Baltimore Brew was awarded 18 Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia (MDDC) Press Association awards during the group’s annual meeting in Annapolis on Friday.
The Brew won top honors in two areas: for “General News” for the website’s detailed campaign contribution reporting, and for best “Series” for its three-part investigation of Baltimore Police overtime abuse.
In these categories, The Brew’s submission was considered “Best in Show” among the winners in all circulation divisions.
Among those competing for the Best in Show prizes were the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, Frederick News-Post, Star Democrat, Daily Times, News Journal and other news organizations.
Also, The Brew won the Association’s annual James S. Keat Freedom of Information Award for its legal challenge to Baltimore’s use of non-disclosure agreements in police misconduct settlements.
The judges were “impressed with Baltimore Brew’s ability to ferret out a significant issue” and with its “unswerving commitment” to that issue.
Filed in 2017, the complaint challenges the city’s policy of prohibiting persons who receive cash settlements in police brutality cases from speaking out publicly – or talking to the media.
The case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and Crowell & Moring LLP on behalf of The Brew and Ashley Overbey (and supported by a grassroots coalition) is currently pending in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
Calling the legal effort “an interesting and creative approach for a small news organization,” the judges quoted from The Brew’s submission letter:
“Police misconduct ‘gag orders,’ we argue, are a public policy choice – one that stifles reform. Allowing reporters to obtain a vivid and accurate description of police misconduct is essential information for those seeking to end it.”
The Brew shared the honor with the Baltimore Sun, which was recognized for “its body of work” using public records for police accountability stories.
Honoring Slain Comrades
An annual event, this year’s ceremony was the first held by MDDC since a gunman entered the newsroom of one of its member organizations, the Capital Gazette, and killed five staff members.
“We should redouble our efforts. We should work harder in their memories,” MDDC board chair Brian J. Karem said in an emotional address to attendees.
The attack comes at a time of growing hostility towards the news media, said Karem, noting that he had never in his career received a death threat, but has gotten several since the Trump administration took office.
“We are not the enemy of the people,” he said. “We are the people.”
Two posthumous awards to Capital staffers yesterday elicited tears from some in the audience.
One was the Courage in Journalism award, honoring Wendi Winters, who was killed in the attack after she attempted to fight off and distract the shooter.
The other was a “Best in Show” award for a feature, “Have you tried snow snorkeling?” by Rob Hiaasen, another victim of the newsroom massacre.
Who was in the room to be inspired?
Many of the journalists behind this year’s 2,300 entries were there – from veterans like Allan Vought of the Aegis (who won for his deep coverage of a Harford County rubble-fill controversy) to up-and-comers like Taylor Brown (a professional basketball player who started her own video production company and helped make an award-winning sports video for the Prince George’s Sentinel).
• To read the full list of individuals and organizations honored by MDDC go here.
Winner in 10 Categories
Founded in 2009 by former Washington Post reporter Fern Shen, The Brew concentrates on Baltimore area news.
It began to focus on accountability and investigative reporting when Mark Reutter, a book author and former Sun reporter, joined in 2011.
The two-person daily online-only publication, which also employs freelancers and interns, is now read by over 70,000 unique visitors a month.
Competing in the online publications division, The Brew won first or second place in 10 categories:
General news, investigative reporting, environmental reporting, land use, local column critical thinking, non-profile feature, photo series, continuing coverage, local government and breaking news.
Winners from The Brew this year were: Joe Giordano, Ed Gunts, Lisa Snowden-McCray, David Plymyer, Mark Reutter, Melissa Schober and Fern Shen.
Giordano shot powerful photos of Sandtown-Winchester in the wake of a series of shootings and killings in 2018, some of which are shown below.
Gunts wrote about the weakening of historic district height restrictions as a well-connected developer came before a preservation panel.
Snowden-McCray reflected on the Baltimore Police department’s failure to charge the white man who yelled “Heil Hitler” during a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Plymyer blasted Baltimore county police and prosecutors for keeping silent in the face of allegations by victims that they – along with UMBC officials – mishandled and covered up rape reports.
