Staff writers for The Forecaster and American Journal were honored for their work Oct. 22 by the Maine Press Association.



Chance Viles, former staff writer for the American Journal, took first place in the Health category of the 2022 MPA Better Newspaper Contest for “Westbrook police hope to add mental health liaison to the force,” published in May 2021. In the wake of an increase in mental health calls to police during the pandemic, Viles interviewed advocates about the need for a liaison, including a man who suffered from bipolar disorder and substance misuse who said he was traumatized by his arrest by another Maine police force.

Viles, Drew Johnson and former Forecaster staff writer Rachel Vitello were awarded a secon- place prize in the contest’s Investigative category for “Homeless in Cumberland County,” published in March.


Viles’ article, “Two-year housing crunch pushes families into homelessness,” examined the plight of families who have fallen victim to the area’s skyrocketing real estate market and lack of affordable housing.

Johnson’s work, “Homelessness strains South Portland services to the limit,” examined the impact of the region’s homeless crisis on the hard-hit city, from its toll on emergency services and strain on the municipal budget to the effects on businesses and neighborhoods.


Vitello’s “No easy solution in sight for ‘complex problem’” looked into how smaller towns that lack local data are working to get a handle on the problem before steps can be made to address it.


In the Religion/Spirituality category, Vitello received a second-place award for “‘Native people are scared’: Invasive beetle found in Cumberland County threatens Wabanaki culture.” The story, published in November 2021, looked at the impact of the emerald ash borer’s destruction of ash trees on Wabanaki basketmaking in Maine.

The awards were announced at the Maine Press Association’s annual conference in Bar Harbor.