BAR HARBOR — The Portland Press Herald was named the best daily newspaper in Maine, and the Maine Sunday Telegram was named the best weekend newspaper in Maine at the annual Maine Press Association conference and awards banquet Saturday night.

Bangor Daily News came in second and the Sun Journal third for the general excellence daily category. In the general excellence weekend category, the Bangor paper came in second, and the Morning Sentinel, third.

For best website, the Portland Press Herald won first place; the Sun Journal won second place.

And for the 14th consecutive year, the Sun Journal brought home the daily newspaper Freedom of Information Award.

The FOI Award, considered one of MPA’s top honors, was based on the Lewiston newspaper staff’s continued strength in fighting to maintain public access to documents and meetings.

The entry led with a narrative of political editor Scott Thistle’s stand to ensure that a budget briefing held between the Legislature’s full Appropriations Committee and the governor’s staff in January was conducted in open session. Maine law does not allow executive sessions on budget discussions. Thistle was the only journalist at the State House that day demanding that the meeting be held in public.

He was allowed to attend when no public official was able to cite a statute that allowed such an executive session.

The rest of the State House press corps stood in the hallway and did not participate in the protest. When officials relented and Thistle was invited into the meeting, the rest of the press corps — including print, TV and radio — followed him into the Govenor’s Cabinet Room, and many of them later thanked Thistle for his efforts.

“Not one person among the media standing there came to Mr. Thistle’s aid during that protest, nor backed up his assertions that the budget meeting was the public’s business,” according to the Sun Journal’s FOI entry.

The Sun Journal’s entry also included its demand for access to public records after the Department of Health and Human Services re-aligned funding for the state’s Healthy Community Coalitions in June 2012, and staff writer Lindsay Tice’s request for access to disciplinary records at the Androscoggin County Jail, among other work.

Other Sun Journal staff whose work contributed to this award include staff writers Donna Perry, Christopher Williams, Daniel Hartill and Bonnie Washuk, and editorials and columns written by Executive Editor Rex Rhoades and Judith Meyer, managing editor/days.

“Winning the Freedom of Information award 14 consecutive times shows the importance the Sun Journal places on preserving transparency in government,” Rhoades said. “Judy Meyer is a recognized expert on freedom of information laws and leads the Sun Journal’s efforts to hold government accountable.”

The Sun Journal also accepted 11 first-place writing, photography, design and advertising awards, including Chief Photographer Russ Dillingham’s spot news photo taken during a snowstorm last year, “Dude needs a smoke after crashing his car.” In that photo, Peter Karwowski of Brunswick stands in the foreground smoking a cigarette while explaining to firefighters how he wrecked his car, which is seen in the background.

Dillingham also won a first-place award for his sports video, “Pole position: Polewarczyk grabs TD Bank 250 title,” shot during the annual race at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 22, 2012.

The sports staff was honored with a first-place award for its section, based on entries featuring a report about schools facing strengthened concussion guidelines, the Dixfield Cougars winning the Class C state wrestling championship and coverage of the Eastern Class A girls basketball tournament.

“We are very proud to have received this award,” Sports Editor Justin Pelletier said. “We have a small but dedicated staff that works tirelessly to bring our readers the best sports coverage possible, and we are honored to be recognized as Maine’s best.”

Reporter Kathryn Skelton won three awards, including two first-place finishes.

The first, for a news story, “Life and Death,” about the change in EMS protocol to treat more cardiac-arrest victims at the scene rather than en route to the hospital, and the resulting effect that when efforts fail, more families are dealing with the body left behind.

Skelton’s other first-place award was for a business/economics story, “Theft on the inside,” about the rise in workplace embezzlement.

Other first-place awards went to:

* Susan Broadbent, for specialty page design, featuring a bPlus cover titled “Bats,” which included Staff Writer Mark LaFlamme’s take on how we hate (and love) bats.

* Sun Journal staff, for feature section, based on the bPlus section covers “Bats,” and another on Mainers’ obsession with their cats (the Pine Tree State is No. 2 in cat ownership in the U.S.).

* Bonnie Washuk, for an education story, “No-home schooling,” about how homeless teens are managing work and school.

* Lindsay Tice, for a health story, “Born addicted,” about the rise in the number of infants born with opiates in their systems.

* Sun Journal staff, continuing story, for a series of articles on the traffic dangers at the intersection of Route 4 and Lake Shore Drive in Auburn.

* Sandy Dyer and Melissa Logan won a first-place advertising award for their work on the sponsorship page, “National Wear Red Day.”

The newspaper also won 14 second-place awards and seven third-place awards for writing, photography, design, video and advertising. A full list of all winners will be available on the Maine Press Association site at mainepress.wordpress.com later this week.

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