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Five Years After Launch, NJ Spotlight Continues to Rack up Honors

Several prestigious local, state, and national organizations have recently honored NJ Spotlight’s in-depth public policy news coverage with special recognition

NJ Spotlight, the state’s premier public policy news source, won a regional Edward R. Murrow award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for small online news organization. The site was also named best independent online publication by the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists.

In addition, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey presented the “Making Democracy Work” award to NJ Spotlight May 1st for “outstanding work and dedication to serving the community.”

As part of the award, NJ Spotlight also received a joint legislative resolution paying “tribute to NJ Spotlight’s outstanding history of service and leadership as one of this state’s premier online news and public policy sources.”

“We are gratified by all this recognition,” said Lee Keough, NJ Spotlight’s editor in-chief. “It shows that even a small nonprofit like us can do meaningful work that gets notice and makes an impact. We’re also thrilled that so many of our partner organizations have been getting notice for the important work they are doing.”

In particular, Keough said, NJ Spotlight was excited by the news that partner WNYC received a Peabody Award -- major national kudos in the radio and television world -- for coverage of the Fort Lee George Washington Bridge scandal. NJ Spotlight shares Sandy Recovery reporter Scott Gurian with WNYC, and his work was part of the winning package.

“Content partnerships have been key to our success from the very beginning,” said NJ Spotlight Founding Editor and CEO John Mooney. “In a rapidly shifting media landscape where resources are limited, collaborations are crucial to making sure the public stays informed. We are so happy for WNYC’s well-deserved honors.”

Here’s full list of individual award-winners from contests run by the Garden State Journalists Association and the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists:

  • The Garden State Journalists Association gave former NJ Spotlight reporter Mark Magyar “The Hildy Johnson Award” for his analysis, “What’s Wrong with Chris Christie’s Government?” This marks the second year in a row that Magyar has received this particular honor.

  • First-place investigative laurels went to Gurian for his coverage of a flawed Sandy energy-grant program. Gurian’s investigation, published in March 2014, found that state grants to communities across the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy did not follow the state’s own guidelines. Later in the year, the state revised its numbers. A related radio piece also earned Gurian a first-place investigative radio award.

  • Gurian also won two first-place awards from the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists. One was in the Health/Science/Technology category for his story on the debate over Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury Township, where many feel Sandy debris is poisoning residents. The other was in the Online Feature Reporting category for a piece on how the elusive “substantial damage” letter was making recovery difficult for some Sandy survivors.

  • Columnist Daniel Van Abs won first place in online commentary in the state SPJ’s contest for a series of essays on water quality in New Jersey.

  • NJ Spotlight Founding Editor and CEO John Mooney won a first place award for his coverage of Newark and state-run public schools.

  • Editor-At-Large Colleen O’Dea and the New Jersey News Commons were recognized for their comprehensive and timely work on Election Night 2014 with a first place in the category of online deadline reporting. O’Dea worked with the Commons at Montclair State University to create real-time election-result widgets embedded on the NJ Spotlight site and on hyperlocal sites across the state. In addition, O’Dea wrote a comprehensive roundup of election results statewide.

  • O’Dea also won a second-place award for her extensive pre-election coverage, particularly stories explaining the two questions New Jersey residents would see on their ballots.

  • NJ Spotlight Healthcare Writer Andrew Kitchenman took second place in GSJA’s business/financial category with his October story on the proposed merger of Hackensack University Health Network and Meridian Health .

  • Writer Meir Rinde received a second-place recognition in the Health/Science/Technology and Environmental reporting category from the New Jersey Society For Professional Journalists for his take on how big data is transforming today’s healthcare sector. The same story also received an honorable mention from the Garden State Journalists Association in the science/health/education category.

  • Energy and environment writer Tom Johnson received third-place recognition in online business reporting from the NJSPJ for his buyer-beware coverage of third-party energy providers in New Jersey.

  • Sara Neufeld of the Hechinger Report (a content partner of NJ Spotlight) took second place in the series category for “A Promise to Renew,” a collection of stories following the ups and downs of a Newark school for the past two years. Both Hechinger and NJ Spotlight published Neufeld’s report. One of the pieces from the series, “A Taste of Victory, Finally, At a Struggling Newark School,” also won third place in NJ SPJ’s online feature writing category.

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