Pine Tree Watch was honored Saturday with 16 awards at the Maine Press Association annual fall conference and banquet in South Portland.
Pine Tree Watch took home two of the highest honors of the evening, winning the Freedom of Information Award and General Excellence in Digital Media for weekly news products.
“It was terrific to see the Maine Press Association recognize the importance of investigative and enterprise journalism,” said Jed Davis, president of the board of the directors of Pine Tree Watch and the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. “I want to thank all of our generous donors and readers for supporting our nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization.”
“Born to Drugs,” the Pine Tree Watch investigative series that exposed the soaring amount of Maine babies born dependent on opioids, was honored with seven first-place awards, including the Freedom of Information Award for reporter Barbara Walsh.
“Barbara Walsh and Yoon Byun are among the most talented and hardest-working journalists I’ve ever had a chance to collaborate with,” said Dan Dinsmore, editor of Pine Tree Watch. “Our Born to Drugs series was a huge task. It took over nine months to report, write and produce. Barbara filed several Freedom of Access Act requests with the state to understand the data and decision-making that allowed this epidemic to spark. She also talked with over 100 different sources.
“This is the type of essential, in-depth journalism that we are working to protect here in Maine. These stories take time, but they’re so important to publish.”
Website designer Jessica Ouellette was honored with two first-place prizes for her work, including best Illustration for “Drug Affected Newborns,” and best Graphic for “The News Makers.” Pine Tree Watch contributor Jordan Bailey won a first-place award for Court Story for “Evidence of Innocence?”.
Pine Tree Watch was honored with five second-place awards and a third-place award in the weekly category:
Patricia McCarthy placed second for Political Story for “Called to Action“
Sarah Rice finished second for Feature Photo for “What’s the Objective“
Jessica Ouellette finished second for Special Online Project for “Born to Drugs“
Mike Miliard placed third in Analysis for “LePage’s Legacy“
“None of this work would be possible without the amazing support of our readers and funders,” Dinsmore said. “We don’t sell advertising or charge people to access our content, so our journalism is funded by individual donors and organizations here in Maine who believe that journalism matters and is worth protecting. I’m so thankful for their support. They make all of this possible.”
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 Eric Russell was honored as Journalist of the Year while Hannah LaClaire won the Bob Drake Young Writers Award.
Three people were inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame on Saturday: Stephen Fay, former managing editor of the Ellsworth American; Marian McCue, former editor and publisher of The Forecaster; and Christopher Cousins, the state house bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News, who died in August 2018.