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Baltimore Sun staff wins award for ‘Healthy Holly’ coverage; named finalist for Pimlico reporting

The Baltimore Sun staff has won a first-place National Headliner Award for its investigative reporting into former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and the controversy surrounding her “Healthy Holly” children’s books.

The Sun and its staff took home the first place award for investigative reporting in newspapers not in a top 20 media market for its coverage of the controversy, the organization wrote in a news release.

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The Baltimore Sun’s extensive coverage of Pugh’s improper book deals first revealed in March 2019 that Pugh did not disclose a $500,000 relationship to sell the books to the University of Maryland Medical System.

In the months following, The Sun continually exposed new aspects of Pugh’s scheme, some of which were cited in an 11-count federal indictment charging the former mayor with defrauding area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of the children’s books.

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“Just a few hours before we voted this category, former Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in prison for the crimes that this package exposed,” the organization’s judges wrote in the release.

“It started with an offhand comment made in the well-tuned ear of a good reporter,” the judges wrote. “The hard and thorough work that followed exposed a culture of entitlement.”

The Sun also won a third-place award for spot news in daily newspapers, all sizes, for its coverage of the immediate aftermath of Pugh’s indictment.

It’s the latest recognition The Sun has received for its coverage of Pugh’s scandal. Reporter Luke Broadwater and the newspaper’s staff won the prestigious George Polk Award for political reporting in February.

The Sun was also a finalist for an award from Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. for its articles detailing the fight to keep Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore City and how the track’s owners spent millions of dollars more in grant money to upkeep Laurel Park instead.

IRE wrote in a release that the work of former Sun reporter Doug Donovan and current reporter Jeff Barker was finalist for the nonprofit’s award in the sports investigations category.

A March 1, 2019, article revealing that the Stronach Group was spending substantially more money improving its Laurel Park racetrack rather than the crumbling Pimlico, home to the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, “took sports reporting to another level," the organization wrote.

“The reporter[s] did a good job chipping away at the story and connecting all of the pieces to achieve measurable results,” the organization wrote.

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” took home the IRE award for its “Game Change” report, which looked at communities still playing tackle football and analyzed racial and socioeconomic factors to see which communities are most at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE.

An NBC News report detailing the danger of foul balls at baseball games was also a finalist for the award.

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