WALTHAM, Mass. — The Sun Journal has won seven New England Newspaper & Press Association awards, announced at Saturday’s annual association convention, including four first-place awards.

State writer Steve Collins won first-place honors in history reporting for his look back at then-Sen. Edmund Muskie’s bid for the White House in 1972, and how a fake letter to the editor by an operative for President Richard Nixon and Muskie’s emotional reaction to the firestorm that followed took down his campaign.

In addition to revisiting the teary photograph that Muskie said “changed people’s minds about me, of what kind of guy I was,” Collins talked to Mainers who worked on his campaign and recalled the events of that day and the months following.

Former staff writer Emily Bader and staff photographer Andree Kehn won first place in the investigative/enterprise reporting category for their multi-part series titled “Legacy of Pain,” looking at the opioid crisis in Maine, including how it started and what is feeding it.

This exhaustive six-month analysis, done in partnership with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, coupled on-the-ground reporting with data looking at how prescription opioids streamed into the state over the past 15 years, the rising death toll from opioids as changes to the law and a booming drug trade shifted the crisis away from pharmaceuticals to illicit and increasingly lethal drugs, and the growing pressure on schools and the child welfare system as the state grapples with how to handle this multi-generational crisis.

That project also placed second in NENPA’s health reporting category.


Staff writers Andrew Rice and Mark LaFlamme, staff photographer Andree Kehn and Executive Editor Judith Meyer won first place in the government reporting category for their work on multiple stories reporting on the growing homeless population in Lewiston and Auburn, including last year’s debate before the Lewiston City Council on a moratorium to ban shelters, the move in Auburn clearing a summerlong encampment from the lawn of the First Universalist Church of Auburn in accordance with a city ordinance banning overnight camping and homeless shelters, and the struggle for people without shelter to find a home.

Staff writer Christopher Williams and Meyer won a first-place award in the crime and courts reporting for coverage of the Steven Downs rape and murder trial held in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the intense First Amendment battle the Sun Journal fought to access virtual court proceedings in real time.

That reporting also placed second in NENPA’s right-to-know category.

Staff writer Vanessa Paolella won a third-place award for education reporting for her examination of the massive departure of bus drivers from the Auburn School District last year, the retirement of the transportation director and the decision by the School District ultimately to transfer all transportation responsibilities to the city of Auburn.

NENPA is the professional trade organization for newspapers in the six New England states, representing more than 450 daily, weekly and specialty newspapers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

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