AP Sevellon Brown NE Journalist of the Year

2015 New England Newspaper of the Year

This award is bestowed by the New England Society of News Editors, and it recognizes an individual for producing journalism of distinction in New England this past year. The award is named in honor of Sevellon Brown, the late editor and publisher of The Providence Journal-Bulletin, founder of the American Press Institute, fellow of the Academy of New England Journalists, and past president and founder of New England Associated Press News Editors Association (NEAPNEA).

The competition is open to New England journalists of any kind; whether working for a daily, weekly or specialty print publication, broadcast outlet or online media.

2015 AP Sevellon Brown
New England Journalist of the Year

Michelle R. Smith

Associated Press

Only AP Providence correspondent Michelle R. Smith could find a scandal in a jar of spaghetti sauce. She’s a relentless digger whose journalism makes a difference.

Using public records and excellent sourcing honed over years on the Rhode Island politics beat, Smith provided exceptionally hard-edged coverage of Buddy Cianci’s attempted return to political life. Her stories held enormous importance and resonance statewide: Cianci, a flamboyant former mayor of Providence and a twiceconvicted felon, did time in prison.

Smith’s coverage -- done in the finest traditions of accountability journalism -- set her apart on a highly competitive story. The Providence Journal, which had a team of reporters on Cianci’s mayoral campaign, wound up running her stories and crediting AP on its editorial page. The Boston Globe, too, hailed her work in an editorial critical of Cianci’s continued political aspirations despite his corrupt past.

The biggest of Smith’s several scoops was her investigation into Cianci’s “Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce.” Its labels promised that sales benefited Providence school children and had helped hundreds of students attend college. Smith dug into the claims and discovered that no money from sales of the sauce had been donated in recent years to Cianci’s charity scholarship fund. A Cianci adviser acknowledged the label could be seen as false advertising and that he'd like to see it changed. Cianci himself admitted to Smith that even if the sauce didn’t make money, “There’s a certain public relations aspect to it all to me. I can’t deny that.”

The concessions didn’t come easily. Over two weeks of reporting, Smith dogged Cianci’s lawyers for answers. She pulled hundreds of pages of documents, set up a spreadsheet and got watchdogs to analyze the finances. She finally got what she needed from the lawyer by showing up in person to a Cianci event and eliciting a promise that he’d turn over the relevant documents. This was critical because the specific financials were not available in any public documents.

A day after the sauce story made a splash, Smith followed up with an examination of Cianci's charity. She found it gives just a small fraction of assets out in scholarships every year, and spends most of its money on expenses other than for kids.

Reaction was fast and furious. Smith’s talk-of-the-town stories played atop the website of the Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, which credited her work in an editorial headlined “Jarring revelation.” The Boston Globe also invoked Smith’s reporting in an editorial that branded Cianci unfit to lead New England’s thirdlargest city. Congratulatory notes and calls came from media outlets and sources alike, including the news director of Rhode Island Public Radio, a member of the state ethics commission and a source in the U.S. Attorney's office. Boston’s WBZAM interviewed Smith about how she got the scoop.

Entries for the AP Sevellon Brown Journalist of the Year are due in June. The awards are presented at the NENPA Fall Conference.

Previous Recipients

2014 AP Sevellon Brown
New England Journalist of the Year

W. Zachary Malinowski

Providence Journal

Five million dollars.

That’s about what it costs when someone is fatally shot. It covers a wide range -- hospital and health-care costs, police overtime, legal and court fees, prison expenses, and the myriad social services costs of supporting victims and their families.

In Rhode Island, gunfire may be concentrated in the capital city, but “The Cost of a Bullet” explains how it affects everyone.

Providence Journal reporter W. Zachary Malinowski has reported for years about the victims of gun violence, their families and the non-violence workers who seek to make peace on the streets. Malinowski shared the reporting and writing with Amanda Milkovits for the first day of “The Cost of a Bullet.” In their Rhode Island reporting, Malinowski and Milkovits tallied numbers that had never been calculated before.

In the second installment, Malinowski told the story of Ray Duggan, a former gang member who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair after being shot five times. Gang rivalries and drugs drive the violence. Few have sympathy for those who incite that violence. Yet in Duggan, Malinowski found a sympathetic and human character. Malinowski gained Duggan’s trust. And Duggan wanted his story to prevent other young men from becoming victims. Duggan works for a Providence group that works to make peace on the city streets.

The financial story is eye-opening. Duggan’s first 15 months of recovery cost taxpayers $1.5 million in Medicaid money. Since then, the government has paid $1 million more in medical costs. Though he works part-time, he collects Social Security disability payments.

Duggan told his story on a video on providencejournal.com and went before a crowd of 200 people gathered for a Journal-sponsored Publick Occurrences forum to discuss the problem of young men and guns. He joined other panelists from criminal justice, emergency medicine, health care and community intervention. His words brought tears and resounding applause.

“The Cost of a Bullet” brings home to Rhode Island readers the human, societal and financial toll of gun violence. In recognition, the New England Society of News Editors has named W. Zachary Malinowski the 2014 AP Sevellon Brown New England Journalist of the Year.

2013 AP Sevellon Brown
New England Journalist of the Year

Mike Donoghue

Burlington Free Press

The New England Society of Newspaper Editors has named veteran Burlington (Vt.) Free Press reporter Mike Donoghue as the winner of the 2013 Sevellon Brown AP New England Journalist of the Year award.

NESNE chose Donoghue for his investigative series into a Vermont State Police sergeant who was later convicted of faking hundreds of hours on timecards and writing about 1,000 bogus tickets.

"Mike was relentless on this important story, and we're pleased to recognize his tireless work with this inaugural award," said William J. Kole, New England bureau chief for The Associated Press and this year's president of NESNE.

Donoghue has covered sports and news for the Burlington Free Press for more than four decades, most recently with a special focus on public records and the need of government officials to be accountable.

The award is named for Sevellon Brown, the late editor and publisher of The Providence Journal-Bulletin and founder of the American Press Institute.

For more information, please contact:
Megan Sherman

Promoting Growth and Excellence in New England Newspapers since 1950