Sun Journal Chief Photographer Russ Dillingham won a first place Maine Press Association award for this photo of Nicole Simond, 35, of Lewiston, kissing a friend goodbye on Pierce Street in Lewiston on Aug. 7, 2019, after being arrested on a warrant. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Sun Journal picked up 38 Maine Press Association Awards at the annual newspaper conference, which was held Saturday night as a virtual event.

The Maine Sunday Telegram was named the best Sunday newspaper of the year and the Portland Press Herald was named the best daily newspaper of the year. The Central Maine newspapers were honored for general excellence online.

Portland’s Randy Billings was named the MPA Journalist of the year, JoAnne Alfiero of the Portland Press Herald was named Advertising Person of the Year, the Morning Sentinel’s Meg Robbins earned the Bob Drake Young Writer’s Award, and Sun Journal Web Editor Carl Natale was named the newspaper association’s Unsung Hero for 2020.

The Freedom of Information award, which recognizes a newspaper’s efforts to protect and preserve public access to records and meetings, went to the Sun Journal.

The Sun Journal won three first place awards for photo and design, five first place awards for writing, top awards for its editorial section and Sports section, and top awards for Sports page design and headline writing.

The winning Sports page design was the March 8, 2019 front — True Perfection — featuring a story by Staff Writer Wil Kramlich on the emotional and tense Class A state championship hockey game that the Lewiston boys won in double overtime. The state title was the fourth in five years for Lewiston, and 24th overall.

The front page design award recognized the page of April 21, 2019 — More than just hot air — designed by Managing Editor/nights Marla Hoffman and featuring a story by Staff Writer Steve Collins on Gov. Janet Mills’ avowed fight to preserve Maine’s environmental health.

Jason Rathbun took home a first place award for his Nov. 17, 2019 graphic, A million dollars for a fire truck? Yep, and here’s why. The graphic was designed as a horizontal wrap for the Sunday B-section, a move that allowed for a larger image of Lewiston’s new $1 million fire engine, and a detailed explanation on its equipment and why it cost so much.

Chief Photographer Russ Dillingham earned a first place award for spot news photo after capturing an image of a handcuffed Nicole Simond of Lewiston kissing a friend goodbye on an August afternoon on Pierce Street in Lewiston after she was arrested on a warrant. Readers had very strong reaction to the photo, spurring Staff Writer Mark LaFlamme to write a column about it.

The Sun Journal staff, including Web Editor Carl Natale, designers Jason Rathbun and Jack Hibert, and news clerk Cam Churchill were honored with a first place award for editorial section, and the newspaper staff also won first place for its Sports section in the daily and weekend newspapers category. In both of these categories, the newspaper is required to submit three sections and the award recognizes the body of work.

Staff Writer Donna Perry and photographer Dillingham won first place in the spot news category for  breaking coverage of the September propane explosion in Farmington that killed Capt. Michael Bell and injured seven others. Perry and Dillingham were the first two journalists at the scene that day.

The Maine Press Association bestows the spot news award for breaking news on speed, difficulty of reporting and thoroughness. On the day of that explosion, which happened at 8:28 a.m., Perry managed to get to the scene, talk to emergency officials, call in her notes and send in a photo in under an hour. The Sun Journal revised that story 73 times during the course of the day, with Perry remaining at the scene the entire time. Dillingham’s drone images of the devastation were used by local and national media for days following the explosion.

Staff Writer Lindsay Tice won a first place award for outdoors writing for her feature on “Nature Therapy: It’s more than a walk in the Maine woods.” The feature looked at a growing body of research proving what many outdoors enthusiasts already know: Spending time in nature reduces anxiety, lessens depression and is increasingly popular as therapy.

Sports Editor Lee Horton won first place for headline writing for his light take on the Fletcher family’s love of soccer: Kicking it with family.

Every year, the Sun Journal asks readers to tell us about the people in their communities who are guided and inspired by faith. The features — on faiths of all kinds — run on Christmas Eve. Last December, the profiles included a Paris couple faced with a heart-wrenching decision about the care of their newborn, who faces serious health problems. A woman called to help Intensive Care Unit patients and their families at a local hospital deal with their fears. A young Jay widow who handles her new life as a young single mother while also helping her family members, all of whom found hope and support — to help themselves and to help others — in their faith. That package was honored with a first place award.

Longtime Sun Journal freelance writer Rob Tukey won a first place award for his review of the Public Theatre’s presentation of “Sexy Laundry,” which he described as awash in humor, tumbled dry in reality.

And, Executive Editor Judith Meyer was honored with a first place award in editorial writing for her piece “This is why the Meserve case is messy,” a pointed presentation about why the Sun Journal continues to focus on the overdose death of former Lewiston officer Nick Meserve and his behavior while on the force that jeopardized a number of criminal cases in Androscoggin County.

In addition to these awards, the newspaper picked up 10 second place awards and 13 third place awards in design, advertising, online journalism, writing and Sports.

To read the work described above, go to sunjournal.com/mpa2020

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