NEWRY — The Forecaster, American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly newspapers received five first place-awards and came in second for General Excellence in the Maine Press Association’s 2018 Better Newspaper Contest.
At an awards banquet held Oct. 20 at Sunday River, the group of weekly newspapers, which cover nearly all of coastal Cumberland County as well as inland to Windham and north to Gray, received 19 awards in all.
The awards included accolades for individual staff reporters, as well as an overall general excellence award for The Forecaster, which took home a second-place honor in this category.
Reporters with The Forecaster, American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly received awards in categories ranging from headlines to health, courts to religion, and business to politics.
The honors received included two first-place awards for Portland Forecaster reporter David Harry.
One was given for his analysis of the multitude of issues faced by the city’s homeless population, as well as the businesses and residents who often must deal with the fallout.
The other first-place honor was bestowed for a business story that dealt with concerns raised by Portland’s hotel construction boom.
In all, The Forecaster, American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly won five first-place awards, including one for former Forecaster reporter Callie Ferguson and one for Amy Canfield, managing editor of the American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly.
Canfield’s first-place honor was for her headline about hiking with goats at Ten Apple Farm in Gray. In addition, American Journal editorial cartoonist Dale LeRoux earned a first place award, as well.
The newspapers received a total of six, second-place honors, including one for Harry, who won the award for a Freedom of Information query that looked into the use of private email by Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling as he worked to pass a $64 million elementary school bond in fall 2017.
Staff at the weeklies also received eight third-place awards, including one by Northern Forecaster reporter Jocelyn Van Saun for her story on how the Athletic Booster Club of Durham faced mismanagement of club funds.
Another third place honor went to Executive Editor Mo Mehlsak for an opinion piece.
“Week in, week out, the staff of The Forecaster, American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly strive to meet the expectations of our readership. Much more often than not, I believe we do,” Mehlsak said.
“But it’s also gratifying and humbling to know we also meet the high standards set by our peers, and to be recognized for doing so by the Maine Press Association,” he said.
The Maine Press Association, founded in 1864, is one of the oldest professional news organizations in the nation. Key among its goals are promoting and protecting the principles of freedom of speech and of the press and the public’s right to know.
The association’s annual conference and awards ceremony is a chance for newspaper staff across the state to “exchange ideas and celebrate the year’s achievements,” the organization said on its website.
This year’s conference also included a keynote address by Leigh Saufley, Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.