The Maine Monitor was honored with 29 awards Saturday night at the Maine Press Association annual awards ceremony.
Senior reporter Samantha Hogan and managing editor Meg Robbins were among the night’s big winners at the event, which was virtual this year due to the pandemic. Robbins was honored with the MPA’s Bob Drake Young Writer’s Award and two reporting awards; Hogan won 11 awards, including six first-place honors.
The Maine Monitor also took home two of the highest honors of the evening, winning the Freedom of Information Award (Samantha Hogan) and General Excellence in Digital Media for weekly news products.
Altogether the Monitor won 14 first-place awards, including nine for writing. The Maine Monitor’s work was judged against the work of weekly publications with circulations of 3,000 or more and online-only organizations:
First place in the weekly Investigative Story category went to Hogan for her reporting on the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.
Hogan, a Report for America corps member, was honored with a first-place award in the weekly Continuing Story category for her reporting on indigent defense in Maine.
First place in the weekly Education Story category went to Hogan for her story on how Maine’s charter schools are failing to thrive.
Hogan was also honored with a first-place award in the weekly Political Story category for her article that examined the spending for this year’s U.S. Senate race through the prism of an independent candidate.
First place in the weekly News Story category went to Barbara Walsh for her story on the impact of the opioid crisis on Maine children.
First place in the weekly Courts Story category went to Susan Cover for her story on the disparities of deferred dispositions in Maine courthouses.
First place in the weekly Feature Story category went to Steve Solloway for his story on the closing of the Biddeford Journal Tribune.
First place in the weekly Business Story category was awarded to Darren Fishell for his story on the $132 million electricity ripoff.
First place in the weekly News Headline category went to Maine Monitor editor Dan Dinsmore for the headline, ‘Another death in the family,’ about the closure of the Biddeford Journal Tribune.
The Monitor’s other first-place awards came in the Feature Video category (Charles Stuart for his profile of Bumbleroot Farm in Windham), the Feature Photo category (Gabe Souza for his hands at work photo) and the New Revenue Idea category (Samantha Hogan and Dan Dinsmore for the Monitor’s live event series, The Fate of Local Journalism in Maine).
“This recognition shows that our nonprofit, nonpartisan civic journalism model is working here in Maine,” said Dinsmore, who also serves as the executive director of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the 501(c)(3) that publishes the Monitor. “None of this would be possible without the dedicated support of our readers and donors. They see the value in our journalism, and the impact younger journalists like Samantha Hogan and Meg Robbins can have in our state.”
Hogan, whose work on indigent defense in 2019 led to a partnership with ProPublica on this year’s Defenseless series, was also honored with two second-place and three third-place awards.
“Samantha Hogan is a bulldog of a reporter and has been a huge part of our growth over the past 15 months,” said Dinsmore. “These awards are a recognition of her hard work, her determination and her continued growth. I’m so proud of Samantha.”
Robbins, who started with the Monitor in February after more than a year at the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, was honored with the Bob Drake Young Writer’s Award, given to a journalist with less than two years of full-time experience. Robbins was nominated by Morning Sentinel city editor Greg McManus.
“While the Drake award recognizes Meg’s skills as a reporter, writer and filmmaker, it’s important to note what she also brings to the newsroom. Meg knows how to listen,” said McManus. “From the outset, she soaked up what was happening around her from the veterans at the Morning Sentinel and passed that on in her work and attitude to others. In any newsroom you have remarkable personalities and getting them to work together has much to do with how well they accommodate each other. With Meg Robbins we were fortunate to have a hell of a good egg.”
Dinsmore said Robbins’ pre-pandemic hire has helped change the trajectory of the Monitor newsroom.
“Meg is the glue that holds our growing staff together. She is a terrific editor and collaborator,” said Dinsmore. “I appreciate her drive and determination. She cares about Maine and wants to make sure we’re telling fair and balanced stories — and doing so in engaging ways.”
Robbins picked up two honors in the daily newspaper writing category for stories she produced while at the Morning Sentinel: third place in the Investigative Story category (State halts use of road sealant after crashes on Route 225 in Rome) and third place in the Health story category (Farmington doctor leads by example when it comes to LGBTQ care in rural Maine).
The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Ellsworth American and the York County Coast Star were honored as the top newspapers in their respective categories. Portland Press Herald reporter Randy Billings was honored as Journalist of the Year, Joanne Alfiero of the Portland Press Herald won the Advertising Person of the Year and the Sun Journal’s web editor Carl Natale won the Unsung Hero Award.
Two people were inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame: the late Arther Guesman, who spent 20 years as a professor of journalism and faculty advisor of the Maine Campus newspaper at the University of Maine; and Terry Carlisle, who retired last year after a 41-year career at the Ellsworth American. Carlisle, who started working at the paper in 1978 as a secretary to the publisher, retired after serving 19 years as the paper’s general manager.