MassLive wins 21 awards as Matt Vautour named best sports columnist for 4th straight year

MassLive took home 21 awards from the New England Press & Newspaper Association this past weekend, which highlighted some of the best journalism from newspapers and online news sites across the region.

The awards represented the highest number of wins MassLive has ever earned from the professional news organization and were more than double the 10 awards it took home last year.

In addition, the organization’s wins included a complete sweep of three award categories with MassLive staff taking first, second and third place awards.

MassLive Sports Columnist Matt Vautour was also named sports columnist of the year for the fourth year in a row.

MassLive President Josh Macht congratulated the site’s staff on the awards.

“It’s wonderful to see our news organization get recognized for the hard work they do every day to serve communities across the region — especially rewarding when the recognition comes from your peers,” Macht said.

The wins come off the heels of MassLive winning a Publick Occurrences Award last fall for reporter Will Katcher and Ben Kail’s reporting of a plan to close the Northampton VA hospital, which was later scrapped.

Crime and courts reporting

One of the three categories the MassLive staff won all three places was for crime and courts reporting.

First place went to former MassLive reporter Tom Matthews for his story, “Who killed Jehlon Rose?” Matthews covered the story of Dana Gual, a Black man who had been falsely accused in the stabbing death of 19-year-old Jehlon Rose in Worcester.

Second place went to Douglas Hook for his story on David Ballard. Hook had been profiling Ballard’s journey through a court program that gave those facing charges a chance at a new life.

Less than a year after beginning the program, Ballard was shot dead.

Third place for crime and courts reporting went to former MassLive Managing Editor Scott J. Croteau and reporter Melissa Hanson for their coverage on last chance agreements. The stories looked at why some cops accused of crimes or misconduct end up signing deals to keep their jobs.

MassLive sports columnist Matt Vautour, left, and former reporter Michael Bonner.

Sports columnist of the year

All three award winners for sports columnist of the year went to MassLive with MassLive Sports Columnist Matt Vautour taking first place for the fourth year in a row.

Chris Cotillo took second place for sports columnist and Brian Robb earned third place.

Vautour’s columns included his piece on Patriots General Manager Bill Belichick honoring Navy Intelligence specialist Patrick Darcy who had finished his third deployment when he was killed by a drunk driver in 2014. His second was headlined “Kyrie Irving doesn’t get to decide when Celtics fans stop hating him.”

Sports feature story

Vautour continued to dominate the awards this year also earning first place for sports feature story for his powerful story on Longmeadow girls basketball coach Timmy Allen, who miraculously survived a massive heart attack to return to coaching last year.

The story not only won Vautour best sports feature but also nabbed him first place for best local personality profile.

MassLive’s Chris Mason took second place in the category for “The inside story of how Cole Strange went from ‘the backside of a damn wheelbarrow’ to Patriots first-round pick.”

Third place went to MassLive’s Souichi Terada for his story on How Celtics’ Derrick White went from high school afterthought to first-round pick to Boston’s core.

Other first-place wins

After winning second place for the best overall mobile product last year, MassLive was awarded first place this year.

MassLive reporter Tristan Smith also took a first-place award for education reporting. In “A Tale of two schools,” Smith chronicled two Springfield high schools that share the same building yet are in many ways worlds apart.

Alison Kuznitz also took home first place for pandemic coverage for her expose on Massachusetts state workers facing firing after the state mandated the COVID vaccine for workers. Kuznitz told the story of a partially-vaccinated employee who had a rare allergic reaction to the first shot and was about to lose her job.

All NENPA awards

MassLive’s print partner, The Republican and Sunday Republican also took home awards Saturday. The newspaper earned 18 awards, including five first-place honors, for reporting, photography, design and general excellence in the 2022 New England Better Newspaper Competition.

Here’s a look at all of MassLive’s NENPA award winners:

  • Best overall website — 2nd place
  • Best overall mobile product — 1st place
  • Best website home page – 2nd place
The Vegan Nest and the Strand Theater on High Street.

