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Gazette named New England Newspaper of the Year 

  • The Daily Hampshire Gazette was named the 2017 New England Newspaper of the Year Thursday. Collecting the award were, from left, Publisher Michael Rifanburg, Photo Editor Carol Lollis and Managing Editor Dan “Scoop” Crowley.  Gazette staff

  • Gazette Photo Editor Carol Lollis, left, and former staff writer Amanda Drane won a public service award for their “Under the Table” series revealing abusive pay practices at a group of Asian restaurants. GAZETTE STAFF


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Staff Report

NATICK — For the second time in three years, the Daily Hampshire Gazette was honored Thursday as “New England Newspaper of the Year” in a competition with similarly sized news organizations in the six states. 

The 2017 award recognizes excellence in all aspects — news, arts, features, sports, photography, design and opinion coverage — of the daily paper and its website, Gazettenet.com. Staff members received the award Thursday in Natick at the fall meeting of the New England Newspaper & Press Association. 

That industry group also gave the newspaper a public service award for a three-part-series, “Under the Table,” an investigation into a group of Asian restaurants paying undocumented immigrant employees less than the minimum wage for work weeks as long as 72 hours. Published in September 2016, the series was the work of reporter Amanda Drane, Photo Editor Carol Lollis and page designer Lucy Pickett.

Thursday’s award is a credit to a staff dedicated to strong local journalism along with a community that supports that work, said newspaper leaders. 

“The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s recognition as the 2017 New England Newspaper of the Year is a result of a top quality team, a supportive readership, and a partnership with our many advertisers,” said Publisher Michael Rifanburg. “We could not perform at the top of our industry without their help.”

“Day in and day out, our reporters, photographers and editors do their best to ask tough questions, tell inspiring stories and help people understand their communities,” said Jeff Good, the paper’s executive editor. “We enjoy the awards, but the best reward is when readers turn to us for the news they need. And we newsroom types owe much to our colleagues in the Gazette’s advertising, circulation, production, business and customer service departments, who share that commitment.” 

Unlike many journalism competitions, the Newspaper of the Year judging relies heavily on assessments by panels of ordinary readers. According to the New England Newspaper & Press Association, the award recognizes “the region’s highest quality newspapers based on experts’ and readers’ impression of the quality of their reporting and writing, use of photos, design and presentation, online offering and overall utility and value.”

The Gazette has won this honor five times in the last 11 years: 2007, 2008, 2013, 2105 and this year. 

The “Under the Table” series prompted an investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office recently levied fines against five of the seven restaurants highlighted. “Too often, restaurant industry workers have their wages stolen by employers. This wage theft is an economic hardship for families in Massachusetts,” Healey said. “No worker should be a victim of unfair and exploitative practices.” 

The judges praised the series for a probing look at a problem that had Drane and Lollis working late nights to track down workers after their shifts and traveling to New York City’s Chinatown, where employment agencies helped to feed an underground economy immigrant workers say operates throughout the Northeast, and possibly beyond. 

“The series title says it all: ‘undocumented, underpaid, under the table,’” the judges wrote. “This is a story that other papers might look into in their areas.”