About the Publick Occurrences Competition

This award recognizes the very best work that New England newspapers produce each year— whether it’s individual or team stories, series, spot news coverage, columns or photojournalism that ran in print and/or online. NENPA presents up to 16 Publick Occurrences awards to member newspapers annually. Up to eight Publick Occurrences awards are presented to daily newspapers, and up to eight will be presented to community weekly and specialty newspapers.

The award was established in 1990 to recognize individual and team merit at New England newspapers to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Publick Occurrences, the first newspaper published in America. Four days after it appeared in Boston in 1690, Publick Occurrences was suppressed by the royal governor.

The competition is open to all members of NENPA. Editors are invited to enter their paper’s best reporting and/or photojournalism from the past year. The award recognizes individual or team stories, series, spot news coverage, columns or photojournalism that ran in print and/or online. Editors should view this entry as their “very best work of the year”.

Entries for the 2019 award must have been published between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019. There is a fee of $99 per entry.

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

The 2019 winners 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.

The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, MA
“Merrimack Valley gas disaster”
The staff swung into action as a gas leak started setting houses on fire. The newspaper building itself was affected and the paper was put out at a makeshift newsroom in a public library. As home after home caught fire, the newspaper produced excellent, detailed, colorful stories — six separate stories the first day. We have everything from a grandfather descending into his burning basement with his garden hose to apparent malfeasance by the local power company. Gripping photos, excellent journalistic teamwork.

The Republican, Springfield, MA
“Springfield Police Department woes”
Top notch watchdog journalism. Digging deeper to find the truth. Good use of FOI statutes. Crisp clean writing to report, as one official said, a “vexing saga” of official malfeasance.

Seven Days, Burlington, VT
“Hooked: how so many Vermonters got addicted”
This series was the centerpiece of three editions – a total of 28 pages – starting with the overdose of a single mother and expanding into how overprescribing and isolation contribute to the problems. The stories are written by the sister of the woman who overdosed. She quit her Philadelphia job and took an assignment at the paper with one focus: the opioid crisis. There are many people stories here, but it is a wrenchingly personal account that pulls no punches. “My only credentials,” writes series author Kate O’Neill, “are loving someone who struggled with a disease that destroyed her life …”

The Daily Item, Lynn, MA
“Hunger: hiding in plain sight”
This is an extensive project, a six-part series that includes 23 stories and sidebars and informative graphics. It looks at all aspects of the problem, from hungry college students to grocery store gaps to Americans’ tremendous waste of food. There are lots of people stories and, in the end, information about how readers can help by giving money, volunteering and donating food.

Sun Journal, Lewiston, ME
“Fear in Lewiston: ’A perfect storm’”
Two violent incidents set the area on edge about neighborhood safety. Several days later, the Sun Journal reported that violent crime in the city was in fact down in the past five years. Then the Sun Journal looked at the efforts through community policing and other steps that the Lewiston police have been taking to gain the community’s respect and engage rather than lock up youth.

Bennington Banner, Bennington, VT
“The closing of Southern Vermont College”
This starts out with the shocking announcement that The Southern Vermont College was closing at the end of the current semester. The Bennington Banner extensively covered the story writing about the school’s difficulties with its accreditation, and the aftershocks of the announcement. Laying out the effects on the students, staff, local
community, donors and local banks, the in-depth series includes exceptional research and quality writing on what surely will have a lasting impact on the area.

The Eagle-Tribune North Andover, MA
“Sexual assault at North Andover High”
In covering the news of the alleged rape of a female student at North Andover High School, The Eagle -Tribune learns that the victim had been required to sign an agreement with school administrators that limited her access to the school’s grounds and required her to keep clear of her alleged assailant who remained enrolled at the school. The student body and public at large was alarmed at the unfairness of such an agreement leading the paper to look at what motivated the administrators to seek it and what psychologists and other specialists viewed as the impact.

Worcester Business Journal, Worcester, MA
“Tax Breaks: paying for growth”
In less skillful hands, the Worcester Business Journal’s series exploring the cost-effectiveness of municipal tax break programs could have read like a quarterly report from the state revenue department. Instead, author Grant Welker delivers a fascinating primer on how central Massachusetts cities and towns employ tax breaks (or not) to attract or retain business– and presumably grow tax revenue. Because Welker knows his subject matter inside and out, he is especially adept at
letting revenue figures speak for themselves. The contrast between officials in Framingham, who embrace tax breaks to lure business, and Natick, who disavow them, couldn’t be more jarring – with Framingham’s (business) tax rate three times that of Natick. Welker’s story on the Pawtucket Red Sox relocation deal, said to be the lynchpin of Worcester’s redevelopment program, likewise offers plenty of examples of what can go wrong – and occasionally right. The antithesis of “gotcha” journalism, Worcester’s well -written series represents public service of the highest order.

