NORWAY, Maine — The Advertiser Democrat was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in the local reporting category.
A.M. Sheehan, editor of the Advertiser Democrat, and former reporter Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, who now reports from the Sun Media’s Forecaster in Falmouth, were cited for their “tenacious exposure of disgraceful conditions in federally-supported housing in a small rural community that, within hours, triggered a state investigation.”
The pair exposed the deplorable state of government-subsidized housing in their community during a three-month investigation that was initiated after a rooming house fire at one of the apartments in downtown Norway. Within four hours of publication, the state launched an official probe.
The awards were announced by the Pulitzer Prize judges at 3:05 p.m. Monday.
First place for the local reporting category went to Sara Ganim and members of The Patriot-News staff, in Harrisburg, Pa., their exposure of the Penn State sex scandal, involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky.
After the Advertiser Democrat story appeared, Norway Code Enforcement Officer Joele Corey-Whitman went to work issuing citations to landlords and she organized a tenant/landlord forum to help educate everyone about the problems. Within weeks, the state began reinspecting all of its Section 8 properties statewide and pulled some landlords from the program.
“We are thrilled to be in such esteemed company,” Sheehan said shortly after receiving the news. “It is really special to know that the top journalism honor considers both large and tiny news organizations. We are fortunate to be able to work in an environment, supported by Sun Media, that allows us to pursue stories such as this one . . . our job is to help better our community, and speak up when something is not right.”
The work of Sheehan and Hongoltz-Hetling was nominated as one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
“We’re obviously very proud to be a finalist,” Advertiser Democrat Publisher Ed Snook said. “Sun Media and the whole Oxford Hills area should be proud.”
Also nominated as finalist in the local reporting category were the staff of the California Watch, founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting, Berkeley who were named for a probe of deficient earthquake protection in the construction of public schools across the state.
This is not the first award that the Advertiser Democrat pair has earned in the past few weeks for their reporting of the housing scandal in Norway and Paris.
Earlier this month Sheehan and Hongoltz-Hetling were honored in New York City with one of journalism’s most coveted awards: the George Polk Award for Journalism.
On Sunday, they were in Washington, D.C., to accept the Michael Kelly award as a finalist along with reporters from The Associated Press and Harper’s Magazine. The award winner was Sara Stillman of The New Yorker.
At the Sunday presentation, the judges said the Advertiser Democrat “demonstrated that a news organization does not have to be big to have a big impact.”
For more from the Sun Journal, go to sunjournal.com.