About the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award

This special award is named in honor of longtime New England journalist and former New England Press Association Executive Director Bob Wallack. The award recognizes an individual who has an exceptional record of commitment to community journalism. Past award recipients faithfully served the community for which they are responsible and played an active, constructive role in contributing to its quality of life.

Anyone may nominate a colleague, co-worker, subordinate, superior, mentor, retiree, etc., who works or worked in New England and truly exemplifies the ideal of a community journalist, just as Bob Wallack did. There is a fee of $39 per entry.

The deadline to submit entries for 2019 has past. For more information please contact Christine Panek at c.panek@nenpa.com.

The winner will be honored at the New England Newspaper Conference, which will be held on Thursday October 10, 2019 at the AC Hotel Marriott, in Worcester, MA.

Paul Leighton

The Salem (MA) News

When young reporters join our newsroom, they are often seated near Paul Leighton.

A veteran at The Salem News, Paul is a mentor to younger journalists. He teaches simply by being himself—he gets the documents before asking the questions and always keeps our readers in mind as he’s crafting a story. He’s aggressive but not abrasive, polite but persistent.

Paul is soft-spoken, but his reporting is not. He tackles important community issues and sheds light on topics that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

For instance, when Beverly’s last remaining community bank announced in 2014 plans to go public, Paul explained what that could mean to depositors in a way the average reader could understand. Just a few years before, two other North Shore banks became stock-owned, merged and were sold to a national chain—and top bank executives received millions in the deal. It appeared Beverly’s bank could follow suit.

But in this case, after Paul’s story was published, depositors rejected the conversion plan. Beverly Bank officials were stunned, and, in the end, they withdrew the plan. One longtime account holder at the bank went so far as to write a letter to the editor to The Salem News, crediting Paul’s reporting as a reason for her vote against the conversion.

“I received the notice from the bank announcing the change in organization but it was written in the usual ‘legalese’ and I did not fully understand the significance until reading Mr. Leighton’s well-written, easily understood story,” she wrote.

Paul brings the same level of care to his feature writing. Last fall, he told the story of a Salem veteran who volunteers at the hospice wing of the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, sitting with veterans who are at the end of their lives. We felt what it’s like to hold the hand of a man as he takes his final breath, and how meaningful that simple act is to these veterans and their families.

A reporter for The Salem News for 34 years, Paul started in the sports department. For many years, he covered his own city of Beverly, reporting on problems with the police department and illegal gambling at several of the city’s social clubs. As an enterprise reporter, Paul has uncovered financial abuses at the regions’ vocational school, the unexpected closure of the area’s only RMV, and cutbacks and mergers involving the area’s community hospitals.

We can think of no other reporter more deserving of the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award.

– Cheryl Richardson
The Salem News

Ray Duckler

Concord (NH) Monitor

Glasses perched on the tip of his nose, outstretched arms clinging to a broadsheet and stained coffee mug nearby—the signs are clear. Ray Duckler is an old-school print journalist, and he’s on the hunt for his next column.

Ray has long been a must-read in central New Hampshire. He’s been bringing his personality and his extraordinary writing skills to the Monitor pages for the past 30-plus years, first in sports and now mostly in news. I’m not sure you could find a journalist in America who hits a broader range of topics.

Ray’s gone toe-to-toe with presidential candidates, and with political operatives like Corey Lewandowski. He sat with a 70-pound woman with a severe eating disorder as she devoured—and then purged—a grocery cart’s worth of food in a three-hour marathon. Ray spent a year documenting the life of a new refugee family (yes, he even met them at the airport). He even tracked down a former Catholic priest who was booted from the church during the sex abuse crisis nearly two decades ago, only to resurface as a pastor with a small Unitarian Universalist congregation. And on one recent Saturday, Ray climbed the steep embankment of an overpass around dusk to interview stranded drivers and to take photos.

That’s just a small sampling of the types of stories Ray Duckler has brought to readers in central New Hampshire in recent months. Perhaps more impressive is his ability to turn a mundane assignment into a compelling story, both through his prose and his untiring effort to get the bigger story.

