Investigation of Harness Racing Nets Statewide Award for COM Students

November 29, 2023
Twitter Facebook


Investigation of Harness Racing Nets Statewide Award for COM Students

An investigation by COM students about the mistreatment of horses in harness racing for the Maine Monitor took home first place for sports news in the annual Maine Press Association 2023 Better Newspaper Contest.

This and another by COM students about low autopsy rates were part of a package of stories from the Monitor that won first place in a special category for Freedom of Information investigations. 

Both stories were developed in COM’s data journalism class, taught by Maggie Mulvihill, associate professor of the practice of computational journalism, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Monitor.

“It’s just fantastic for students to win awards,” Mulvihill said. “They do the work, not me. I just guide them, so I really am proud of them.”

The competition attracted 1,475 entries from 37 newspapers and digital outlets for the 59 categories and three divisions.

“There’s an ugly side to Maine harness racing,” was written by Cici Yu (COM ’24), Emma Sánchez (COM ‘23) and Kendall Richards (COM ‘24) about unregulated violations of illegal horse drugging and physical abuse.

The story, “Maine medical examiners face challenges amid need for autopsies,” written by Ashley Soebroto (COM’24) and Emily Tan (COM’ 23), relied on an interview with the chief medical examiner, Mulvihill said.

“Sometimes it’s challenging for reporters with a lot of experience to get the heads of agencies to talk. When students do it, it’s even better,” Mulvihill added. “It builds their confidence because they got the top person to sit down and talk with them, and that really strengthened that autopsy story.”