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The Sun honored for ground rents coverage

The Baltimore Sun

The Sun won the 2008 Tribune Journalism Award for publishing yesterday in recognition of its role in bringing about reform of Maryland's arcane ground rent laws.

A series by reporters Fred Schulte and June Arney, which appeared in print and on in December 2006, prompted legislators last year to prevent real estate speculators from seizing the homes of Baltimore residents over unpaid ground rents.

"The work of Fred Schulte and June Arney demonstrates the importance of public service journalism and the work we all do every day to reach, impact and strengthen our community," said publisher Tim Ryan.

"The ground rent series shed light on thousands of homeowners at risk of losing their homes because of an outdated and obscure law, and served as a catalyst for statewide reform."

The Sun's corporate parent, the Chicago-based Tribune Co., annually recognizes outstanding locally focused journalism at its newspapers and television stations. Each award carries a prize of $10,000 for the reporters.

The broadcasting prize hasn't been announced.

"Our role as a watchdog over the interests of the communities we serve provides a vital service to readers, viewers and Internet users," said Bob Gremillion, executive vice president of Tribune Publishing.

In the weeks following the three-part series, "On Shaky Ground," state officials responded swiftly. The first bill signed by the governor in 2007 was an emergency measure to prevent creation of new ground rents.

Later, among other reforms, lawmakers voted to bar ground rent holders from filing suit to seize homes.

"These stories had an enormous, positive impact in the state and on the lives of many homeowners, and they illustrate what public service journalism is all about," said Tim Franklin, editor of The Sun.

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