BOSTON — The Sun Journal accepted five first-place awards from the New England Newspaper & Press Association Saturday during the trade association’s annual New England Better Newspaper competition.

According to NENPA, this competition is the largest and most comprehensive journalism recognition program in New England.

Staff Writer Steve Collins won in the history writing category for his fun historic feature on “Togo: History’s most heroic dog spent his final years at Poland Spring.” a sled dog famed for delivering life-saving medicine across the Alaskan wilderness in 1925.

According to the NENPA judges, “sometimes history stories are about consequences. Sometimes history stories are about fading memories. And sometimes history stories are just so much damn fun that they connect us with our lust for joy. That is this story. Two paragraphs in, you’re smiling and all in for a wonderful ride that expertly weaves fact and folklore with the appropriate dashes of humor-laden winkwinks and nod-nods. Not all history has to be ponderous to be insightful.”

Collins, Emily Bader and Alex Lear won the top prize in the science/technology reporting category for last year’s two-part comprehensive look at broadband in Maine titled, “No internet: The high cost of connecting Maine.” The report, published in cooperation with the Investigative Editing Corps, looked at Maine’s lagging progress in bringing high-speed broadband to all corners of Maine, and how nondisclosure deals keep a lot of data about broadband accessibility secret.

Former staff writer Lindsay Tice won in three categories: education, health and investigative.


Her 2020 report titled “Education under siege,” was honored in both the education and investigative categories. Working with the Investigative Editing Corps, Tice analyzed years of data on student achievement and poverty, using linear regression to examine the relationship between demographic factors and student performance at varying school levels.

What she found was that the break in education during the COVID shutdown in Maine schools, and then over the 2021 summer break, will most certainly have a lasting and negative impact on learning. For students who didn’t have the support, and/or the technology to study at home, the impact will be far more detrimental as time goes on.

The NENPA judges called the work an “outstanding use of data to connect the dots,” and “an important story impacting thousands of students and their families. In-depth data analysis and compelling findings. Superb work.”

Her reporting on the stress pharmacists are facing under an increasingly growing workload, “‘I’m terrified,’ Pharmacists struggle as workload expands,” won in the health reporting category. For that story, Tice spoke with a number of pharmacists in Maine who are finding that workload increases coupled with shrinking pharmacy staffs are putting patient safety on the line.

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