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Media & Technologyby Brew Editors8:03 amMay 25, 20200

Brew wins 23 awards from the MDDC Press Association

Honors include five “Best in Show” awards given to articles judged the best in their category among all print and online publications

Above: Catherine Pugh on the way out of the federal courthouse after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. (J.M. Giordano)

Baltimore Brew has been honored with 23 Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia (MDDC) Press Association awards, earning recognition for its work in 2019 that ranged from profiling a Southwest Baltimore jazz club to documenting city government corruption involving Mayor Catherine Pugh and others.

Announced online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the MDDC judges selected winners out of 1,900 entries from 52 member publications.

One of the first announced was a division award for General News Photo to Joe Giordano for his haunting black-and-white shot of Pugh about to leave the federal court building last November after pleading guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion.

Other Brew awards include five “Best in Show” top honors, the most ever for the independent news website founded 11 years ago by veteran Washington Post and Baltimore Evening Sun reporter Fern Shen and later joined by former Baltimore Sun investigative reporter Mark Reutter.

In these categories, The Brew’s entries were considered the best in all circulation divisions, competing with all of the region’s major print and online news media, including the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore Fishbowl, Maryland Matters, Frederick News-Post, Star Democrat, Daily Times, News Journal and other news organizations.

The Brew also won “Best News Organization of the Year” in the online division.

City Hall Coverage

Leading the way was our coverage of City Hall, which uncovered some key elements of Pugh’s corrupt schemes while in office and connected them with our years-long documentation of conflicts of interest and corruption in city government.

A mayor’s house, contractors and a web of self-dealing” by Mark Reutter and Fern Shen won both 1st Place in our circulation division and “Best in Show” in the Local Government category

Conducting an early morning raid, agent of the IRS and FBI enter Baltimore City Hall. (J.M. Giordano)

Conducting an early morning raid, federal agents enter Baltimore City Hall in April 2019. (J.M. Giordano)

Related Brew coverage of Pugh and the University of Maryland Medical System by Reutter, David Plymyer and Jeff Singer won 2nd Place in the same Local Government category.

The public learned about Pugh’s corrupt sale of “Healthy Holly” children’s books, but her financial ties to UMMS, documented by The Brew, went back years.

Our reporting explained how the seeds of the scandal were sown in Baltimore and Annapolis amid lax ethics rules and a lucrative decision to turn a once public hospital system into a profit-driven business.

Our feature on the mayor, “Pugh’s downfall was propelled by her ineffective leadership,” by Shen and Reutter won another Division 1st Place.

Gag Orders, Private Police

Receiving “Best in Show” honors in the Public Service category was reporting by Reutter, Shen and Plymyer about Baltimore’s use of of non-disclosure agreements, or “gag orders,” to settle police misconduct lawsuits.

During 2019, as The Brew reported, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the gag orders unconstitutional and the City Council passed a bill ending their use, but the City Solicitor refused to enforce the new law. (Under his successor, the use of these agreements appears to have been greatly curtailed.)

In the Education reporting category, Reutter, Shen and Giordano won Best in Show for “Campus and community debate private police force plan for Johns Hopkins.”

We covered the protests, policy and politics around the proposal, including a story that disclosed how on a single day JHU’s president, nine senior administrators and a retired hospital CEO gave Pugh’s campaign committee $16,000.

At the end of their press participants in the Garland Hall sit-in embrace. (J.M. Giordano)

Protesters who occupied the Johns Hopkins University Garland Hall administration building embrace after police force them out. (J.M. Giordano)

A Jazz Club and a Library

In the Arts/Entertainment Reporting Category, The Brew’s Shen won Best in Show for “Tucked away in Southwest Baltimore: The low-key cool jazz club of your dreams,” a profile of Caton Castle.

In this year’s MDDC “Wild Card” category of Immigration in Communities, Brew intern Lizzie Kane won Best in Show for “Amid threatened ICE raids, safety in a Baltimore library” about a Pratt Library branch’s outreach activities in Highlandtown.

Over 75 endangered American eel were killed last month after a ruptured city pipe dumped chlorinated water into a creek in Leakin Park. (Mark Reutter)

American eel found dead after a ruptured city pipe dumped three days’ worth of chlorinated water into a Leakin Park creek. (Mark Reutter)

Dead Eels and Demolition

Environmental stories that Baltimore Brew broke and covered exclusively swept this division.

Reutter and Plymyer earned First Place honors for “Lake Roland sewage spills spur calls for development moratorium in Baltimore County.”