Seven Days, Burlington, VT
“Give and take”
This exhaustive (in a good way) series examined every aspect of an important, and growing, sector in the state of Vermont. By stretching out the series over five consecutive issues, the staff of Seven Days was able to look at non-profits big and small, including a first-person account of setting up a 501(c)3. Of special note is the creation of a database, used to inform the series and kept current, that is also available to the public. While nonprofits are not a particularly sexy subject, Seven Days was able to make the series compelling and even led to an embezzlement charge in the fundraising arena.

Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, MA
“Pilgrim closes”
Not just the final story detailing the closure of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, but the overwhelming package of investigating reporting by Christine Legere must be credited with not only bringing to light the dangerous problems with the aging plant but ultimately, significantly, impacting the decision to close it down. This is the type of reporting that makes a difference and reminds us all of the importance, impact and value of professional journalists. Congratulations to the newspaper and
the reporter for the effort made to bring this story to the public.

Concord Monitor Concord, NH
“Finding hope”
The Concord Monitor deserves credit for a tremendous series detailing one family’s journey through the despair that followed the suicide of a 14-year-old son, while more broadly examining the issue of youth suicide. The newspaper covers all the angles, taking pains to provide geographic balance across southern New Hampshire communities and approaching its topic through the multi-faceted lens of legislation, school programs and personal anecdotes from survivors exploring various means of coping with mental illness. Comprehensive without bogging down, the crisply written narrative is complimented by compelling photos which provide readers with a poignant and intimate look at those touched by tragedy. Lastly, this series was extremely well organized and presented, with a recap of previous stories accompanying each new installment. The Monitor team should be applauded for a solid, professional effort handled with care and tact.

Worcester Magazine, Worcester, MA
“How sex ed really died”
An examination of a socially important topic that never saw the light of day until this publication unearthed a series of secret emails and other correspondence. The controversial issue of teaching sex education in public schools needs to be heard in a public arena, particularly for a city with a high teen-age birth rate. This is the type of watchdog reporting that will keep journalism alive and well in the future.

The Herald News, Fall River, MA
“Mayor Correia”
This local paper distinguished itself with blanket coverage on an issue of great national interest. It proved that a local news staff, including some who came to work on their days off, is unbeatable in the depth and breadth of its coverage of a major story that unfolded for months in their hometown. The Herald News was at the ready and jumped in with thorough, thoughtful coverage from the very moment an indictment was returned.

Concord Monitor, Concord, NH
“Fighting back”
The Concord Monitor continues to enhance its reputation of quality reporting with an aggressive and detailed four-part series on the problems and societal impact of domestic violence. As with others selected by Publick Occurrences judges this series had to have made a significant impact on the communities the newspaper serves. The stories of abuse and how to get help were well done, dramatic and detailed in such a way to clearly raise the level of debate, as the newspaper cited that…”helped make the community a safer place.”

The Sun, Lowell, MA
“People can just be so cruel”
This is a powerfully well written and well presented series on the expanding social media problem of young people who are targets of online bullying and body shaming. In only a few opening paragraphs the emotions were stirred in readers with details of a young girl’s suicide as a result of the online ridicule. As with other stories selected by the Publick Occurrences judges the work that went into this series expanded into other news media helping to make an important impact on the communities served by the newspapers. It also created an expanding dialogue among parents, children and community services to help lessen the suicides of young boys and girls.

The Keene Sentinel, Keene, NH
“BetterBone Inc.”
This starts out as a story about an out-of-state entrepreneur planning to move a new business to a vacant local mill complex, and promising to hire more than 200 employees for well-paying jobs. Sierra Hubbard saw red flags and searched records from two states and numerous agencies, discovering criminal records and personal and professional blemishes on the company owner’s background. From there the series evolves into an
impressive example of investigative reporting. The in-depth reporting includes exceptional research and quality writing on the fallout—a woman who said she made an offer on a bigger house based on paychecks she never got, the businessman’s arrest at a labor department hearing on Massachusetts theft charges, and a ruling the he’s personably liable for more than $28,000 in back wages. Her reporting likely saved hundreds of area residents from getting ripped off.

“Inhuman Trade” Marshfield Mariner

“Lisa Ziegert Murder Case” The Republican

“Path to Extinction” Cape Cod Times

“Berkshire Museum Sells Art” The Berkshire Eagle

“A New Durfee” The Herald News

“Highway in the Sky” The Patriot Ledger

“Elder Abuse: Shame on Us” The Daily Item

“Sick Bridges” The Berkshire Eagle

“Rising Waters” Providence Business News

Sun Journal, Lewiston, ME
“Caged in van No. 1304”

Keene (N.H). Sentinel:
“Sounding the Alarm” series

The Daily Item, Lynn, MA
“Am I a bigot?”

