Samantha Hogan, who was hired as The Maine Monitor’s first full-time reporter in 2019 and quickly raised the bar for investigative journalism in the state, took home the Maine Press Association’s highest individual honor on Saturday night: Maine Journalist of the Year.
Hogan was recognized primarily for her year-long investigation into the Maine judicial system’s approach to defending indigent people charged with crimes.
The Maine Monitor staff also took top honors for “General Excellence: Digital Design,” in its contest classification.
Hogan, working with ProPublica data reporter Agnel Philip, uncovered a system in which more than a quarter of Maine attorneys disciplined in the past decade for serious professional misconduct wound up being hired as lawyers for the poor.
Attorneys convicted of sex crimes and felonies were among the most severe infractions overlooked in the state’s indigent defense system. Maine is the only state in the nation without full-time, government-employed public defenders.
“Being honored by the Maine Press Association like this is a testament to the power of legitimate and nonpartisan, independent reporting,” said Dan Dinsmore, editor emeritus at The Maine Monitor and a member of the Maine Press Association board.
“This is Samantha’s second major award this year. Like her colleagues at the Monitor, she makes a difference. Samantha’s reporting leads to significant change, which we’ve already seen because of these stories.”
Dinsmore hired Hogan in 2019 and played a coordinating and editing role in the Defenseless project. He now holds a leadership position with Spectrum News Maine.
Before coming to the Monitor, Hogan worked for the Frederick (Md.) News-Post and interned twice for The Washington Post. Her Defenseless project recently received national recognition, named a “finalist” in the investigative reporting category for the Institute for Nonprofit News. INN supports more than 300 non-profit newsrooms in the U.S. that are dedicated to non-partisan, public service journalism. The Maine Monitor is a member of INN.
Hogan also picked up three MPA category first place awards in the Weekly 2 division, for the best courts story, best investigative story and best business story (co-winner was Meg Robbins, the Monitor’s former managing editor).
Other first-place MPA winners for the Monitor include: Barbara Walsh (5) for best news video story (co-winner Yoon Byun), best religion story, best feature article, best arts/lifestyle feature story, and best continuing story; Steve Solloway for sports profile; Hal Madsen (2) for headline writing; Yoon Byun (2), also for people photo; Roger McCord for best features/lifestyle video; Rose Lundy for education story; Fred Field for picture story; Marina Schauffler for environmental story; Susan Cover, Meg Robbins and Darren Fishell for political story; Bailey Beltramo for best young reader engagement idea; and, Chloe Cushman for illustration.
Katie Brown won “Best in Show” for the Weekly 2 photography division for her photo from a Black Lives Matter event. Judges commented: “The chaos, expressions and look in people’s eyes while having the proper depth-of-field within the photo worked well together. You can feel the chaos going
on all the while everyone’s face tells the story. Good action shot.”
The Monitor also picked up 11 second-place awards from the Association and nine third-place awards.
“Led by Samantha’s prestigious award, the breadth of accomplishment from the Monitor team shows that our peers see what a difference that we make in Maine,” said Eric Conrad, who joined the Monitor in July of this year as editor and executive director.
“Our profound hope is that readers and donors recognize this too. As a non-profit newsroom, we need your support so we can continue to shine the light on important Maine issues that would otherwise go uncovered.”