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Billings, Sun Journal staff win FOI award

News

Billings, Sun Journal staff win FOI award

NORTHPORT — The Sun Journal daily and Sunday newspapers were named the best in the state at the Maine Press Association's annual conference Saturday night.

The papers serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties took top honors for the second year in a row. The contest was judged by editors at New Jersey newspapers.

"I'm very proud of our staff and especially proud of Jim Costello Sr. being inducted into the journalism hall of fame," Sun Journal Executive Editor Rex Rhoades said Saturday night.

"Our success in the newsroom is directly related to the dedication to community news of the Costello family," Rhoades said.

The Sun Journal also won the Freedom of Information award. It is the ninth consecutive year the Lewiston newspaper has been so honored, winning the prize this year for its work exposing the extensive use and misuse of e-mail communication by and among elected officials in Lewiston.

The four-part "e-mail trail," published in June 2008, was an investigation of e-mails sent by and among city councilors, the mayor and others. The investigation showed that officials routinely spent hours building consensus by e-mail, well outside the public's notice, and then convened council meetings in a pantomime of open government.

The principal writer for the e-mail project was staff writer Scott Taylor, with contributions by Regional Editor Scott Thistle, Meyer and staff writer Randy Billings of The Forecaster.

Winning the FOI award for nine years in a row "is a real tribute to (Managing Editor/Days) Judy Meyer, our expert on that," Rhoades said. "It shows that our staff is very aggressive about protecting the public's right to know. We take that very seriously.