Award winners improve NJ

From left, Nicholas Muscavage, Stephen Stirling, Karin Price Muller, Susan Livio and Christine O’Brien at the NJ Society of Professional Journalists awards lunch June 16, 2018.

The winners are …

Plumbers in New Jersey crooked? It’s a negative stereotype, but one reporter’s work exposing exploitative business practices won her the Awbrey Award for community journalism.

Karin Price Mueller was one of the winners of our Signature Journalism Awards who spoke eloquently about their work during our lunch on June 16. We gathered at the Maize Restaurant at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark.

Her “Bamboozled” column, which runs in the Star-Ledger and at NJ.com, garnered these comments from members of SPJ’s Alaska chapter, which judged the contest:

“Her research and writing, including excellent use of significant community input, led to direct results. ‘Bamboozled’ fairly demonstrated the questionable practices of one of New Jersey’s largest plumbing companies. And it helped victims win refunds and apologies, while keeping other community members from being ripped off. I would imagine her effort especially helped improve the lives and finances of vulnerable residents, especially those with low incomes.”

The O’Briens

In introducing the Tim O’Brien Award, for best use of public records, his daughter Christine O’Brien recalled her late father’s love of getting into a story, digging for facts and the spirit of the newsroom.

The judges gave first place to Sean Sullivan and Stephen Stirling of the Star-Ledger and NJ.com, for a story about failings in New Jersey’s medical examiners’ offices. Their comments were:

“Even in this worthy field, one entry stands out: Death and Dysfunction, by Sean Sullivan and Stephen Stirling of The Star-Ledger and NJ.com. This work displayed tenacity in applying open records requests, skill in writing and presentation, and solid results that rippled through the Office of the Governor, Attorney General, Department of Health and elsewhere. It will affect millions of citizens. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once proclaimed, ‘Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.’ These journalists have added an emphatic ‘Amen’ to that observation.”

Second place went to Susan Livio, of the Star-Ledger and NJ.com. The judges said: A heartbreaking story of human frailty and failure, ‘The Last Good Night,’ (is a) more circumscribed but no less compelling story, notable for its solid foundation, unusual access and gripping narrative.

Third place went to David Matthau and Sergio Bichao, of New Jersey 101.5, for revealing that doctors can still practice after criminal sexual offenses, with the judge saying “That surely was shocking news to patients all over New Jersey.”

The Barto

The Wilson Barto Award for Rookie of the Year went to Nick Muscavage of the Courier News in Somerville. The judge said, “Nick provided pieces on three entirely different topics, expressing the information clearly and with a strong human connection. His topics, especially the first two, were stories I normally would not read yet they were interesting and well-researched. His articles were different than most and filed with details gathered by someone who dug deep for facts. For this reason Nick is my selection for the Wilson Barto Award.”

In accepting the award, Muscavage talked about what inspires him as a journalist and his desire to make a difference through his reporting.

We thank Keystone SPJ and the Alaska Press Club for judging this year’s entries.

June 30 historic site event

The NJ chapter’s next event is at noon June 30, when we will unveil a plaque marking the Union Hotel in Flemington as a Historic Site in New Jersey Journalism. The plaque commemorates the role of the Union Hotel as the hub of world-wide media coverage during the Lindbergh kidnapping trial in 1935.

The event will be held at the Hunterdon Historical Society Library at 114 Main St. in Flemington. All are welcome to this free event.

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