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Media & Technologyby Brew Editors8:00 amMay 13, 20190

Brew wins 18 awards from the MDDC Press Association

In two categories, The Brew’s work was judged best among all entries. The website also won the James S. Keat Freedom of Information Award.

Above: Baltimore Brew winners (from left) David Plymyer, Fern Shen, Lisa Snowden-McCray, Ed Gunts and J.M. Giordano at the Maryland Delaware DC Press Association awards luncheon in Annapolis. Two winners not shown: Mark Reutter and Melissa Schober.

Baltimore Brew was awarded 18 Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia (MDDC) Press Association awards during the group’s annual meeting in Annapolis on Friday.

The Brew won top honors in two areas: for “General News” for the website’s detailed campaign contribution reporting, and for best “Series” for its three-part investigation of Baltimore Police overtime abuse.

In these categories, The Brew’s submission was considered “Best in Show” among the winners in all circulation divisions.

Among those competing for the Best in Show prizes were the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, Frederick News-Post, Star Democrat, Daily Times, News Journal and other news organizations.

Also, The Brew won the Association’s annual James S. Keat Freedom of Information Award for its legal challenge to Baltimore’s use of non-disclosure agreements in police misconduct settlements.

The judges were “impressed with Baltimore Brew’s ability to ferret out a significant issue” and with its “unswerving commitment” to that issue.

Filed in 2017, the complaint challenges the city’s policy of prohibiting persons who receive cash settlements in police brutality cases from speaking out publicly – or talking to the media.

The case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and Crowell & Moring LLP on behalf of The Brew and Ashley Overbey (and supported by a grassroots coalition) is currently pending in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Calling the legal effort “an interesting and creative approach for a small news organization,” the judges quoted from The Brew’s submission letter:

“Police misconduct ‘gag orders,’ we argue, are a public policy choice – one that stifles reform. Allowing reporters to obtain a vivid and accurate description of police misconduct is essential information for those seeking to end it.”

The Brew shared the honor with the Baltimore Sun, which was recognized for “its body of work” using public records for police accountability stories.

Honoring Slain Comrades

An annual event, this year’s ceremony was the first held by MDDC since a gunman entered the newsroom of one of its member organizations, the Capital Gazette, and killed five staff members.

“We should redouble our efforts. We should work harder in their memories,” MDDC board chair Brian J. Karem said in an emotional address to attendees.

The attack comes at a time of growing hostility towards the news media, said Karem, noting that he had never in his career received a death threat, but has gotten several since the Trump administration took office.

“We are not the enemy of the people,” he said. “We are the people.”

Two posthumous awards to Capital staffers yesterday elicited tears from some in the audience.

One was the Courage in Journalism award, honoring Wendi Winters, who was killed in the attack after she attempted to fight off and distract the shooter.

The other was a “Best in Show” award for a feature, “Have you tried snow snorkeling?” by Rob Hiaasen, another victim of the newsroom massacre.

2,300 Entries

Who was in the room to be inspired?

Many of the journalists behind this year’s 2,300 entries were there – from veterans like Allan Vought of the Aegis (who won for his deep coverage of a Harford County rubble-fill controversy) to up-and-comers like Taylor Brown (a professional basketball player who started her own video production company and helped make an award-winning sports video for the Prince George’s Sentinel).

• To read the full list of individuals and organizations honored by MDDC go here.

Winner in 10 Categories

Founded in 2009 by former Washington Post reporter Fern Shen, The Brew concentrates on Baltimore area news.

It began to focus on accountability and investigative reporting when Mark Reutter, a book author and former Sun reporter, joined in 2011.

The two-person daily online-only publication, which also employs freelancers and interns, is now read by over 70,000 unique visitors a month.

Competing in the online publications division, The Brew won first or second place in 10 categories:

General news, investigative reporting, environmental reporting, land use, local column critical thinking, non-profile feature, photo series, continuing coverage, local government and breaking news.

Winners from The Brew this year were: Joe Giordano, Ed Gunts, Lisa Snowden-McCray, David Plymyer, Mark Reutter, Melissa Schober and Fern Shen.

Giordano shot powerful photos of Sandtown-Winchester in the wake of a series of shootings and killings in 2018, some of which are shown below.

Gunts wrote about the weakening of historic district height restrictions as a well-connected developer came before a preservation panel.

Snowden-McCray reflected on the Baltimore Police department’s failure to charge the white man who yelled “Heil Hitler” during a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Plymyer blasted Baltimore county police and prosecutors for keeping silent in the face of allegations by victims that they – along with UMBC officials – mishandled and covered up rape reports.

Schober argued that the police budget – and particularly spiraling spending for overtime – have been wasting resources the city can ill-afford to squander.

Links to all the award winning work by these journalists and by Reutter and Shen – on 2018 campaign contributions, the Harlem Park police lockdown, controversial reservoir projects at Hanlon Park and Druid Hill Park, police overtime, the 30-foot spruce cut down for the City Hall Christmas tree, a homeless man’s ashes returned to his family and more – can be found below.