Just one small example of this occurred a few weeks ago when we sent Ray to cover the arrival of a traveling Vietnam War memorial at the University of New Hampshire. His assignment was to talk to folks and come back with a front-page-worthy story. In typical Duckler fashion, he found Eleanor Riordan, who was there to locate Panel E44, Line 53—the area of the wall that marked her son’s name. George Riordan died nearly 50 years ago on the battlefield as he crouched over a wounded comrade he was trying to save. The soldier George Riordan died protecting is still alive today. Ray tracked him down by phone at his home in Staten Island. Don Ritter recounted that gripping moment, and how it has impacted his life since, including his work as a firefighter at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001.

Ray Duckler’s words summed it up best: “Like that day on March 14, 1968, Georgie and Ritter are together forever, pressed against each other. One can’t be mentioned without the other. They are examples of who we can be, what we can accomplish, why there is hope for the human spirit when the world often times seems to be falling apart.”

For the families involved, it brought meaning to five decades of heartache. For readers, it helped them understand sacrifice on the battlefield, and the deep connections that linger. For Ray Duckler, it was all in a day’s work.

-Steve Leone
Editor, Concord Monitor

bob-wallack-award-stanley-moultonStanley Moulton

Daily Hampshire Gazette – Northampton, MA

Stan and I worked together at the Daily Hampshire Gazette for 35 years, before I retired as publisher in 2013. For 22 of those years I was editor of the paper and Stan was an indispensable member of the news team.

Stan was a reporter at the Gazette when I arrived in 1977. He moved up to city editor and over the years filled a number of key leadership roles in the newsroom, including web editor, sports editor, managing editor and night managing editor. Stan brought great passion to every role: dispatching reporters and photographers when news broke, challenging their copy, identifying good enterprise projects, pressing for public records, maintaining high professional standards, stepping up to the challenge of digital, and hustling, always hustling, to get the story first and get it right. I can think of no major story covered by the Gazette in those 35 years that Stan was not involved with in some way.

Stan lives in Northampton and his knowledge of the city and surrounding communities is encyclopedic. News stories or columns he wrote never lacked for accuracy, fairness, background or context. I consulted him often when writing editorials. His knowledge and insight always made for stronger opinion pieces. Recently he was on a panel with the current Northampton mayor and his predecessors back to 1980. Stan was masterful discussing significant news events over that time span and drawing parallels among city administrations.

Stan served the newspaper and his community in other ways: organizing and moderating candidate debates for every election, initiating sit-downs between Gazette staff and political leaders, hosting community discussions on timely topics, speaking to school and civic groups, raising money for scholarships, and as a lay leader in his church. He coached the Gazette team in the annual PTO adult spelling bee, screened candidates for civic awards the paper presented in conjunction with United Way, and, when we needed volunteers to lead a tour through the plant, Stan always stepped up. The list goes on.

Perhaps Stan’s greatest legacy to the profession is his oversight of the Gazette’s internship program, a role he has filled for at least 25 years. Stan would interview every intern applicant, decide which ones to accept, determine their desk assignment based on skill level and interests, and then run an orientation and training program that was essentially Journalism 101. He would check in with their supervising editors throughout the semester, and prepare the forms needed for the students to get academic credit for the experience. It is a very aggressive internship program for a small daily, but it has worked because of Stan’s deep commitment. The number of Gazette interns now working in the profession attest to his efforts, as does a file drawer stuffed with letters and cards of thanks.

Stan Moulton is a consummate community journalist. The professional awards he has earned, and those earned by the Gazette thanks to his work, are one way to measure this work. The tributes from interns and young reporters he trained are another. Most important is the high regard and deep respect Stan enjoys in Northampton for his 40 years of fair and comprehensive journalism, and service to the community.

