Adding to the newspaper group’s honors won earlier this year, a reporter from the Hudson Reporter chain won a slew of writing and photography awards in two recent statewide journalism contests.
Al Sullivan, the Bayonne beat reporter and political columnist for the chain, won awards in both the annual New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists contest and Garden State Journalists competition.
He also won for a story about eight Bayonne brothers who served in the military.
Investigation, features, and photos
Sullivan has worked for the 25-year-old newspaper chain since 1992, first covering Secaucus, then moving to the Bayonne beat in 2004 after the company bought the Bayonne Community News.
One of Sullivan’s series in Bayonne last year won first place for investigative reporting from the SPJ awards and also third place in the same category from the Garden State contest. It was the series of stories on the state attorney general’s investigation into Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone.
While rumors had swirled last year that Chiappone, who is also a former Bayonne councilman, was being investigated, no one knew why, or whether the accusations were serious or minor. Sullivan found people who had been interviewed for the investigation and was able to allow the public to grasp what, specifically, it was about, and also to ask questions about details that seemed political or nebulous. Chiappone also talked at length to Sullivan, defending himself and pointing out what he believed were flaws in the case.
Chiappone was indicted last Aug. 29 after some of the articles had been written, and has since pled guilty to the charges.
Sullivan said he is most proud of the award for those articles. Even though they didn’t uncover any new wrongdoing, “I think [they] allowed the public to know what was going on,” Sullivan noted.
Sullivan also won second place in investigative reporting from the GSJ for uncovering a little “gift” that the city of Bayonne gave to a new mall. They allowed the mall to take $25 million in tax money that it owed the city, and use it to instead pay back a state loan.
The public was unaware that the city was preparing to vote on the diversion of funds, and even – according to some of the local public officials – some of the council people who were voting on it did not realize what they were voting on. Sullivan’s reporting made both the public and the officials more aware of this controversial matter.
Sullivan, who in 2001 published a book of feature articles with Rutgers University Press, also won a feature writing award – third place in feature writing from the SPJ for a story about eight Bayonne brothers who served in the military, one of whom died in World War II.
Sullivan also won second place in the “sports feature” category from SPJ for his article about Ryan DeMeno, an autistic Staten Island youth who played in a hockey league in Bayonne.
Sullivan said that was the most “odd” award he won, since he rarely writes about sports. “I have too much respect for real sports writers,” he noted. “It was a feature story that happened to be about sports.”
Apparently, Sullivan has a knack for chronicling children, as he won a photography award in both contests for a set of photos that ran in the Bayonne Community News last year about a group of autistic kids who ran a dinner at their school, the Woodrow Wilson School in Bayonne.
The photos garnered first place in feature photo journalism from the NJSPJ and first place in the category of “photography, portrait and personality,” from the GSJ.
More awards for chain
The chain also has won investigative and feature writing awards for stories in the past in papers from Hoboken to Secaucus.
The newspapers were also honored earlier this year when it won several awards in February for its display ads from the very competitive New Jersey Press Association.
“I’m very proud of Al’s awards and pleased that they came in such a breadth of categories,” said Reporter newspaper chain Editor-in-Chief Caren Matzner. “It’s impressive to have writers who can manage the tough investigative stories and still apply the needed grace to a lighter feature story. Our staff works very hard and displays a lot of talent and knowledge.”
Reporter Co-Publisher David Unger said, “Al Sullivan is a talent and a very dedicated employee. His articles are valuable, insightful, and thoughtful contributions to our newspapers every week. It is gratifying to see him recognized for his work.”