Garden State Journalist Association Honors NJ Spotlight’s Work

NJ Spotlight, New Jersey’s premier online news and public policy source, has won four awards from the Garden State Journalists Association, including the organization’s top honor.

NJ Spotlight writer Mark Magyar won two awards for his coverage of public finance and property tax issues, while Scott Gurian — who covers the Sandy recovery effort as part of a collaboration with WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio — was lauded for his coverage of the Sandy recovery effort. In addition, the Garden State Journalists Association recognized writer Sara Neufeld’s reporting on Newark schools, which is the product of our partnership with The Hechinger Report.

“We’re particularly excited about this recognition because the stories being honored are prime examples of our mission to foster deeper understanding of the issues facing the state,” said managing editor and cofounder Lee Keough.

Added co-founder John Mooney, “These prizes also confirm that our commitment to partnerships with other serious journalism enterprises — in this case, WNYC and The Hechinger Report — has paid off in better, more analytical writing and reporting.”

GSJA’s top prize, the Hildy Johnson award, went to Magyar for his story, “Net Property Tax Increase Much Higher Under Christie than Corzine.”

Magyar’s analysis, published in May 2013, calculated the rise in property taxes under both the Christie and the Corzine administration, once the Christie administration’s property tax rebate reductions were factored in.

Magyar also took first place in the General News category for “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, 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. ”

Neufeld took first-prize for “A Promise to Renew,” a collaboration between NJ Spotlight and The Hechinger Report that followed the challenges and triumphs of a Newark public school targeted for major changes. Neufeld’s series also garnered a first-place award earlier this year from the national Education Writers Association.

In addition, the Garden State Journalists Association awarded NJ Spotlight’s Gurian second place in the series category for his July 2013 pieces on planning in the post-Sandy era.

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

Gurian also won several awards for his radio work with WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio.

The Garden State Journalists Association began as the Hudson County Press Club in 1927. The group ultimately became the North Jersey Press Club and merged with the Working Press Association to become the GSJA. The organization “seeks the advancement of journalism in New Jersey and promotes the education, professional betterment and interaction of its members.”