The Republican, Springfield, MA
“Springfield narcotics detective’s threats create chaos in the legal system”

The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA
“Danger Zone: Pedestrian safety in Quincy”

The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Mass.
“Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art: Building 6 debuts”

The Providence (R.I.) Journal
“Pot & Profit”

Seven Days, Burlington, Vt.
“Death by Drugs”

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Boston “Behind the wall: Suicides in Massachusetts county jails”

The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Mass.
“The Digital Divide: Broadband in the Berkshires”

The Connecticut Health I-Team, New Haven, Conn.
“Desperate Choices: Giving Up Custody for Care”

The Hartford (Conn.) Courant
“Hartford schools: more separate, still unequal”

Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer
“Andy’s Journey: The Struggles Through ALS”

Concord (N.H.) Monitor
“Fatal Flaws: An Agency in Crisis”

Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, Hallowell, ME
“Single Parents in Poverty: The Crisis No One Will Name”

Providence (R.I.) Business News
“The (Still) Looming Crisis”

Worcester (Mass.) Magazine
“Unresolved: A search for justice”

Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Mass.
“Under the Table”

Concord (N.H.) Monitor
“Unsilenced: Survivors speak out about sexual assault”

Hartford Courant
“Portraits of Addiction”

The Eye/New England Center for Investigative Reporting
“Out of the shadows”

Sentinel & Enterprise
“The Alphabet”

The Day
“I-95: Deadly, Overcrowded”

The Providence Journal
“Race in Rhode Island”

Daily Hampshire Gazette
“Letters from inside”

Sun Journal
“Benefit Bartering – Growing form of fraud: EBT cards to buy drugs”

Burlington Free Press
“DCF Employee slain in Barre”

The Republican
“Opioid Crisis: Justin Morin Story”

The Herald News
“Future of Fall River”

Hartford Courant
“Soccer Stadium Investigation”

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
“Lottery: Selling hope to the hopeless”

Vineyard Gazette
“Coastal ponds under pressure”

The Inquirer and Mirror
“Ethics, the Land Bank and a Public Trust”

Andover Townsman
“Opiate Crisis Hits Home”

The Republican
“War on Poverty Series”

Concord Monitor
“Homeless in Concord”

New England Center for Investigative Reporting
“Oversold prenatal tests spur some to choose abortions”

The Keene Sentinel
“A Dangerous Dose”

The Day
“Foreclosure Investigation”

The Sun
“The Opiate Crisis in Our Homes”

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
“LD 1750: A study in how special interests get their way in the Maine Legislature”

The Hartford Courant
“Charter School Group Investigation”

The Eagle-Tribune
“2014 Market Basket Saga”

New England Center for Investigative Reporting
“Debt coverage: Homeowners sold out by the mortgage insurance boomerang”

Cape Cod Times
“Saving Our Turtles”

Daily Hampshire Gazette
“Life, Death & Lee”

The Enterprise
“Forgotten Faces”

The Patriot Ledger
“Quincy Housing Authority”

Providence Business News
“Election 2014”

Worcester Magazine
“Chasing Ebola: Worcester ties to Liberia and the fight against Ebola”

Norwell Mariner
“Dealing with Drugs”

The Patriot Ledger
“Housing Crisis”

Concord Monitor
“All Tough Kids”

New England Center for Investigative Reporting
“Massachusetts Children Under State Protection Die from Abuse with Alarming Frequency”

The Telegraph
“Cannabis Care”

The Herald News
“Child Abuse Series”

The Salem News
“Danvers Teacher Murder”

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
“Rx for Theft”

Sun Journal
“Investigation Reveals CDC Officials Destroyed Public Documents 2013-2014”

Republican-American
“Torrington’s Private Tax Collector”

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
“The Book on Paul LePage”

Vineyard Gazette
“Coastal Erosion”

Worcester Magazine
“Dead and Buried Alone”

Sun Journal, Lewiston, ME
“State Labor Workers Investigation”

The MetroWest Daily News (MA)
“Marathon Bombing Photo Coverage” Ken McGagh

The Enterprise, Brockton, MA
“Water deal taps out city”

The Telegraph, Nashua, NH
“Degrees of Debt”

The Westerly (RI) Sun
“Ritacco Recusal”

The Day, New London, CT
“Sound Community Services Investigation”

The Boston (MA) Globe
“Boston Marathon Aftermath”

The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA
“Give and Take at the South Shore Y”

Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, MA
“The Cost of Clean: Paying for the Blackstone”

Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, MA
“Pills That Kill”

The Advocate, Stamford, CT
“Madonna Badger’s Search for Answers”

The Telegraph, Nashua, NH
“RX Addiction Epidemic”

Vineyard Gazette, (MA)
“Schifter House Move”

Providence (RI) Business News
“38 Studios and its lasting effects”

The Newtown (CT) Bee
“The Newtown Bee Special Edition, December 17, 2012”

Rutland Herald
“Tropical Storm Irene Coverage”

Connecticut Post
“Full Disclosure”

The MetroWest Daily News
“Title IX Series”

The Day
“Landlord Investigation”

Foster’s Daily Democrat
“Police Chief Killed in Drug Raid”

Republican-American
“Frederick Weller – DUI driver falls through the cracks”

Daily Hampshire Gazette
“Investigation of library official compels his resignation”

Valley News
“Tropical Storm Irene”

The Republican
“Tornado”

The Herald News
“Autism Around Us”

Record-Journal
“Meriden Police Probe”

The Telegraph
“Double Dip”

The Wellesley Townsman
“The Wellesley Schools Administration: A Failing Grade”

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