Reporters from the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting took home four awards — three of them first place finishes — at the Maine Press Association annual banquet on Saturday night.
- Reporter Dave Sherwood won first place for his in-depth investigation, “Lottery: Selling hope to the hopeless.” Judges wrote of that series, “This was an outstanding, in-depth riveting look at the state lottery and the effects on Maine’s low-income population.” The MPA award was the second accolade for Sherwood’s series: It also recently won the top New England journalism honor, a Publick Occurrences award, from the New England Newspaper and Press Association.
- Reporters Margaret Robbins, Dorothy Hastings and Naomi Schalit won first place for their online data project, “Making Connections,” that brought together lawmakers’ sources of personal and family income, legislative assignments, civic associations they serve and the bills for which those lawmakers were the lead sponsor during the 2015 legislative session. This interactive online tool enabled the state’s citizens to better understand the private financial interests of their legislators – and how they may intersect with the public interest. “A great public service,” wrote the judges. Robbins and Hastings are both college students who interned with the Center for the project.
- Naomi Schalit won first place for her political investigation, “Maine Democrats play middleman between wealthy Clinton donors and national party,” an examination of a complex scheme between the Maine Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s fundraising operation that exploited recent court decisions and campaign finance laws to maximize political contributions and funnel them to the Democratic National Committee. “A classic follow-the-money story that provides accountability and reveals deep flaws in the country’s campaign finance system. Top-notch work,” wrote the judges.
- Naomi Schalit won second place for what judges called “a well-documented, comprehensive look at lead paint poisoning in Maine.” Her four-part series, “Danger: Lead Paint — the childhood poison that never went away,” documented how Maine had failed to live up to a state law that promised to eradicated childhood lead poisoning by 2010 and showed that lead was still the state’s number one toxic health hazard for children.
John Christie, who edited the prizewinning projects, said “All of these stories have something in common: Our commitment to hold accountable public officials and their policies through independent, evidence-based journalism.”
Joshua F. Moore, executive editor of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, joined Schalit in accepting the awards at the Oct. 29 awards ceremony, held at the Doubletree Hotel in South Portland. “These awards are a wonderful recognition of the long hours and painstaking, detail-oriented work that goes into each of the investigations that the Center undertakes,” Moore said. “We are thankful for the readers and donors who support our nonprofit news service, and we also appreciate each of our media partners for helping us bring our stories to the largest audience possible.”