Winners, announced

May 19, 2017
Contact: Miriam Ascarelli, NJ-SPJ president
Mobile: 862-576-1256; email:

They’re on National Football League fields from coast to coast, and in college football stadiums as well. What could go wrong? Plenty, an NJ Advance Media/Newark Star-Ledger investigation found.

“The 100-Yard Deception” describes in-depth the problems with FieldTurf, the gold-standard in artificial turf installed on 1,428 fields throughout the U.S., and 164 in New Jersey. Most were paid for with tax dollars. Many of them tore apart, and were deteriorating faster than expected. The series by Christopher Baxter and Matthew Stanmyre, is the winner of the New Jersey Society of Journalists first place Tim O’Brien award for meritorious use of public records requests, in the state and regional category.

The O’Brien was created by NJ-SPJ following the 2002 enactment of New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, which modernized for the first time the laws pertaining to public access to public records, a law that, for more than a decade, our organization lobbied for.

The judges said the articles exhibited “exceptional, in-depth national and local reporting that helps taxpayers, schools. Unearths a company with seedy business practices.”

Anne Forline of the South Jersey Observer, a website she herself started, won the first-place O’Brien award in the local journalism category for series of stories she did on the creation of a borough administrator’s position in the town of Bellmawr, which a sitting councilman was to receive. “This enterprising reporter saw a need for transparency in local government and did what was necessary to fulfill it,” one judge wrote.

In the online category, Sergio Bichao of NJ101.5 won a first-place O’Brien award for a story on bias complaints received by the town of Wyckoff, even after the police chief was fired after he was found to have violated a state directive prohibiting racial profiling.

These were among more than 130 awards won by New Jersey journalists as NJ-SPJ announced its annual Excellence in Journalism awards. (Click here for winners list.) Still to be announced are the organization’s Journalist of the Year award, the Courage Under Fire Award, and the Stuart and Beverley Awbrey Award for public advocacy by a local grassroots publication.

The winners will be feted at a June 25 awards brunch at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. Attorney Bruce Rosen, who represented reporter Isaac Avilucea of The Trentonian fight a legal battle against the state Attorney General’s Office over prior restraint will be the keynote speaker; Doug Doyle, news director and sports podscaster at WBGO, Newark’s public radio station, will be the master of ceremonies.

Tickets for the awards brunch are $20. To RSVP, click here.

Among the other awards announced today are the organization’s Wilson Barto awards, given annually to the state’s “rookies of the year” for distinguished work by a first-year reporter. The late Barto, founder of NJ-SPJ back in 1960, was a longtime editor for The Trentonian newspaper, who took a special interest in helping young journalists.

In the state-regional category, the first-place Barto winner was Kelly Kultys of The Burlington County Times. In the local journalism category, Marilyn Baer of The Hoboken Reporter, won first-place Barto.

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