SOUTH PORTLAND — The Maine Sunday Telegram was named Maine’s top Sunday newspaper of the year and Bangor Daily News was named the state’s top daily paper during the annual Maine Press Association Fall Conference held at DoubleTree by Hilton in South Portland on Saturday.

The Bangor Daily News was named the top news website in the state and Erin Rhoda was named Maine’s Journalist of the Year.

The Sun Journal was awarded the press association’s Freedom of Information Award for its work over the past year, including forcing the Rumford District Court to unseal a criminal file and overturning a court order to impound the search warrant affidavits in the manslaughter case against Harvest Hill Farm.

It is the 16th time in the past 17 years the Lewiston paper has earned this award.

“Our reporters and editors are not timid about challenging public officials to gain access to public records, and are constantly monitoring these officials to ensure meetings are held in public,” according to Executive Editor Judith Meyer. “It is our absolute responsibility as journalists to protect public access and we take that role very seriously.”

The Sun Journal picked up first-place writing awards for:

• Continuing story, awarded to Kathryn Skelton and Lindsay Tice for their examination of the 1982 death of a student at the Elan School in Poland. After that report was published, and with the urging of the student’s family and friends, Maine State Police launched an investigation into his death.

• Investigative report, awarded to Scott Thistle for his report on how people bartered their electronic benefit transfer cards for cash or drugs. Months after that investigation was published, the Department of Health and Human Services changed its rules to combat this bartering, now requiring EBT clients to explain the loss of more than five cards.

• Spot news story, awarded to the staff for its report on a five-hour standoff in Poland in November that ended peacefully.

• Business story, awarded to Skelton for her in-depth feature profile on former White Rock Distilleries owner Paul Coulombe.

• Court reporting, awarded to Meyer for her report on a civil lawsuit brought against trustees of an estate whose beneficiaries are homeless cats in the town of Dixfield.

• Sports profile, awarded to Wil Kramlich, for his in-depth feature on Norm Gagne’s high school hockey coaching career.

• Health story, awarded to Tice for her look at medical innovations at Maine’s largest hospitals.

Other first-place awards were given to:

• Daryn Slover for his photograph of police stopping a car at gunpoint on Lincoln Street after shots were fired at McDonald’s in Lewiston in April;

• Heather McCarthy for her B-Sec cover illustration of dinosaurs;

• McCarthy for her graphic showing oil prices in Maine;

• Mark LaFlamme for his first-person feature on clam digging titled “Dig clams? Hoe no!”;

• Pete Phelan for his headline “Rock in hard place” about a neighbor dispute over a large rock in Hanover;

• Justin Pelletier and Ernie Anderson for their shared headline “Fast and Luce,” reporting driver Glen Luce’s win at the Oxford 250;

• Pelletier for Sports page design; and

• Sun Journal staff for feature section content and design.

The Sun Journal was also awarded 10 second-place writing awards and three design and photo awards; 10 third-place writing awards and seven photo, design and illustration awards.

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