LEWISTON — Sun Journal staff writer Emily Bader was named this year’s Bob Drake Award winner during the annual Maine Press Association awards ceremony.
The excellence in journalism award is given annually to a journalist with fewer than three years of experience in journalism, and the winner is chosen based on writing quality, enterprise reporting, imagination, thoroughness and balance.
Bader, a former staff writer at the Lakes Region Weekly, won the award based on her reporting at that weekly newspaper, where she worked from March 2020 to April 2021.
According to Editor-in-Chief Amy Canfield, Bader joined the Lakes Region Weekly as its sole reporter a few short weeks before the newsroom was vacated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In her first newspaper job out of college, Emily found herself working remotely without the benefit of experienced colleagues’ support and camaraderie. On top of that, she was responsible for covering nine towns, a challenge for any reporter, and she started during the towns’ and schools’ budget season.”
According to Canfield, in addition to covering Black Lives Matter rallies, COVID in local communities and regular municipal and school business, Bader “wrote about a budget fight in New Gloucester that eventually closed the town’s popular library and then reopened it some months later. Along the way, she also reported on local recreational marijuana licensing, development concerns, lengthy town manager searches, the opioid epidemic in western Cumberland County and broadband problems in the area.”
In early 2021, Bader also covered the controversy in New Gloucester after Selectman George Colby made an allegedly racist comment during a public Zoom meeting. “Emily reported on how, first, out of the video it posted of the public proceeding. She filed a FOAA request over that and also, to confirm the authenticity of emails she had been provided by a source, requested copies of questionable emails written by the same selectman during the Obama presidency.”
In working on that story, Canfield said, Bader “dealt with town councilors and a town manager who weren’t forthcoming. She pursued the story through a citizens’ petition to recall the selectman, and attended a weekend petition drive at the town transfer station to get residents’ reaction.”
And, she covered the selectmen’s meeting in February during which Colby abruptly quit before the board could set a date for his recall election.
While starting her journalism career under difficult circumstances, Canfield wrote in her nomination letter that Bader “has proven she has the intelligence and news judgment and drive to truly excel as a reporter.”
In April, Bader was hired to cover health for the Sun Journal.
A graduate of Wellesley College with degrees in international relations-history and Middle Eastern studies, Bader is a 2018 fellow of the Madeleine K. Albright Institute for Global Affairs. She spent her fall semester of 2016 studying Arabic in Rabat, Morocco.
A former managing editor for The Wellesley News, Bader was recently awarded a health journalism data fellowship to the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
Bader is surprisingly good at checkers, and once completed The New York Times mini crossword puzzle in 18 seconds.