NEWARK, NJ - TAPinto Newark on Saturday received two top honors and second place recognition from the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists for grassroots journalism and investigative reporting. 

Work from TAPinto Newark Editor Mark J. Bonamo, reporter Rebecca Panico and freelancer Thomas E. Franklin were honored.

MORE: TAPinto Newark Wins Two First-Place Reporting Awards

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A joint submission from Bonamo and Panico earned first place for best grassroots journalism. The honor goes to a hyperlocal or weekly publication from 2018 that did the best, most comprehensive job covering the community it serves. 

Their joint submission included an article about Gov. Phil Murphy declaring he drinks Newark’s water, Newark Public Schools’ transition to local control and a local tavern temporarily closing for renovations. Also included were stories about a local developer and council members who expressed displeasure over seating arrangements at a library event.

Contest judges said TAPinto Newark's submission stood out because of "the breadth of grassroots issues they covered, both good and bad." TAPinto South Orange-Maplewood earned second place in the same category. 

Panico separately earned first place for investigative reporting among weekly and hyperlocal publications. Her submission included coverage of a Newark contract with a public relations firm and a redevelopment plan for the West Ward. Her submission also included stories about the historic Griffith building on Broad Street, tax incentives for a pharmaceutical company and the public school district's transition to local control.

Thomas E. Franklin - who shot the iconic photograph of ground zero at the World Trade Center - also received second place honors for the Stuart and Beverley Awbrey Award. His reporting detailed how an undocumented immigrant was handed over to federal agents by Newark police. 

The Awbrey Award recognizes hard-hitting investigative reporting that is public-spirited and uplifting. The award pays tribute to the Awbreys, who ran The Cranford Chronicle from 1978 to 1988 and believed their weekly newspaper contributed to the civic life of the town.

Both Panico and Franklin’s stories were edited by TAPinto Newark Managing Editor Steve Liebman, who retired as senior news director at The Star-Ledger in 2017 after spending 20 years at the newspaper.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the oldest professional organization representing reporters in the nation. Submissions for the New Jersey contest were judged this year by the Colorado chapter of the organization.

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