And, finally, the best of the best: the Awbrey and O’Brien award winners

Please join us in congratulating all of the winners of our Excellence in Journalism contest for work published in 2012. The contest proves once again that tough, concise, honest, brave and passionate journalism is still happening on a daily basis in the Garden State.

All the winners will be honored at a reception Sunday, June 23 at the offices of Dow Jones, 4300 Route 1 North, South Brunswick, NJ. Our honored guest speaker will be Mark DiIonno, Star-Ledger columnist and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his work in 2012.

Our top awards go to:

  • Laura Herzog of The Ridgewood News: the Stuart and Beverly Awbrey Award, which honors a weekly or local online publication that goes beyond mere reporting of local events, instead seeking to inspire their communities to better themselves. Her series, Doing Business in Ridgewood, dug into the town’s understaffed building department, which caused stores to wait months for permits; examined the town’s problematic sign ordinance; highlighted the overabundance of eateries in the downtown; and emphasized need for a vision to keep the downtown thriving. A contest judge called Ms. Herzog’s efforts “a textbook effort on what community newspapers do better than any other media.”

The Awbrey Award is named after the husband and wife team that ran the Cranford Chronicle for many years, exemplifying the bond between a local paper and its     community.

  • The Star-Ledger’s Christopher Baxter: the Tim O’Brien Award, daily newspaper category. The award honors the best work by a journalist that utilizes New Jersey’s Open Public Records Law. A judge called Baxter’s stories, “Behind the Badge, “a remarkable series of reports on the disturbing misdeeds of the New Jersey State Police.” The stories “not only revealed disturbing acts by state troopers that have eroded the public trust but also affected change.”
  • Joseph Malinconico, of the hyperlocal site, The Alternative Press of Paterson: the O’Brien Award, online category. Malinconico’s series about how the daughter of Rep. Donald Payne was promoted to a job that required her to drive between Paterson public schools, even though her license had been suspended for driving while intoxicated, caused her to lose the promotion as well as a pay increase. Malinconico was last year’s Awbrey honoree.

The O’Brien award is named for the late Tim O’Brien, dogged reporter for the New Jersey Law Journal who distinguished himself by his willingness to probe deeply into government documents to unearth hidden truths. NJSPJ along with the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government fought for many years to change  the state’s public records law, once one of the weakest in the country, into one of the strongest.

Publications honored for their Sandy coverage included The Record, first place for both the daily deadline reporting and page one design categories; NJBIZ and photographers Eric Sucar and Amy Rosen, first place for photojournalism feature; Pascack Valley Community Life, first place for weekly deadline reporting; The Non-Profit Times, first place for online state/regional coverage; and Bloomberg News, first place for online news reporting.

The New Jersey SPJ annual contest is judged by SPJ chapters in other states to eliminate the possibility of bias entering the judging process. The exception is the Awbrey Award, whose winner is determined by the NJSPJ board.

A complete list of winners in all of our other categories can be found here.

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