Randy Springer fishes for northern pike Oct. 15, 2022, on the Androscoggin River in Turner from his pedal/paddle kayak, surrounded by peaking foliage. This image, shot by Sun Journal Staff Photographer Russ Dillingham, won a first place award for scenic photo from the Maine Press Association on Saturday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

SOUTH PORTLAND — The Sun Journal was awarded 16 first place journalism awards Saturday during the annual Maine Press Association’s conference, including the Freedom of Information Award.

It is the 20th time in the past 24 years that the Lewiston-based newspaper has won this special award for its right-to-know work. This year’s honor included recognition of the newspaper’s fight for access to the Department of Health and Human Services’ prescription monitoring database for its “Legacy of Pain” investigation into the growing opioid crisis across the state.

The Sun Journal also won three first place advertising awards for best advertising campaign, best circulation promotion and best self-promotion, all for work highlighting the newspaper’s history and journalism during last year’s 175th birthday celebration.

The newspaper won a first place award for investigative journalism in partnership with the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel for the newspapers’ five-part joint project examining homelessness in Maine, including some of the causes of the crisis and stories about some of the people struggling to find stable homes, including hundreds of Maine teens, many who struggle to keep up with classes when home is a tent in the woods.

That project also won third place in the news writing and analysis categories.

Staff Photographer Russ Dillingham won three first place awards, one for a breaking news photo, one for a scenic photo of Randy Springer pike fishing on the Androscoggin River, and the last for a video accompanying his feature about Mary Seaman making a life for herself at a lighthouse on Canton Lake.


Senior Graphic Designer Jason Rathbun won two first place awards for page design, including an illustration he created for an opinion piece about the low number of veterinarians in Maine and the crisis that creates for pet owners, and the second one for specialty page design.

Sports Editor Lee Horton also won two first place awards, one for column writing for his regular “Dropping Dimes” column and the other for headline writing. The headline was “Ramblers Trott past Poland in Class D quarterfinals” on a story featuring Winthrop senior running back Dominic Trott.

Staff Writer Steve Collins won two first place awards, one for his feature story “The moose, the deer and beaver are all gone” about a recently discovered 1839 letter spotlighting the poverty and powerlessness of a Penobscot Nation trying to survive after their hunting grounds started to dry up, and another for environmental writing — shared with Staff Writer Vanessa Paolella — for “A look at the Andro 50 years after the Clean Water Act was passed.

Paolella won another first place award for education writing for her feature on Lewiston’s Wayfinder Schools, which offer under-credited, over-aged students a second chance to earn their high school diploma.

Opinion Page Editor Alex Lear won a first place award for local column writing for his “Learics” column, and Staff Photographer Andree Kehn and former Staff Writer Emily Bader won a first place award for their multi-part investigation into Maine’s opioid crisis, “Legacy of Pain.”

The final first place awards went to the sports staff for best sports section of any daily newspaper in the state, and to the news staff for religion writing in “Power of faith.”

The newspaper’s designers, writers and photographers won 14 second place awards, including awards for investigative work and business writing, and 14 third place awards, including front page and specialty page design.

Morning Sentinel Staff Photographer Rich Abrahamson won the Best in Show category for his photo work, Press Herald Staff Writer John Terhune won the Bob Drake Young Writer Award recognizing the best young journalist in Maine, and Press Herald advertising rep Peter Filippelli was named advertising person of the year. Times Record Page Designer Monica Speranza Cochran was named this year’s Unsung Hero.

The Press Herald was named the best daily and Sunday newspaper in the state, and took the top prize for its website. Second and third place in the website category went to SunJournal.com and CentralMaine.com, respectively

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