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NJ Spotlight Named New Jersey’s Top Independent Online Publication

Site garners multiple awards in NJ Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Contest

The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized NJ Spotlight, New Jersey’s premier online news and public policy source, as the state’s top independent online publication.

NJ Spotlight staff took first prize in that category and placed in several others in NJSPJ’s 2014 Excellence in Journalism Awards, which judges work done by news organizations in 2013.

NJ Spotlight writers also were named winners for coverage that included campaign finances in the 2013 gubernatorial election, public finance, and the Sandy recovery effort. In addition, NJSPJ gave a first-place prize in Online Enterprise/Series/Investigative Reporting to The Hechinger Report writer Sara Neufeld, whose reporting on Newark Schools is part of a partnership with NJ Spotlight.

“This is an exciting time for NJ Spotlight. Four years after our initial launch, these prizes show that our site has emerged as a real force in the New Jersey media landscape,” said managing editor and cofounder Lee Keough.

John Mooney, NJ Spotlight’s founding editor, said, “We are also proud of the media partnerships that are recognized in these awards, in this case, with WNYC/NJ Public Radio and The Hechinger Report, and the quality journalism that those collaborations have produced.”

Awardees include:

  • Colleen O’Dea, who won first place in the Online Feature Reporting category for her October 2013 piece, "Christie Campaign’s Cash Gives Distinctly ‘Red’ Hue to Map of ‘Blue’ New Jersey." In the piece, O’Dea maps campaign contributions to Gov. Chris Christie and his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by ZIP code. The resulting map shows clearly that Christie was out-fundraising Buono everywhere, including in traditional Democratic strongholds.

  • Scott Gurian covers the Sandy recovery effort as part of a collaboration with WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio. He received a second-place award in the Online Enterprise/Series/Investigative Reporting category for his in-depth look at New Jersey’s recovery and planning after Superstorm Sandy. The first part of the series examined whether the rush to restore the shore meant that New Jersey was failing to plan for the next superstorm.

The second part looked at how the Garden State’s long tradition of home rule was affecting planning and post-Sandy recovery.

  • Gurian also took second place in the Online – Health, Science, Technology and Environmental Reporting category for his piece, "NJ Sandy Recovery Fails to Consider Long-Term Climate Predictions". The November 2013 story examined whether the state was setting itself up for failure in the Sandy recovery by not planning far enough out. In addition, Gurian won three awards in the Radio/Television category for his WNYC radio reports on the Sandy recovery effort.

  • NJ Spotlight’s Mark Magyar took third place in the Online Commentary category for his budget analysis, "Raids on Dedicated Funds Climb Under Christie." The July 2013 story showed that Christie substantially increased the practice of raiding funds meant for dedicated purposes (such as clean energy) to fill holes in the state budget. While not a new practice, Magyar reported that Christie's ability to “ride roughshod over a Democratic-controlled Legislature shows the virtually limitless power that a governor with ironclad control of his minority caucus can exert over the budget.”

The New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists works to improve conditions in the journalistic community in New Jersey and is dedicated to the interests of all journalists and people in related fields. A full list of contest winners is available online.

NJ Spotlight was launched in May 2010, supported by grants from the Community Foundation of New Jersey, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Other foundations that have supported our work include the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, and the Fund for New Jersey.

In addition to its daily news coverage, NJ Spotlight hosts live and online events with key stakeholders on issues such as the state budget, healthcare reform, solar power, charter schools, teacher tenure, and wind energy.

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