Second place went to Reutter for his disclosure of a Leakin Park water main break that killed 2,000 fish and multiple followups.

The awards went in some cases to first-time Brew writers, like Jamie Grace Alexander, who won a Division 2nd Place in the Local Column Critical Thinking category for “Gender neutral bathroom bill before Baltimore City Council is a step in the right direction.”

Honors also went to previous winners like Ed Gunts, who shared 1st Place Division honors in the Growth and Land Use category with Reutter for “Calloway house debate divides a struggling neighborhood.”

Reutter broke the story that the childhood home of the famous bandleader was slated for demolition. The Brew also won a 1st Place Breaking News award for another demolition story, Shen’s coverage of a developer’s surprise tear down of two historic stone houses in Woodberry.

Photographer Giordano won six Brew awards, including photos for Shen and Gunts’ “Can redevelopment rescue Baltimore’s bedraggled Chinatown?” and Shen’s 1st Place Medical/Science feature, “A drugstore in Dundalk learned a hard lesson on opioids.”

Last year, The Brew won 18 MDDC awards, including two Best in Show honors.

COMPLETE LIST OF AWARDS

General News Photo2nd Place 
J.M. Giordano for “Charged with corruption, Catherine Pugh pleads guilty.”

Local Column Critical Thinking1st Place
David Plymyer for “Public corruption in Maryland – it’s no accident.”

Local Column Critical Thinking2nd Place
Jamie Grace Alexander for “Gender neutral bathroom bill before Baltimore City Council is a step in the right direction.”

Feature Story Non-Profile1st Place
Fern Shen, Mark Reutter for “Pugh’s downfall was propelled by her ineffective leadership.”

Breaking News1st Place
Fern Shen and Mark Reutter for “Historic Stone houses bulldozed this morning.”

General News Story2nd Place
Lizzie Kane, J.M. Giordano for “Talking trash in a neighborhood that has plenty of it.”

Investigative Reporting2nd Place
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen for “A mayor’s house, contractors and a web of self-dealing: Power and Influence in Baltimore.”

Local Government1st Place 
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen for “A mayor’s house, contractors and a web of self-dealing: Power and Influence in Baltimore.”

Local Government2nd Place
Mark Reutter, David Plymyer, Jeff Singer for “How the Pugh/UMMS scandal was rooted in privatization and lax ethics rules.”

Local GovernmentBest in Show 
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen for “A mayor’s house, contractors and a web of self-dealing: Power and Influence in Baltimore.”

Public Service1st Place
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen, David Plymyer for “Seeking transparency, reform and healing: Critics assail Baltimore police gag orders.”

Public ServiceBest in Show
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen, David Plymyer for “Seeking transparency, reform and healing: Critics assail Baltimore police gag orders.”

Wild Card: Immigration in Communities – 1st Place
Lizzie Kane for “Amid threatened ICE raids, safety in a Baltimore library.”

Wild Card: Immigration in Communities – Best in Show
Lizzie Kane for “Amid threatened ICE raids, safety in a Baltimore library.”

Medical/Science Reporting  1st Place
Fern Shen, J.M. Giordano for  “A drugstore in Dundalk learned a hard lesson on opioids.”

Education Reporting1st Place
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen, J.M. Giordano for “Campus and community debate private police force plan for Johns Hopkins.”

Education Reporting   Best in Show 
Mark Reutter, Fern Shen, J.M. Giordano for “Campus and community debate private police force plan for Johns Hopkins.”

Environmental Reporting –  1st Place
Mark Reutter, David Plymyer for “Lake Roland sewage spills spur calls for development moratorium in Baltimore County.”

Environmental Reporting2nd Place
Mark Reutter for “Water main break causes fishkill in Leakin Park.”

Arts/Entertainment Reporting – 1st Place
Fern Shen for “Tucked away in Southwest Baltimore – the low-key cool jazz club of your dreams.”

Arts/Entertainment ReportingBest in Show 
“Tucked away in Southwest Baltimore – the low-key cool jazz club of your dreams.”

Growth and Land Use Reporting1st place
Mark Reutter, Ed Gunts for “Calloway house debate divides a struggling neighborhood.”

Growth and Land Use Reporting –  2nd place
Fern Shen, Ed Gunts, J.M. Giordano for “Can redevelopment rescue Baltimore’s bedraggled Chinatown?”

Drug City's prescription counter. (J.M. Giordano)

Drug City’s prescription counter. (J.M. Giordano)

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