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Greg Morton wins Rookie of the Year 

May 3, 2024

Greg Morton of The Baltimore Banner wins the MDDC Rookie of the Year 2023 prize for new journalists for his “sophisticated, in-depth writing” teamed with exceptional data journalism skills. 

This award honors a new journalist with less than 18 months’ experience in the field.  The submission package included three to five clips of the reporter’s work and a letter of recommendation from their editor.  Five nominations were received.   

The award was judged by a distinguished trio: Greg Conderacci, of Good Ground Consulting (and a former journalist) Tom Linthicum, retired editor of The Baltimore Sun and The Daily Record, and Carol Ann Riordan, retired VP of programming and personnel for American Press Institute.  

The judges were impressed with the nominees, noting that some of them have been working for just a short period of time, and producing exceptional work.  Each of the nominees showed expertise that doesn’t often come from rookies. Journalists today need to be able to tell their stories in a meaningful way, and all of the nominees demonstrated strong skills that contribute to their publications’ success.  

The judges remarked that Morton had the data analysis skills that made his work exemplary, and teamed that with strong writing that showed obvious influence in his newsroom. Ryan Little, Data Editor at the Banner, shared that “Greg possesses an exceptional talent for distilling complex datasets into compelling narratives and visualizations hat are not only accessible but engaging.  His work analyzing crime and education data led to some of the most important reporting on these critical issues in 2023. His work analyzing Baltimore crime data was instrumental in launching The Banner’s first two large scale projects on auto thefts and homicide, both of which have garnered acclaim from readers and other journalists.” 

Morton has a reputation for work ethic, drive and teamwork in the newsroom.  Little goes on to say “He delivered in-depth analysis that uncovered pivotal findings in every project he took on. His desk is now one of the busiest places in The Banner newsroom. Countless reporters constantly pitch him. Getting Greg to work on a story with you has become a near guarantee that the story will have impact and be well-read.” 

Morton is a 2021 graduate of Howard University, with a degree in Economic.  He went on to receive a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park in December 2023.  He has held data journalism internships at ProPublica and The Washington Post.  


Braden Hamelin, Washington Jewish Week 

Braden Hamelin joined Washington Jewish Week in September 2023 and has “unquestionably been a tremendous addition to our team, his Editor, Aaron Troodler, writes. The judges felt that Hamelin, who has the antisemitism beat, covered one of the biggest stories in America now and handled it well.  One of the judges remarked, “I see great things down the road” for Hamelin.  Troodler notes “Braden is a talented writer who has an innate knack for journalism. He has successfully and skillfully covered a wide array of topics, from local news stories to profile pieces, and has also written about complex and serious subjects such as antisemitism and the impact that the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel and the ensuing war has had on DMV residents.” 

Clara Longo de Freitas, The Baltimore Banner 

The judges found Clara Longo de Freitas’ portfolio was full “quality and a quantity of work that far surpasses what would be expected of a traditional rookie.” Andrea McDaniels, managing editor, notes her “outside the box thinking” that has marked her tenure of the neighborhoods beat.  McDaniels continues, “One of Clara’s greatest strengths is her natural ability to spot a good story, something that can be hard on an enterprise beat like neighborhoods. She has an instinct for what will make a good read and what readers will find just plain interesting. She has a natural curiosity and way too many ideas on her story list. Clara also leans toward accountability and trying to prove when institutions aren’t doing what they should, rather it be providing interpretation services for immigrants or keeping up with basic infrastructure needs. She digs until she finds the answer.” 


Annie Jenneman, The Baltimore Sun 

Annie Jenneman is forging new paths at The Baltimore Sun, where she is the first data and engagement journalist in the newsroom.  Steve Earley, the senior editor for engagement and data, writes that “Annie is an evangelist for her two specialties, preaching respect for numbers and people, and the possibilities and peril they can create.”  She was essential to the reporting and presentation of the Sun’s investigation into the Catholic Church abuse in Maryland. Earley continues, “[t]he database and interactive table she built was the foundation of our December story on more than 100 people who were accused of abuse and had ties to Maryland but weren’t named in the Maryland attorney general’s report.”  Data is not her only specialty, though.  Earley shares that “On the engagement side of Annie’s role, she resurrected our dormant TikTok account and behind the scenes has counseled colleagues on strategy, impressing with her consideration of broader newsroom systems and workflows in her feedback.” 


Maggie Trovato, The Star Democrat 

Maggie Trovato is a courageous journalist, focusing on government accountability reporting in her short time in the newsroom.  Her editor, Wendy Weitzel, says “Maggie consistently finds ways to elevate her day-to-day writing, looking for new details on ongoing stories and providing fresh angles to meeting and event coverage. She quickly builds trust with sources and has developed her photography skills to produce well-composed photos to help tell the stories.”  The judges noted that Maggie had solid reporting skills and worked to diversify her portfolio by developing photo skills.  Weitzel notes that “In November, [Maggie] completed a month-long investigation 

into the unclean and sometimes unsafe conditions at a local apartment complex that arose when management failed to pay its bills. Following the story, the city began taking steps to fix the situation and hold the building owner accountable.” 

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