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DC Chapter of SPJ Honors Best in Local Journalism

June 17, 2022 by TWN Staff
DC Chapter of SPJ Honors Best in Local Journalism

WASHINGTON — The Well News’ Dan McCue and Well News alumni H.J. Mai were among the finalists as the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists bestowed its 2022 Dateline Awards for journalism excellence at the National Press Club Tuesday night.

McCue, editor of The Well News, was a finalist in the beat reporting category for his coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court. Mai, an early freelancer with The Well News, was a finalist in the business category for his National Public Radio piece, “For Some Americans, Getting a Vaccine Is as Easy as Showing Up to Work.”

The celebration of finalists and award winners was the group’s first in-person Hall of Fame and Dateline Awards dinner since the start of the pandemic. 

“Journalism continues to face challenges, from newsroom consolidation and buyouts to the lingering specter of the COVID pandemic and the requirements it creates for reporters in the field and newsroom,” said Randy Showstack, outgoing president of the Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter. “We are honored to recognize and celebrate the best in journalistic excellence and perseverance.”

The annual contest is designed to honor the best in local journalism throughout Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland. 

In all, there were finalists and winners in 18 categories over eight divisions. This year’s contest also saw a record number of entries.

The year’s top honor — the Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Award — went to Megan Cloherty and Jack Moore of WTOP for their investigation into the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences. 

Their reporting uncovered misattributed evidence, deliberately concealed findings from an inspector general’s report and complaints about the D.C. crime lab’s leadership that went unheeded.

The award, which came with a $1,000 prize, is presented to a journalist or group in any award classification whose entry best exemplifies journalism aimed at protecting the public from abuses by those who would betray the public trust.

The pair’s investigation began when they discovered an easy-to-miss court filing in a Washington murder case that revealed the Department of Forensic Sciences had concluded — falsely — that the cartridges from the crime scene of two murders were linked to the same gun. 

Cloherty and Moore subsequently combed through mountains of court documents, interviewed current and former employees of the department and filed multiple Freedom of Information requests. As their reporting unfolded, the lab was stripped of its accreditation, the lab’s director resigned and an outside audit recommended the lab retest potentially affected cases dating back to 2012. 

“It all started with what any good investigative reporter does — pull a string,” the awards judge said. “In this case, a faulty finding by the D.C. crime lab in linking two bullets has led to a full-scale investigation of the agency and whether any of the 900-some cases processed by it were affected by shoddy analyses. Marvelous job, WTOP.”

A complete list of all finalists and winners is below and is available online at the SPJDC website here.

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