Schober argued that the police budget – and particularly spiraling spending for overtime – have been wasting resources the city can ill-afford to squander.
Links to all the award winning work by these journalists and by Reutter and Shen – on 2018 campaign contributions, the Harlem Park police lockdown, controversial reservoir projects at Hanlon Park and Druid Hill Park, police overtime, the 30-foot spruce cut down for the City Hall Christmas tree, a homeless man’s ashes returned to his family and more – can be found below.
Articles Cited by Judges
General News, Best in Show, 1st Place Division O:
“Purchasing Power” – Coverage of the influence of campaign cash on Baltimore politics by Mark Reutter and Fern Shen:
• Top Pugh official Jim Smith blew through $300,000 Supporting Vicki Almond (9/12/18) by Mark Reutter
• Out of town dollars fund a tough-on-crime candidate in Southeast Baltimore 6/22/18) by Fern Shen
• Moonlighting for Almond: Top Pugh aide quietly supports a developer-friendly candidate in Baltimore County (6/21/18) by Mark Reutter
• Jill Carter trails J.D. Merrill in fundraising but has high-powered City Hall help (6/19/18) By Fern Shen and Mark Reutter
• Bates spends, Vignarajah refrains in state’s attorney’s race (6/18/18) by Mark Reutter
• Bates outpaces Mosby in the money race for state’s attorney (5/23/18) by Mark Reutter
• Off-year campaign contributions roll in to City Hall (2/9/18) by Mark Reutter
Series, Best in Show, 1st Place Division O:
Overtime Abuse at the BPD articles by Mark Reutter, Fern Shen and Melissa Schober
• Part 1: House cats and G-Days: A look at overtime culture at the Baltimore Police Department (2/20/18) by Mark Reutter and Fern Shen
• Part 2: Lieutenants and Sergeants lead the overtime parade (2/20/18) by Mark Reutter
• Part 3 : Some of the Kings and Queens of police overtime in Baltimore (2/21/18) by Mark Reutter
• Commentary: By failing to police police overtime, Baltimore’s leaders are failing us all (2/26/18) by Melissa Schober
General News, 2nd Place Division O:
• Baltimore cuts 30-foot spruce in Druid Hill Park for City Hall Christmas tree (1/1/18) by Fern Shen
Investigative Reporting, 1st Place Division O:
• Overtime Abuse in the BPD by Mark Reutter, Fern Shen and Melissa Schober (2/20/18 – 2/26/18)
Environmental Reporting, 1st Place Division O:
Series on destruction at Druid Hill Park and Ashburton to make way for city water projects, all by Mark Reutter:
Growth & Land Use Reporting, 1st Place, Division O
Breaking the rules for a plugged-in developer, all by Ed Gunts
Local Column, Critical Thinking, 1st Place, Division O
• Baltimore County police and prosecutors need to respond to rape cover-up allegations (10/5/18) by Davis Plymyer
• For black Baltimore, BPD’s treatment of Anthony Derlunas stings (11/20/18) by Lisa Snowden-McCray
Feature, Non-profile, 1st Place, Division O
• Loved but lost, Lawrence Alexander is returned to his family (7/11/18) by Fern Shen
Local Government, 1st Place, Division O
Destruction at Druid Hill Park and Ashburton, see stories above.
Local Government, 2nd Place, Division O
Behind your fast-rising Baltimore water bill: A primer, all by Mark Reutter:
Continuing Coverage, 1st Place, Division O
Harlem Park Lockdown, all by Fern Shen:
Continuing Coverage, 2nd Place, Division O
Destruction at Druid Hill Park and Ashburton by Mark Reutter (see above)
Breaking News, First Place, Division O
Harlem Park Lockdown by Fern Shen (see above)
Photo Series, 1st Place, Division O
• A walk with the mayor through Sandtown after a spike in shootings (10/20/18) by J.M. Giordano and Fern Shen