The Baltimore Sun won the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association’s news organization of the year award Friday, capping a week in which Baltimore Sun Media’s newspapers and journalists received more than 100 honors in the regional news association’s annual contest.
The Sun’s launch of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion reporting team last year was recognized as the “Best Move” in the MDDC awards ceremony, which was held virtually throughout the week, and the newspaper won the James S. Keat Freedom of Information Award for “a body of work that demonstrated a mastery of using the information tools at their disposal,” the judges wrote.
“Baltimore Sun Media journalists are among the best in the country and this recognition is a clear acknowledgment of that,” said Trif Alatzas, The Sun’s publisher and editor-in-chief. “Our journalists continued to do phenomenal work through the pandemic to ensure that coverage of Baltimore and the region was unmatched and they provided critical information to our readers that they could not find anywhere else.”
The Sun, whose staff mostly worked remotely through the past year, won a total of 76 first- and second-place awards among print dailies with circulations over 75,000. It was the 13th straight year The Sun was named news organization of the year. The staff took first in more than two dozen categories, ranging from reporting, photography and video to advertising and design.
Among the other newspapers owned by Baltimore Sun Media, The Capital in Annapolis received 28 awards, The Carroll County Times received 20, The Harford Aegis got 12, The Towson Times earned five; the Howard County Times earned six, and The Catonsville Times received four.
The Sun’s Ravens and sports breaking news reporter Daniel Oyefusi was honored as the association’s 2020 Rookie of the Year for his range and abilities, “showing writing skills far beyond his age and experience,” the judges wrote.
“His work shows him to be an excellent storyteller with strong, insightful reporting to back up those stories,” they wrote. “People open up to him and he is able to get compelling detail. He is confident enough to take risks in his writing that pay off for the reader.”
The 23-year-old Towson native and 2019 University of Maryland graduate, who also covered the Terps and assisted with coronavirus news, called the award “an honor.”
“After what’s really been a crazy first two years on the job — I couldn’t’ve imagined most of the stuff that occurred, taking over the Maryland beat, shifting to news during the pandemic — to be awarded and acknowledged for that is an honor,” Oyefusi said.
This year was The Sun’s second in a row winning the Best Move award for its diversity efforts. The newspaper was recognized last year for the work of the Diversity Committee, a group of newsroom staff who have pushed for more equitable coverage and better hiring and retention of employees of color.
The newspaper is “definitely headed in the right direction” on diversity issues, said John-John Williams, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion reporter and chair of the Diversity Committee.
“This wouldn’t be possible, though, without buy-in from the top,” Williams said. “It’s imperative that, in order to make these types of changes, you have the support of the leadership. That absolutely sets the tone for the rest of the newsroom. When your leadership believes in the talent that it has in the newsroom, it’s a good working relationship, and a lot has been accomplished as a result.”
With The Sun’s reporting on nursing home and long-term care data, a sweetheart deal for Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, and police overtime abuses, the newspaper “essentially put on a clinic” on the use of the Freedom of Information Act, the judges wrote.
The award is named for Jim Keat, a retired Sun editor and foreign correspondent, who was a longtime advocate for public information access. It was the seventh straight year The Sun has won the award.
Among The Sun’s individual winners, visuals editor Lloyd Fox won seven awards, multimedia editor Tracie Rawson and visuals content editor Kevin Richardson each won six, and health reporter Meredith Cohn won four.
The Sun won 22 Best of Show awards, which designates the entry the best among the first place entries among all news organization divisions.
Former Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and social services reporter Yvonne Wenger won first place and Best of Show awards for investigative reporting and public service for her investigation into how the child-support industry is hurting communities.
Other Best of Show winners included The Sun’s website; crime reporter Jessica Anderson, who won best general news story for her profile of a pair of Baltimore grandparents raising their grandkids after the killing of the children’s mother; and courts reporter Tim Prudente, who won best medical/science reporting for his feature about the use of horseshoe crab blood in the making of coronavirus vaccines.
Cohn and reporter Jean Marbella took home best in show for local government reporting for their story on supervised drug use sites, and religion reporter Jonathan M. Pitts was honored for his story on a pop music-themed Mass at Loyola University Maryland.
On the advertising side, The Sun was honored for its online ad “We Are Baltimore,” produced by Tribune Publishing’s Studio 1847.
The contest, judged by news media professionals at the Virginia Press Association, accepted nearly 1,500 entries from 48 member publications among 85 categories. The Rookie of the Year award was judged by the MDDC Press Foundation Board members.