The Kennebec Journal won 18 awards recognizing excellence in journalism — including six first-place citations — at the annual Maine Press Association conference Saturday.

Judges handed the newspaper six first-place awards, six second-place awards, five third-place awards and one honorable mention.

Maine Press Association awards are conferred statewide, without regard to size of newspaper, in daily and weekly divisions.

“Each award is well-deserved,” Kennebec Journal editor Anthony Ronzio said. “We continue to excel against stiff competition, and are only primed to get even better going forward.”

Ronzio said he was especially proud of the first-place awards earned for the Kennebec Journal’s coverage of municipal corruption in Chelsea.

“One of the smallest newspapers in the state by staff size won one of the MPA’s most coveted first-place awards:

investigative,” he said. “That’s an incredible endorsement of our staff’s hard work, efficiency and team approach.
“These awards show, now more than ever, the importance of a robust, free press that can act as a watchdog to effect positive change.”

The awards:

• First-place awards for coverage of Chelsea by staff writer Mechele Cooper in the investigative and continuing-story categories; coverage of the fatal shooting of an armed veteran outside Togus by staff writers Craig Crosby and Matthew Stone in the spot news category; and a feature page design, feature headline and daily graphic by staff artist Sharon Wood.

• Second-place awards for the Kennebec Journal went to staff photographers Joe Phelan and Andy Molloy for sports, spot news and people photos; to Sharon Wood for a front-page design; and also to the Kennebec Journal for its work on opening access to files concerning public qualifying funds in the gubernatorial campaign of John Richardson.

• Third-place awards for the Kennebec Journal went to Stone, for education reporting; to Molloy, for spot news and scenic photos; and Wood, for a RealLife feature page design and a news illustration.

• Honorable mention went to Molloy for a spot news photo.

The MPA fall conference was held at Point Lookout Resort and Convention Center in Northport and included workshops, training sessions, the Hall of Fame induction, fellowship auction and award presentations.