Clinton’s rebirth: This little Central Mass. town has been quietly evolving, changing what you thought you knew about it

MassLive took two of the top three business writing awards this year. Former MassLive reporter Michael Bonner took third place in Business/Economic reporting for “The rebirth of a downtown,” a look at how the town of Clinton’s successful downtown businesses and the community they formed together.

Pedestrians walk along Union Street in Easthampton. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 2/15/2023

‘The place is jumping’; Easthampton is no longer ‘up-and-coming’ as residents and businesses now see a booming community

The third place award for business/economic reporting went to reporter Will Katcher for his story on Easthampton’s emergence as a booming community no longer living in the shadow of its Northampton neighbor.

3/24/2020 Springfield- Baystate Medical Center. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

Viral story shared across social media about two teens overdosing on fentanyl-laced marijuana in Springfield was untrue

In late 2021, a story of two teens overdosing on fentanyl-laced marijuana and having to be revived with Narcan at the hospital went viral, being shared by public officials on social media and in email chains. But MassLive Supervising Reporter Heather Morrison and Senior Managing Editor Noah R. Bombard found it wasn’t true.

Morrison and Bombard won a third-place award for combatting misinformation for their report.

Volunteers painted a mural in support of Worcester police. The mural is outside police headquarters.

A last chance or second chance? Why some cops accused of crimes or misconduct sign deals to keep their jobs

Croteau and Hanson’s third-place coverage on last chance agreements gave insight into why some cops who had been accused of crimes or misconduct were still on the job. MassLive’s reporting looked at officers in the Worcester Police Department who had signed these agreements, which allows an employee to keep their job but also gives municipalities the ability to fire officers if certain conditions are violated.

A man in a striped sweater, carrying an object in his hand walks toward 19-year-old Jehlon Rose moments before he was stabbed on Nov. 24, 2020 on Water Street in Worcester’s Canal District. The image is taken from a six-second Snapchat video Rose shot before being stabbed.

Who killed Jehlon Rose in Worcester? Justice for teen shrouded in misidentification as the wrong man faces charges and family seek answers

Matthews reporting on the 19-year-old man stabbed to death in Worcester was a story of a grieving family and a wrongfully-accused man. The story offered a compelling read of how a tragic death was amplified when the wrong person was charged.

David Ballard’s family and friends pay their respects. His funeral took place on a cold January morning. (Douglas Hook / MassLive)

He had a new baby son and a 2nd chance, then it was all taken away

Douglas Hook had been chronicling David Ballard’s journey through a court program designed to give those found guilty of crimes a second chance with a job and a new life. Then, Ballard was shot dead.

Speaking with both family and those who were working with Ballard to help lift him into a promising new life, Hook brought a deep and insightful look into one man’s life cut short.

Springfield High School of Commerce hallway.

A tale of two schools: These two Springfield high schools occupy the same building, so why are they worlds apart?

Smith dug deep on his first-place story of two high schools that occupy the same building but are separate in so many ways. The story is told mostly through the voices of the students of Springfield Honors Academy and Springfield High School of Commerce.

As one senior Honors Academy student told Smith the only reason why students inside the Commerce building are seen as “bad” to the general public is due to one fact: “We’re all minorities.”

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh and Lt. Todd Dodge deliver a report to the Greenfield City Council on Feb. 18, 2023. (Courtesy of Greenfield Community Television)

Greenfield police chief denies alcoholism, racism accusations as residents split over budget cut

Smith also won a second-place award for his reporting on a controversy surrounding Greenfield’s Police Chief Robert Haigh, who had been on administrative leave and faced allegations that surfaced to the city council of alcoholism and unprofessionalism — allegations that Haigh denies.

Timmy Allen reacts to a call during the Longmeadow girls basketball teams game with Chicopee Comp in Chicopee on Feb. 15, 2022. (MEREDITH PERRI / MASSLIVE)

Timmy Allen is thriving in Act 2

Vautour’s story which won him first place for both best sports feature and best local personality profile can be found here.

