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Here are our 2019 contest winners!


The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists announced the winners of its annual NJ SPJ Signature awards competition yesterday at a celebratory lunch at the Maize restaurant in Newark. The contest was judged this year by members of the Colorado Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The judges provided comments on the first-place honorees.

Here are the winners:

Stuart and Beverley Awbrey Award

Since its creation in the 1990s, this award has sought to honor both hard-hitting investigative journalism that is public-spirited as well as more “uplifting” efforts such as creating care packages for soldiers overseas or helping a handicapped child get an education. The Awbrey pays tribute to Beverley Awbrey and her late husband, Stu, who ran The Cranford Chronicle from 1978 to 1988. The Awbreys believed their 100-year-old weekly was more than a livelihood; they saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the civic life of Cranford.

  • First place: Jaimie Winters of the Montclair Local for “Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment.” The judges were impressed with the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment series of stories because they spoke to the community’s need to be involved in such matters that affect their lives. Comprehensive stories about the development plans from start to finish.
  • Second place: Thomas Franklin of TAPinto Newark for “Despite Newark’s Sanctuary City Status, Undocumented City Resident Turned Over to ICE.”
  • Third place: Al Sullivan of The Hudson Reporter for stories outlining various conflicts related to immigration issues in Hudson County.

Tim O’Brien Award for Best Use of Public Records:

The award honors journalists specifically for investigative work based on public records requests. This award pays tribute to Tim O’Brien, whose investigative reporting, first at The Star-Ledger and later at The New Jersey Law Journal, exemplified the qualities of courage, thoroughness, integrity, persistence and quiet idealism that we seek to honor.

  • First place: Audrey Quinn of New York Public Radio for “For New Jersey Jails, Suicides and Overdoses, but Little Oversight.” The judges said Quinn’s series on jail deaths in New Jersey is a testament to the power of public records in informing the public about what is happening in governmental institutions, including jails. A comprehensive, well-done series.
  • Second place: Carla Astudillo, Craig McCarthy, S.P. Sullivan, Stephen Stirling, Yan Wu, Erin Petenko, Disha Raychaudhuri, Blake Nelson, of NJ Advance Media (NJ.com & The Star-Ledger for “The Force Report.”
  • Third place: Erin Roll of The Montclair Local for “Absenteeism in Montclair schools.”

Best Grassroots Journalism

  • First place: Rebecca Panico and Mark Bonamo of TAPinto Newark for multiple stories: “Governor Murphy: ‘I drink Newark’s water.’’; Newark City Council Members are mad they didn’t get front row seats at Sotomayor event’’; ‘’5 major issues Newark Public Schools inherited from state-controlled Leadership’’; “McGovern’s summer renovation closing party celebrates change’’; and “Hip-Hop manager turned developer becomes part of the West Ward’s revitalization’’.
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