Maine Monitor earns three New England Newspaper & Press Association awards

The competition bills itself as the largest and most comprehensive journalism recognition program in New England.
A collage of three photos, each representing a reporting project that received an award. The three photos are of the Wells beach, a sign outside a probate office and of Karen Wentworth.
The New England Newspaper & Press Association bestowed three awards on The Maine Monitor for reporting projects these photos are, respectively, from. Photo credits: Alex McLean, Fred J. Field, Troy R. Bennett.

Three reporting projects published by The Maine Monitor were honored March 23 by the New England Newspaper & Press Association during the organization’s annual Better Newspaper Competition. 

Journalists from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island vie for awards in the NENPA contest. The Monitor mostly competed the online-only division alongside newsrooms such as CT Mirror, VTDigger and Granite State News Collaborative, except in the investigative reporting category where it competed alongside online-only newsrooms and daily newspapers such as the Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

“The Unstoppable Ocean”

An examination of how sea level rise is affecting 10 coastal Maine communities by Kate Cough and aerial photographer Alex McLean tied for first place in the climate change and weather reporting category. 

The ocean has been slowly rising for centuries. But it is the pace that is now alarming, particularly when combined with storms that are more frequent and more intense. High tide flooding is between four and 10 times more frequent than 50 years ago. 

Aerial view of a beach in Wells filled with beachgoers. Behind the beach are rows of houses and a parking lot, all at risk of the surrounding water
The Maine Climate Council predicts that the 1.6 feet of sea-level rise expected by 2050 would result in the loss of more than a million yearly visitors and $136 million in annual tourism revenue, as popular beach destinations in southern Maine disappear under the waves. Photo by Alex MacLean.

A single foot of sea level rise (which scientists say will likely happen within the next three decades) will bring 10 times more frequent nuisance flooding and coastal storm impacts, according to the Maine Climate Council. 

The project received support from the Pulitzer Center and was co-published by Down East. 

“Maine’s Part-Time Court”

An investigation by Samantha Hogan into Maine’s probate court system earned second place in the investigative and enterprise reporting category. 

Hogan spent a year investigating Maine’s probate courts and uncovered that eight incapacitated adults under public guardianship of the state died during the past three years, and that authorities don’t know exactly how.

That news prompted an immediate outcry from state lawmakers for better oversight of guardians and renewed calls for reform to the probate courts that have long been overlooked, despite serving thousands of Mainers.

A black sign reading "Probate Office" is attached to the wall outside the doorway to the office.
The Maine Monitor’s reporting showed that the challenges facing those who require the services of Maine’s probate system are only getting worse, one advocate said. Photo by Fred J. Field.

Additionally, Hogan uncovered that millions of dollars in estates of aging or deceased Mainers are at risk of pilfering from shady lawyers and caretakers, and that young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities are sometimes appointed guardians without a lawyer advocating on their behalf for less restrictive alternatives. 

Hogan’s investigation revealed the probate courts set up to oversee guardianships and estates are so antiquated and understaffed they do not know how many guardianships the state has — much less how to institute a systematic approach that would prevent fraud and abuse.

The series received support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Editing Corps, and Report for America

“A Death of Choice” 

A feature story on how a Maine woman, who believed people should control their own deaths, lived to define her own ending while facing terminal cancer earned second place in the health reporting category. 

Karen Wentworth poses for a photo while sitting in a chair in her backyard while holding the blue bundle that contains the life-ending drugs.
Karen Wentworth sits in her South Portland backyard on July 24, 2020, holding the concoction of life-ending drugs she kept in a tidy, feathered bundle. Photo by Troy R. Bennett of the Bangor Daily News.

Karen Wentworth only expected to live for a few months, but she hung on for two more years, having a grandchild along the way — providing Caitlin Andrews and photojournalist Troy R. Bennett a window into her joys and struggles.

Wentworth was the second person in the state to get a prescription under Maine’s 2019 death with dignity law. The story was co-published with the Bangor Daily News


The Maine Monitor

The Maine Monitor is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that holds Maine state government and institutions accountable. Our team of investigative journalists use data- and document-based reporting to produce stories that have an impact.
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