Right-to-Know award 1 of several honors for The Forecaster

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BOSTON — The Forecaster received eight awards Saturday in the annual New England Newspaper & Press Association Better Newspaper Competition, including a first-place honor for the paper’s overall commitment to the public’s right-to-know.

Individual first-place awards went to Staff Writer Emily Guerin for Spot News Story and Editor Mo Mehlsak for Editorial Writing.

The Right-to-Know award was presented for the newspaper’s body of work in 2011.

Judges said “non-daily newspapers could take a lesson from the year-long focus on the public’s right-to-know, with so many topics, wonderful local coverage paired with opinion pieces from distinguished people … . The Forecaster serves its watchdog role with tenacity in the newsroom and with insightful editorial(s).”

Guerin’s award was for her coverage of an apartment house fire in downtown Brunswick in April 2011.

“This was a vividly told account of a building fire and its aftermath,” judges said. “A human look at the victims and an exploration of code compliance issues.”

Mehlsak’s editorials examined the tactics of a Falmouth government “watchdog,” explored a potential conflict of interest on the Falmouth Town Council, and criticized changes to the School Board public comment policy in Cape Elizabeth.

Judges said the editorials were “strong stands in a sharply worded format” and “fun to read.”

Other awards presented to The Forecaster were:

• Education Reporting, second place, to Emily Parkhurst for coverage from September 2010 through March 2011 of environmental problems at Wentworth School in Scarborough.

• Election Coverage, second place, for stories in spring 2011 from Falmouth, Cumberland, Freeport, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Chebeague Island by Alex Lear, Amy Anderson and Parkhurst.

• Transportation Reporting, second place, for Guerin’s stories on a Mid-Coast Route 1 corridor plan and objections to it by tea party-inspired conservatives.

• Editorial/Commentary Page, third place, to Mehlsak.

• Government Reporting, honorable mention, to Guerin and Parkhurst for a report about companies that received federal stimulus contracts despite their questionable environmental or safety records.

The 2011 awards were presented at NENPA’s annual conference at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. The competition drew more than 3,000 entries in five circulation categories from daily, weekly and specialty newspapers in the six-state region.