that had been filed with the IRS, Tice wrote to the Penobscot administrator noting that her written request had been made two weeks prior, which she believed to be more than enough time for the hospital to respond, and provided a link to the “reasonable amount of time” language in Maine law.

She had the 990 in hand two hours later.

Tice is also an accomplished feature writer. She won an MPA award last year for her business story, “Doctoring from afar,” about patients seeking second opinions through online sources. She also does a major amount of the newspaper’s analysis and investigative work, including a look at whether state-mandated school consolidation worked in Maine, “School consolidation: When a town wants out,” which was published in August 2012.

When the Lewiston Police Department called a community meeting last fall to confront an increase of complaints about safety, Tice examined crime statistics in the downtown to analyze whether residents’ concerns were justified in a November report, “Safer than it feels?”

And, when the Legislature — once again — took up the debate on taxing food, Tice looked at the state’s tax requirements, which are so complicated even public officials and business owners had trouble explaining the particulars. That report, “Maine’s taxing food tax,” was published in June 2012.

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