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3rd Place Journalist of the Year
Ajax and Pickering News
Advertiser, Ajax, ON
Metroland Media Group, Ltd
Judges Comments: Congratulations to
Crystal Crimi for shining a light on
important issues beyond her community
and for covering her town so effectively,
particularly with regard to educational
1st Place Journalist of the Year
The Billings Gazette,
Lee Enterprises, Inc.
Judges Comments: Mike Stark is the
clear winner in this category for his rich
storytelling, incisive analysis and breadth
of coverage. Starks’ investigation of the
superfund site is particularly salutary.
He’s clearly a wonderful asset to the
Billings Gazette and to its readers.
2nd Place Journalist of the Year
The Patriot Ledger
GateHouse Media, LLC
Judges Comments: Sue Reinert is a real
treasure, a knowledgeable reporter
whose been around the block and is still
eager to take on the powers that be. Her
writing is economical, understated and,
yet, it lands with impact.
3rd Place Journalist of the Year
South Bend Tribune
South Bend, IN
Schurz Communications, Inc.
Judges Comments: Bill Moors columns
really give his readers a great sense of
his community and yet they touch on uni-
versal themes that go well beyond South
Bend. Though he is a columnist with
license to use the first person, he is ever
shining the light on others, as a good
By RICK MILLS
The Morning Sun
Editors Note: This column is written by one of SNA’s Editors of
The Year, and stirringly describes a tragedy that unfolded within
his newspaper family on January 9th.
An hour before she was gunned down in our parking lot, Mary
Babb e-mailed a friend that she was worried her estranged husband
was about to “fruit out” and wondered what he was capable of.
I was one of two Morning Sun staffers asked to sort through her
last e-mails for anything that might help investigators. The other
employee, Jessica Stroud, took it hard, telling me that I owed her
Later that night, I understood.
After several days of going through the motions, doing what I had
to do, the tears finally came.
I’d seen a glimpse of Mary’s hopes, dreams and fears. I knew how
much she looked forward to building a better life for herself and 3-
year-old Sam, and how scared she was that her husband wouldn’t
let that happen.
In one e-mail she quizzed his relatives about the vehicle he was
driving, saying she just wanted “to know what to look for.”
Needless to say, it was that same vehicle - a gray Chevrolet pickup
- he used to ram her across our parking lot and flip her SUV before
he shot her.
And so I cried.
What else can you do?
Donna Pung is a hero.
When all hell broke loose, our classified sales manager was the
first one out of the building, the first one to Mary’s side.
She knew Mary had been shot, but never gave a thought to the risk
she was taking.
Donna crawled onto the ceiling of Mary’s overturned SUV and
held her hand.
She held her hand as Mary took her last breaths, she held her hand
as the police began to arrive, and she held her hand long after she
knew all hope was lost.
All of us would like to think ourselves capable of such uncondi-
tional kindness to another human being; but the truth is it takes a
very special person to actually do it.
I’m certain Mary knew that Donna was there. None of us will ever
forget it either.
As a rule, we don’t like TV news crews. We - meaning those of us
in the print media - stereotype them as pushy, rude and arrogant.
But not those we dealt with in the aftermath of the murder in our
Truth is, at least on the level of finding and reporting the news, the
TV folks are competitors.
Our first instinct, quite honestly, was not to talk to them; but we
got over it in a hurry.
So Tuesday evening, with police lights bouncing around our office
and Mary’s car still overturned outside, I hosted a crew from TV
I chatted with reporter Ted Haller and cameraman Greg Miller
about the horror of it all, and about the irony of having to report on
our own tragedy.
We’re used to asking the questions, not answering them.
Haller and Miller were kind, compassionate and understanding.
And most importantly, the empathy - the realization that it could be
them, it could be their friend - was obvious.
Other staffers reported similar experiences.
In the news business, we never report anything more somber than a
It was nice to be treated with the kindness and respect that I hope
our own staff shows in similar situations.
I’ve talked before about the need to share after a tragedy, the basic
human need to portray our loss as a loved one, a real person.
This time it was our turn.
That’s the reason we not only let the TV crews in, but wanted them
Some of us talked, some of us didn’t. Some of us felt intruded
upon; some of us found therapy in talking about Mary.
Even in tragedy, telling the story is important.
We couldn’t let Mary become just another victim of domestic vio-
lence, we had to share her hopes and dreams, her love for her son
and the emptiness left by her tragic murder.
But I sure as hell hope the camera lights never shine that close to
Editor Rick Mills, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflections on a day
BEST SPECIAL SECTION award went
to The Landmark, Holden, MA for their
Future Leaders section, below.
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