The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram was honored for distinguished business reporting Tuesday night when it won a 2016 Loeb Award for its series “Payday at the Mill.”

Considered the Pulitzer Prizes of business journalism, the Gerald Loeb Awards were created in 1957 to encourage reporting on business and finance that informs and protects investors and the public.

More than 490 entries were submitted for consideration by Loeb Award judges this year and “Payday at the Mill” was one of four Local Category finalists that included entries from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Newsday and The Oregonian. The series was written by former staff writer Whit Richardson, with contributions from former political reporter Steve Mistler, and edited by Business Editor Carol Coultas.

“It’s an honor to have our watchdog journalism recognized,” said Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Press Herald/Telegram. “We are committed to uncovering how powerful forces impact the lives of regular citizens.”

Other award winners announced during a banquet and ceremony at the Capitale event center in New York City Tuesday night included a team of five reporters from the Wall Street Journal who won in the breaking news category for “Inside the Dow-Dupont Merger,” and the New York Times graphics team, which won the top award in the Images/Graphics/Interactives category for its entry “Making Data Visual.”

The Local Category recognizes excellence in the coverage of a business, financial or economic story centered in a particular geographic area.


Richardson’s series started with a simple question: How could a mill that had just landed $40 million in investments and tax breaks shut down a year later?

That question launched an investigation into the complex world of New Market tax credits in the wake of the bankruptcy and closure of the Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket.

Following publication of the series in April 2015, state legislators submitted bills to reform the tax credit program, and six months after the series was published, the federal government issued new guidelines prohibiting New Market tax credits from being used to pay off old debt and other questionable financial practices.

The state agency that administers the program, the Finance Authority of Maine, also revised its rules to ensure greater accountability by future recipients of the tax credits.

Richardson, who spent parts of five months researching and writing the series, thanked his editors for giving him the time needed to complete the series and to his colleagues on the Press Herald business desk for stepping up to cover business news when he was occupied with the project.

“I’m honored to receive this award,” Richardson said. “Business journalism is incredibly important because the stories are stories that impact everyone.”

The awards were established by the late Gerald Loeb, a founding partner of the E.F. Hutton brokerage firm. The winning entry in each category receives a $2,000 honorarium.

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