The Berkshire Eagle has won two Publick Occurrences awards, which recognize New England's most outstanding journalism, from the New England Newspaper & Press Association.
The Eagle won for Investigations Editor Larry Parnass' reporting on the Berkshire Museum's art sale and for The Eagle Eye Team's special report, "Sick Bridges: The costly, steady ruin of bridges in Berkshire County."
The Publick Occurrences awards recognize the "very best work that New England newspapers produce each year" regardless of size. The New England Newspaper & Press Association presented 18 Publick Occurrences awards this year.
The Eagle Eye Team's coverage of "Sick Bridges" included reporting by Parnass, Heather Bellow and Patricia LeBoeuf; photography by Ben Garver, Gillian Jones, Caroline Bonnivier Snyder, Scott Stafford, Stephanie Zollshan, Parnass and Bellow; graphics by Dean DiMarzo; illustration by Christopher Serra; section design by Noah Hoffenberg and Charles Apple; and an analysis column by Nat Karns of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
"I'll say this: Traveling to find structurally deficient bridges all over the county took me to places I've never been," Parnass said. "The sheer number and age of these structures is astounding."
The "Sick Bridges" report culminated in a special 12-page section in the Nov. 5, 2017, newspaper. The Eagle Eye Team mapped the state of bridge disrepair and explained the reasons for it, Parnass said.
"Anyone who lives near a bridge marked with weight limits or Jersey barriers — or crumbling concrete and exposed rebar — has a right to wonder about their safety," Parnass said. "Heather, Patricia and I set out to document the condition of bridges flagged as sick.
"For the most part, the state appears to be keeping up with basic repairs and in some cases stepping up to the challenge of full rebuilding," he added. "But this is a problem that is going to get worse. The cost of repairs is enormous."
The judges called the "Sick Bridges" section "excellent reporting and research" with "excellent graphics and well-organized display."
"The research and detail in this unique series made this entry unbeatable," the judges said.
Parnass' reporting on the Berkshire Museum art sale included a dozen of the top stories on the issue. The judges called the coverage "well written and thorough," "eye-popping investigative reporting," and "exhaustive research" that was "very readable."
"I feel our duty over the past year has been to answer public questions about the museum's art sales," Parnass said. "Each week seemed to bring new questions. I am proud to work for a newspaper that was committed to investing the time it took to provide as true and complete a picture as we could provide of a momentous step taken by one of the county's most important cultural icons."
In 2017, The Eagle also won two Publick Occurrences awards, for "Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art: Building 6 Debut," as well as for the "Digital Divide: Broadband in the Berkshires" series.
The Publick Occurrences award, administered by the New England Newspaper & Press Association, gets its name from the first newspaper published in America. The newspaper was short-lived: After the first issue was published in Boston in 1690, Publick Occurrences was suppressed by the royal governor.