Nicole Coughlin, 42, a Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services employee has been living with the fear of losing her livelihood because of the Massachusetts COVID-19 vaccination mandate for government employees. The mother of three said that it is only due to three medical doctors telling her, in writing, that it is not advisable for her to receive another shot due to the adverse reaction she had to Moderna mRNA injection in February 2020. (Douglas Hook / MassLive)

Massachusetts is on the verge of firing a partially vaccinated state worker who suffered allergic reaction to first shot

While the state was working to get all state workers vaccinated against COVID-19, Kuznitz told the story of one worker who suffered a rare alergic reaction to her first shot of COVID vaccine and had applied for a waiver.

Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino.

‘They did nothing’: When people of color go missing in Massachusetts, who looks for them?

Heather Morrison took second place for racial, ethnic or gender issue coverage for her look at the difference in reaction — both from authorities and the public — when people of color go missing in Mass. Morrison spotlighted several cases of missing persons where family members were looking for answers — and help — and finding little of either.

The New England Patriots gave the family of James Patrick Darcy Jr. the pictured ball as part of an event honoring military personnel, who’ve been killed while on active duty. (Photo by Sybil Darcy)

Bill Belichick honors James Patrick Darcy Jr. during Patriots game, lifts late Naval specialist’s long-grieving family

Vautour’s first-place sports columnist entry winner looking at a tradition of Patriots players wearing stickers of military personnel killed while on active duty and the surprise of one grieving family when they saw Bill Belichick wearing their son’s name and photo.

Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center, Sunday, Apr. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kyrie Irving doesn’t get to decide when Celtics fans stop hating him | Matt Vautour

Vautour didn’t hold back on Kyrie Irving as the player reflected on his short time with the Boston Celtics.

“I hope we could move past my Boston era and reflect on some of the highlights I left at TD Garden that they can replay,” Irving said. “Move forward. Just a new paradigm, baby.”

“The smug arrogance of that statement is impressive,” Vautour wrote before delving into Irving’s performance before leaving Boston.

The column was the second entry for Vautour’s first-place win for best sports columnist.

BOSTON, MA – AUGUST 11: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a single during the eighth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles on August 11, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts will have Jerry Remy’s No. 2 on his back, memory on his mind in 2022

Chris Cotillo earned his second-place award for best sports columnist with two columns. The first is a look at the significance of Xander Bogaerts wearing No. 2 in honor of the late Jerry Remy.

Jonny Miller interviews former Red Sox pitcher David Price in February 2018. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

MLB lockout not stopping longtime WBZ Boston Red Sox reporter Jonny Miller from hunkering down in Fort Myers ahead of 51st spring training

Cotillo’s other entry for columnist of the year was his look at WBZ Radio’s Jonny Miller, who didn’t let the MLB lockout break his stride covering the Red Sox as he has for the past five decades.

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, right, speaks with forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the second half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Monday, April 25, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

How one Ime Udoka chess move unlocked Celtics Game 4 comeback win and changed the series against Bucks

Brian Robb took third place for best sports columnist for his story on Celtics head coach Ime Udoka and what Robb called “some crucial subtle moves” that “helped unlock what was the best offensive fourth quarter we will probably ever see in Celtics postseason franchise history.”

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens calls to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Brad Stevens has navigated crucial Celtics offseason with savvy moves, signaling strong start to his front office tenure

Robb’s other entry for best sports columnist was this piece on Brad Stevens and how he handled his first offseason as president of basketball operations for the Celtics.

Boston Celtics’ Derrick White leaves the court after defeating the Denver Nuggets during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

How Celtics’ Derrick White went from high school afterthought to first-round pick to Boston’s core

Souichi Terada took third place for sports feature story, telling the journey of Celtics’ Derrick White and how he got to be a first-round pick.

Cole Strange

The inside story of how Cole Strange went from ‘the backside of a damn wheelbarrow’ to Patriots first-round pick

The journey to becoming a first-round pick makes for compelling storytelling again as Chris Mason won second place for sports feature story for this inside story.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rich Hill delivers during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Rich Hill Quiz: Can his Boston Red Sox teammates name all 11 teams he has pitched for?

Cotillo also received an award for best sports story for his story on The Red Sox’s Rich Hill.

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