Matthew Stone, a reporter on the BDN’s Maine Focus team, was named Maine’s Journalist of the Year by the Maine Press Association for his work exposing the murky financial practices of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The BDN also took home the award for digital excellence and the features and editorial departments earned top honors for their sections. In total, BDN staff received 45 awards for their writing, photography, design and advertising. The awards were given Saturday during the press association’s annual awards banquet, held this year in Bar Harbor.

Stone’s dogged reporting over time exposed how decisions made by the administration of Gov. Paul LePage affected Maine children and others, including his investigation of how at least $7.8 million intended to help low-income families with children had been used unlawfully by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This year’s Journalist of the Year has fulfilled some of the highest goals of journalism: to protect the powerless and bring the powerful to account,” the BDN’s Erin Rhoda, outgoing Journalist of the Year, said at the awards banquet. “He has uncovered more about the LePage administration’s buried decisions and practices that affect children than any other journalist in Maine.”

Robert Long of the BDN, the senior editor for both the coast and politics desk, earned the MPA’s Unsung Hero award. Nominators singled out Long’s knowledge, trust and loyalty.

Additionally, the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram won top print honors for daily and weekend newspapers. The Mount Desert Islander and York Weekly won in their divisions among weekly newspapers and the Ellsworth American and Boothbay Register took top honors for websites, along with the BDN. The Sun Journal and the Courier-Gazette won Freedom of Information Awards. Hall of Fame inductees were Alan Baker, longtime owner and publisher of The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, and Mark Woodward, retired executive editor of the Bangor Daily News.

From the BDN staff, coastal reporter Beth Brogan earned a first place analysis award for her story about how Wiscasset is still trying to find its way without Maine Yankee, 20 years after the atomic power plant shut down.

Stone, Rhoda and the rest of the Maine Focus team earned a first place for continuing story for their in-depth examination of how Maine’s transition to a service economy has c hanged the state’s most rural town s.

Reporter John Holyoke won several awards, including a first place for feature story for his piece on Maine’s “bear crew,” a first place for his work as a sports columnist and a first place critic’s award for his story about the North Pond hermit.

George Danby earned a first place award for his editorial cartoons, and former BDN reporters Danielle McLean and Rosie Hughes each won top honors. McLean took home a first place award for her story about the Bangor City Council’s ethics watchdog group and Hughes, who was part of MaineFocus, won a first place education award for the solitary journey of a midcoast teen who was expelled from school.

Photojournalist Gabor Degre took a first place award for his photograph of a mother and children and former BDN photojournalist Ashley Conti earned a first place award for news photo.

On the advertising side, the BDN’s quarterly Outdoors magazine took first place honors as well, earned by earned by designer Amy Allen, editor Sarah Walker Caron, and writers Holyoke and Aislinn Sarnacki. Allen also won a first place award for her work designing the senior living supplement cover and Carolina Rave took top honors for her work on a sponsorship page.

BDN staff also won second and third place awards in various categories, including a second place in the Freedom of Information award, which went to Rhoda and Stone.

“The BDN has some of the smartest, toughest and most innovative journalists in the state,” Dan MacLeod, the deputy managing editor of the paper, said. “We are incredibly proud of our staff.”