– Jim Foudy

This was just one letter out of many that were received in support of Stan Moulton’s nomination for the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award.

bob-wallack-award-thor-jourgensenThor Jourgensen

The Daily Item – Lynn, MA

How do you weave the fabric of a community into a tapestry of its triumphs and tragedies? Answer: One stitch at a time, which is what Thor Jourgensen has been doing for 27 years as a reporter for The Daily Item in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Thor is, by any definition a community-oriented reporter committed to giving a voice to residents throughout the Greater Lynn area. His early mentors in the business impressed upon him the importance of stepping aside as a writer and letting the people on whom he reported tell their story. He consistently applies those words of wisdom as he works to craft stories around people who are passionate about their community and the issues each faces.

Thor has not told one person’s story once and then moved on to the next headline or topical issue. He has written about the people who built Lynn, like the Migliaccio family’s three generations, from the immigrant who built a new life in Lynn to the sons who committed their teen years and 20s to carrying on a family legacy through their local florist business.

When he told the story of a Guatemalan congregation rebuilding a giant brick church in Lynn’s center, it was only after telling the stories of Jewish Americans who made the church a temple and brought it to its most glorious heights.

In decades spent reporting on Lynn and surrounding communities, Thor told the story of Lynn’s residents, knitting together tales of struggle and promise. He has repeatedly written about local veterans, like the woman whose face was the last one American soldiers saw before they died on a remote Pacific island. When a national veterans’ organization marked a milestone, Thor made sure the accomplishment could be seen by Item readers on the face of a local Afghan war veteran.

He told the story 20 years ago of a Lynn woman who turned terror at the hands of an abuser into founding an organization providing safe haven to abused women. In 2003, Portal to Hope and the Massachusetts Legislature honored Thor’s commitment to domestic violence prevention reporting.

In 2010 when domestic violence claimed a couple’s life, he told their story through a tragic account of how the local court system missed the warning signs of abuse.

No school child’s achievement, no senior’s hobby, no disenfranchised resident’s struggle is too pedestrian for Thor to report on, stitching the story into the tapestry of life in the city he lives and works in. Thor doesn’t just report on the community, he is an active part of the community.

Some of his greatest rewards of the job come from gratitude expressed by subjects of the more difficult stories for his fair and accurate reporting. And sometimes, he says, “thank you” from a parent, or from the subject of one of his human-interest stories, goes a long way.

These are just a few examples of many throughout Thor’s three decade-long career that demonstrate his reporting experience, the commitment he has made to community journalism, and his body of work which makes him a most worthy recipient of the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award.

bob-wallack-award-steve-damishSteve Damish

The Enterprise – Brockton, MA

Enterprise Managing Editor Steve Damish began writing about opiate addiction in 2006, when he learned of two Brockton High School students who had died from heroin overdoses – one of them an acclaimed dancer who had performed at the White House.

His Sunday columns about the individuals drew calls and letters from the parents of other overdose victims, many of whom had felt isolated, frustrated and stigmatized, asking that he dig deeper. He did. By attending support groups, visiting with addicts and their families, and studying data. He quickly realized the problem was far worse than people know. He marshaled the resources of the newsroom in what was to become an eight-year effort not only to reveal the breadth and depth of the problem, but to gain support for intervention, treatment and understanding.

Under his direction, the newspaper undertook two ground-breaking series that were the first to expose the prevalence of opioid addiction in southeastern Massachusetts and its impact on communities and families as well as individuals. The results were “Wasted Youth” and “Wasted Youth – A Deadly Surge,” published in 2007 and 2008. The two series revealed that dozens of young adults throughout the Brockton area had died, hundreds had overdosed – and scores of families and communities had been fractured, mostly from the drugs OxyContin and heroin. Both series ran for four days and featured extensive print and online components. The centerpieces for each day’s presentation were profiles of local addicts written by Damish himself.

To report these stories, he spent months visiting with addicts and their families in sober houses, treatment facilities, halfway homes, recovery schools, drug houses and their homes. To reach addicts, Steve would deliver them a Thanksgiving meal at their sober house, pray with them at a friend’s graveside, or sit and hold their hands as they fought through withdrawal and recovery. His personal commitment helped to convince everyone featured in the stories to allow their real names and photos to be used, despite the stigma connected to drug addiction.

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