Announcing our 2020 Signature Awards winners

For a summary sheet listing the names of our winners in all of our categories, click here. 

Hello friends –

As many of you know, this is the season in which we honor the winners of our annual NJ-SPJ Signature awards luncheon. It’s always an inspiring event since it’s one of those rare opportunities to gather people in the New Jersey journalism community to celebrate excellence in our profession.

Yet, this year, because of the pandemic, this in-person event cannot happen. Even though New Jersey is starting to open up, social distance remains the operative word. That is why we are taking the unprecedented step of announcing our 2020 Signature Awards winners online.

This year’s winners covered a wide range of stories, from a look at activists’ calls to allow convicted felons in New Jersey to vote to a deep dive into bullying in school.

Our most prestigious award is the David Carr Reporter of the Year. This year, the honor went to Dustin Racioppi, of The Record/ for a collection of stories about a patronage scandal at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. His work is investigative beat reporting at its best. As the judges noted, “Mr. Racioppi’s extraordinary scoop and his continued and sustained coverage of the scandal involving the New Jersey Schools Development Authority is the work that would make the great David Carr, a true master of the craft, proud.”

But I must admit a fondness for one particular category: the Wilson Barto Rookie Journalist of the Year. This year, the Barto went to Scott Yunker of The Coast Star. He submitted three stories, including my personal favorite, a piece about 56-year-old Jackie Morgan-Stackhouse, a Brielle, NJ resident, who has traced her family’s history back to slavery and has helped write the history of African-Americans in Monmouth County. I hope young people, especially, find inspiration in his work.

Of course, there are more. In all, there are nine awards categories and more than 20 winners spanning first, second and third place. if you want to find out about them, open up the Power Point above (links to the winning work are included). I invite you to take a look. (For a summary sheet of all the winners, you can also click here.)

Cheers to all,

Miriam Ascarelli, NJ-SPJ president

P.S. The end of June is also significant because it marks the end of another “year’’ at NJ-SPJ. This year, we will “pass the gavel’’ virtually, so let me introduce our 2020-2021 board. Our officers are: Bob Schapiro, president; Steve Tettamanti, vice president; Sue Toth, secretary; and Lew Wheaton, treasurer. Our trustees are: Melanie Andizei, Liz Birge, Robert Bugai, Emily Kratzer, David Levitt, Claire Regan, and me, the out-going NJ-SPJ president, Miriam Ascarelli.


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