Baltimore Brew received 21 Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia (MDDC) Press Association awards for work published in 2020, including multiple articles documenting life-and-death issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
As Covid rates spiked at area nursing homes, The Brew exposed critical lapses by long-term care facility operators and the Maryland Department of Health.
While essential workers collapsed in line outside an East Baltimore church, its reporting called attention to the lack of Covid testing in Black and Brown communities.
The Brew’s winning work reflected other aspects of a turbulent year for the country and the city, with George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police prompting local protests and racial reckoning, and Donald Trump’s reelection bid fueling polarizing political discourse.
On city streets and in Annapolis, photojournalist J.M. Giordano captured it all. When protesters tore down Baltimore’s Columbus statue near Little Italy, Giordano and The Brew’s Louis Krauss and Fern Shen were the only media present to document it.
Announced online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, winners of this year’s competition were selected out of more than 1,500 entries from 48 member publications.
The entries were judged by news media professionals at the Virginia Press Association.
Best Online News Organization
The Brew again brought home this year multiple “Best of Show” awards, a regular achievement for the independent news website that was founded 12 years ago by Washington Post and Baltimore Evening Sun reporter Fern Shen. (She was later joined by book author and former Sun investigative reporter Mark Reutter.)
In these categories, The Brew’s entries were considered the best out of all circulation divisions, competing with all of the region’s major print and online news media, including the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore Fishbowl, Maryland Matters, Frederick News-Post and News Journal.
The Brew also won “Best News Organization of the Year” in the online division.
In the “Continuing Coverage” category, the website garnered top division and “Best of Show” honors for its reporting on Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt: “Questions Mount for Baltimore’s Six-Term Comptroller.”
Among the disclosures in stories by reporters Mark Reutter, Ian Round and Fern Shen:
Pratt’s former deputy was entering City Hall after hours and shredding documents, her office was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor and her ultimately unsuccessful re-election campaign used a political operative convicted of conspiracy to violate election law in an infamous “relax” robocall.
Op-ed writer David Plymyer explained the legal penalties for document shredding by a public official, though none were imposed. And Reutter won a division 2nd Place for the headline on his piece documenting this: “After the shredding, the sound of silence.”
In the “Wild Card” category, The Brew won a 1st Place division award for a series of stories and analyses: “Death and denial as Covid-19 hits FutureCare.”
Reporters Reutter and Round documented the nursing home chain’s tardy response to the plague – and described the human toll its poor practices inflicted on some families and staff.
Examining other states’ policies, Plymyer highlighted critical failures by the State of Maryland that were leaving families and local officials in the dark.
The series was also honored with a 1st Place division award in the “Investigative Reporting” category.
Continuing coverage of development pressure on a historic mill district earned The Brew another “Best of Show” honor, as well as top division award, in the “Growth and Land Use Reporting” category.
Among the scoops, Ed Gunts and Mark Reutter broke the story of a developer’s $25 million lawsuit against residents who spoke out against one of his projects at a meeting. One aspect of our close coverage of this saga: holding city agencies accountable for handling a politically connected businessman’s projects without fear or favor.
A Wide Range of Topics
Other Brew work recognized by MDDC covered a wide range of news topics:
• “Too big to fail? Or too good to be true?” Reutter’s detailed reporting on the Port Covington project, “Field of Dreams,” earned him a division 1st Place for “Business Reporting.”
• In the “Local Column, Critical Thinking” category, teacher Amy Joust won 1st Place for “Amid Covid, the school system is once again making things tough for students.”
• In 2nd Place was valuable pre-election analysis by veteran reporter Joan Jacobson, “The Sheila Dixon Story: It wasn’t just about the gift cards.”
• Reutter’s detailed documentation of troubling water billing lapses, “Baltimore is not collecting millions of dollars from commercial water users,” earned 2nd Place division honors in the “Investigative Reporting” category.
• For “Breaking News,” Shen, Krauss and Giordano won division 1st Place for “Goodbye, Columbus” chronicling the teardown of the Christopher Columbus statue.
• Krauss won 2nd Place in the same category for “An ocean of protesters march through downtown, past City Hall, up I-83.” His video of the July 4th action, with nearly 7 million views, won division 1st Place for “Spot News Video.”
• In the Wild Card category (Coronavirus in Community Frontlines), Krauss won division 2nd Place for “Baltimore’s Latino community: Essential and exposed.”
• For “General News Photo,” Giordano won 1st and 2nd Place division honors for “In Baltimore, a day of peaceful protest, a night of tense confrontation with police” and “Protesters, rebelling against stay-at-home restrictions, descend on Annapolis.”
• Giordano’s portrait of an emotional Joe Biden voter on election day won a division 1st Place for “Feature Photo.”
• Krauss received a division 2nd Place in the “Arts Reporting” category for a feature on the pandemic’s effect on city jazz musicians: “In Baltimore, for better or worse, pandemic shows musicians the shape of jazz to come.”