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May 3, 2022

WBJ honored for history, diversity reporting among nine New England journalism awards

photo/MATT WRIGHT Ramon Borges-Mendez, associate professor of community development and planning at Clark University, stands in Worcester's Main South neighborhood, in this photo accompanying the "Rich dreams, poor dreams" joint investigation from Worcester Business Journal and Worcester Regional Research Bureau.

The New England Newspaper & Press Association has given nine journalism awards to Worcester Business Journal at part of the 2021 Better Newspaper Competition, honoring stories on the legacy of slavery in Central Massachusetts, housing discrimination in Worcester, and attempts to narrow racial and gender pay gaps.

"Our reporters strive every day to provide insightful and in-depth stories for the Central Massachusetts business audience," WBJ Editor Brad Kane said. "To have an organization like NENPA take a moment to uphold some of the best work we've done in the last two years is quite the recognition."

WBJ won two first place awards in the Better Newspaper contest, which covered content published between Aug. 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021. The awards were given in a ceremony Saturday in Boston. NENPA is made up of more than 450 daily, weekly, and specialty newspapers across the six New England states.

Senior Staff Writer Monica Benevides and former News Editor Grant Welker won first place in the Social Issues Feature Story category for their two-part investigation "Rich dreams, poor dreams" on housing discrimination in Central Massachusetts. The investigation was done in collaboration with the Worcester Regional Research Bureau.

Former WBJ editorial intern Devina Bhalla won first place in the History Reporting category for her feature on "Slavery's legacy in the Central Mass. economy".

Benevides won two more awards:

  • Second place in the Racial, Ethnic or Gender Issue Coverage category for her feature "Sharing paychecks" about efforts to narrow racial and gender pay gaps.
  • Second place in the Local Personality Profile category for her feature "Upended" about advertising executive Julia Becker Collins' fight against cancer. 

Welker, along with Worcester Regional Research Bureau Executive Director Paul Matthews and former researcher Tom Quinn, won third place in the Excellence in Newsroom Collaboration/Partnerships category for the "Restaurant Scene" project on liquor license policy in various Central Massachusetts communities. The last three WBJ-WRRB collaborations have all been awarded by NENPA, with the "City of Immigrants" investigation in 2018 receiving first place in the Excellence in Newsroom Collaboration category.

Individually, Welker won a third award on Saturday as well, earning second place in the Sports Feature Story category for his "The only game in town" feature on the Worcester Bravehearts' effort to play a 2020 season.

WBJ Art Director Mitchell Hayes won two design awards: second place for Overall Design and Presentation of a Print Newspaper for the general design of all WBJ editions, and second place for Overall Design and Presentation of a Special Section for the 2020 edition of the 40 Under Forty awards.

For the second year in a row, advice columnist Bonnie J. Walker won third place in the Serious Columnist category, for her Outside the Box columns about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in business.

WBJ's sister publication MaineBiz, both owned by New England Business Media, received two NENPA third-place awards on Saturday as well, in the Best Niche Publication overall excellence category and in the Best Podcast category for its "The Day That Changed Everything".

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