‘Monitor’ wins Sunday Newspaper of the Year

By Monitor staff
Saturday, October 14, 2017

The New England Newspaper & Press Association recognized the Concord Monitor with four top journalism awards, including Sunday Newspaper of the Year, during the association’s annual conference Thursday.

Two Monitor special series – “Unsilenced” and “Fatal Flaws” – won Publick Occurrences awards, which identify New England’s most outstanding journalism among newspapers of all sizes.

And longtime columnist Raymond Duckler received the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award, which “celebrates the accomplishments of someone who, over a period of time, has faithfully served the community for which they are responsible and has played an active, constructive role in contributing to its quality of life.”

Duckler was cited for the depth and range of touching columns of human struggle, his coverage of breaking news and politics, and his use of humor to elevate and entertain the reader.

“Ray has long been a must-read in central New Hampshire,” Editor Steve Leone said in his nomination letter for Duckler. “He’s been bringing his personality and his extraordinary writing skills to the Monitor pages for the past 30-plus years, first in sports and now mostly in news. I’m not sure you could find a journalist in America who hits a broader range of topics.”

Publick Occurrences awards were established in 1990 and bear the name of the fist newspaper published in America in 1690, which was suppressed by the royal governor of Boston four days after it appeared. Nineteen such awards were given to New England newspapers this year, regardless of their circulation size.

The Monitor’s five-part “Unsilenced” series, written by reporter Alyssa Dandrea with photographs and video by Elizabeth Frantz, focused on the growing trend of survivors of sexual assault who choose to shed their anonymity as a way to take power away from their attackers. The series launched after Chessy Prout, the freshman at the center of the St. Paul’s School rape trial, decided to come forward and identify herself a survivor, rather than a victim.

“A 15-year-old is assaulted at a private school during a ‘senior salute, of sexual conquest,” the judges wrote. “This series goes beyond the breaking news to present the stories of women who have been sexually assaulted and how they have dealt with their assault and the overwhelmed ‘system’ in place to protect. It’s easy to be disappointed by their stories of survival.”

The “Fatal Flaws” special series on the deaths of children after reports of abuse revealed errors and oversights by New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth and Families, an agency known for keeping its actions in the dark.

Through a painstaking examination of the events leading up to the death of Brielle Gage, and other children who died while under state supervision, the Monitor showed that child protection workers often looked into multiple reports of abuse or neglect before a child died, but rarely substantiated the reports and took action.

The series, written and researched by reporter Allie Morris, led to an outside agency being hired to review DCYF cases, staffing changes at the leadership level, and a sense of urgency to funding requests in a state known for its lean spending. Morris now works for the San Antonio Express News.

“This was an excellent in-depth investigation into the abuse of children under the supervision of the state,” the judges said. “Outstanding interviews and good use of public records resulted in highly readable stories.”

The Monitor won the Sunday Newspaper of the Year award in the category for papers with a circulation of less than 18,000.