Mayor Catherine Pugh and an entourage of city and police officials tour the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. At left, Acting Commissioner Gary Tuggle. At right, Major John Webb. (J.M. Giordano)

Mayor Catherine Pugh and an entourage of city and police officials tour the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. At right, Major John Webb. (J.M. Giordano)

Articles Cited by Judges

General News, Best in Show, 1st Place Division O:

“Purchasing Power” – Coverage of the influence of campaign cash on Baltimore politics by Mark Reutter and Fern Shen:

• Top Pugh official Jim Smith blew through $300,000 Supporting Vicki Almond  (9/12/18) by Mark Reutter

• Out of town dollars fund a tough-on-crime candidate in Southeast Baltimore 6/22/18) by Fern Shen

Moonlighting for Almond: Top Pugh aide quietly supports a developer-friendly candidate in Baltimore County (6/21/18) by Mark Reutter

Jill Carter trails J.D. Merrill in fundraising but has high-powered City Hall help (6/19/18) By Fern Shen and Mark Reutter

Bates spends, Vignarajah refrains in state’s attorney’s race (6/18/18) by Mark Reutter

Bates outpaces Mosby in the money race for state’s attorney (5/23/18) by Mark Reutter

Off-year campaign contributions roll in to City Hall (2/9/18) by Mark Reutter

Series, Best in Show, 1st Place Division O:

Overtime Abuse at the BPD articles by Mark Reutter, Fern Shen and Melissa Schober

Part 1: House cats and G-Days: A look at overtime culture at the Baltimore Police Department (2/20/18) by Mark Reutter and Fern Shen

Part 2: Lieutenants and Sergeants lead the overtime parade (2/20/18) by Mark Reutter

• Part 3 : Some of the Kings and Queens of police overtime in Baltimore (2/21/18) by Mark Reutter

• Commentary: By failing to police police overtime, Baltimore’s leaders are failing us all (2/26/18) by Melissa Schober

Mayor Catherine Pugh and an entourage of city and police officials tour the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. (J.M. Giordano)

Mayor Catherine Pugh and an entourage of city and police officials tour the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. (J.M. Giordano)

General News, 2nd Place Division O:

Baltimore cuts 30-foot spruce in Druid Hill Park for City Hall Christmas tree (1/1/18) by Fern Shen

Investigative Reporting, 1st Place Division O:

Overtime Abuse in the BPD by Mark Reutter, Fern Shen and Melissa Schober (2/20/18 – 2/26/18)

Rev. C.W. Harris talks about the problems needing to be addressed in his Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood while in the barber chair. (J.M. Giordano)

Rev. C.W. Harris talks about the problems needing to be addressed in his West Baltimore neighborhood. (J.M. Giordano)

Environmental Reporting, 1st Place Division O:

Series on destruction at Druid Hill Park and Ashburton to make way for city water projects, all by Mark Reutter:

Project to protect city’s drinking water has so far compromised it (7/11/18)

At hearing on reservoir projects, councilman asks “Where’s Rudy Chow?” (7/12/18)

DPW caught dumping chlorinated water into the Jones Falls (7/20/18)

Ashburton residents revolt over tree-clearing for water tank (7/28/18)

Controversial reservoir projects pile up at DPW (8/1/18)

The Druid Lake construction mess: Amid high turbidity levels, MDE calls for more tests (10/4/18)

The Druid Lake construction mess: It didn’t have to be this way (10/4/18)

Mayor Catherine Pugh and an entourage of city and police officials tour the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. (J.M. Giordano)

Mayor Catherine Pugh and an entourage of city and police officials tour Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood as part of her Violence Reduction Initiative. (J.M. Giordano)

Growth & Land Use Reporting, 1st Place, Division O

Breaking the rules for a plugged-in developer, all by Ed Gunts

Mt. Vernon project triggers proposal that could weaken historic district height guidelines (7/9/18)

• The sky is not the limit for new buildings in Mount Vernon – at least not yet (7/10/18)

Commission votes to disregard its own height limits to permit new building in Mount Vernon (4/11/18)

Local Column, Critical Thinking, 1st Place, Division O

Baltimore County police and prosecutors need to respond to rape cover-up allegations (10/5/18) by Davis Plymyer

For black Baltimore, BPD’s treatment of Anthony Derlunas stings (11/20/18) by Lisa Snowden-McCray

Baltimore Police and residents toured the back alleys and by-ways of Sandtown-Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

Baltimore Police and residents toured the back alleys of Sandtown-Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

Feature, Non-profile, 1st Place, Division O

Loved but lost, Lawrence Alexander is returned to his family (7/11/18) by Fern Shen

Local Government, 1st Place, Division O

Destruction at Druid Hill Park and Ashburton, see stories above.

Local Government, 2nd Place, Division O

Behind your fast-rising Baltimore water bill: A primer, all by Mark Reutter:

9.9% water rate hike coming to city. For county residents, a double whammy (6/30/18)

Baltimore county water rates to rise 40% over next five years (7/6/18)

Keeping Baltimore’s water system public won’t cure its accountability problems (8/6/18)

DPW proposes a 3 year, 30% increase in water and sewer rates (11/29/18)

DPW could net $215 million in surpluses from proposed water rate hike (12/11/18)

Continuing Coverage, 1st Place, Division O

Harlem Park Lockdown, all by Fern Shen:

ACLU protests closing of much of review panel’s public meeting tomorrow on Suiter shooting (4/18/18)

Board reviewing Suiter’s death introduces itself to the public – then asks them to leave (4/19/18)

• Constitutional violations during the Harlem Park lockdown? Hardy discussed by Suiter review panel (8/31/18)

Continuing Coverage, 2nd Place, Division O

Destruction at Druid Hill Park and Ashburton by Mark Reutter (see above)

Breaking News, First Place, Division O

Harlem Park Lockdown by Fern Shen (see above)

Photo Series, 1st Place, Division O

A walk with the mayor through Sandtown after a spike in shootings (10/20/18) by J.M. Giordano and Fern Shen


Called “the hole,” the site of a building collapse in Sandtown-Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

Memorial to

Memorial to “Young Money,” a victim of the city’s rising homicide rate in Sandtown-Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

Workers clean up a vacant lot in Sandtown, after a visit by Mayor Catherine Pugh. (Fern Shen)

Workers clean up a vacant lot in Sandtown after a visit by city officials. (Fern Shen)

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