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Rachael Pacella wins inaugural Rookie of the Year award

Rachael Pacella wins Rookie of the Year

Rachael Pacella wins the inaugural MDDC Rookie of the Year prize for new journalists on the strength and versatility of her reporting.  Pacella covers Delaware beach towns and environmental issues from The Daily Times’ Bethany Beach office.

This award, in its first year, 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 his or her editor.  Nine nominations were received from seven member publications. 

The award was judged by a distinguished panel: Lucy Dalglish, Dean and Professor of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, Tom Linthicum, Washington Bureau Chief of Capital News Service, and John League, retired publisher of The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown. 

The judges were impressed with the caliber of the nominees and their work in the short time they have been professional journalists.  Journalists today need to be able to tell their stories in a variety of ways and in a variety of platforms and the nominees showed great potential and contributions to their publications.  The judges saw “good detail and great potential” in Pacella’s work and felt that she was “good at drawing a picture with words”.  Pacella submitted diverse stories, from features about the Cape May – Lewes Ferry and a University of Delaware professor’s last research trip to an enterprise story about a homeless encampment.   The judges commented that Pacella “made research comprehensible with her University of Delaware story and showed great insight into the professor.” 

Pacella’s nominating editor, Mike Kilian, wrote in his recommendation letter: 

“She distinguished herself in short order through her ambitious scope of stories. Within a few months, she’d arranged for herself and a photographer to spend 29 hours aboard a Delaware Bay research boat. The resulting story makes the reader feel like they are on the boat with the researchers.

She’s discovered offbeat topics to cover, such as the nighttime counting of horseshoe crabs in Delaware waters. And last fall, she shadowed members of a group that provide a ministry to the homeless, shooting her own photographs. The story begins with an uncertain encounter in the woods as the ministry members approach a homeless encampment. Her description of startled individuals is a unique and effective way to draw a reader emotionally into a story.

Rachael sticks with a topic, writing multiple stories about a Delaware school board member battling  against a health curriculum that talks about gays and transgender individuals. Her interviewing provides insightful quotes and helps give reader an understanding of sources’ motivations for the positions they take.“
Pacella is a 2013 graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland. 

Here’s what the judges said about our nominees for Rookie of the Year

Matt Bittle, Delaware State News: “Strong on politics. Thorough stories. Did a good job of using all the numbers in the betting story and explaining them in a simple way.” 



Bridget Bowman, CQ Roll Call: “Strong reporting and writing skills.” “Made boring stories come to life. Variety of assignments handled well.”  “Breadth of work was good, handle both ends well.”  “Impressed with ideas and scope of her stories.  Very well-researched and reported.” 



Rebecca Guterman, Montgomery County Sentinel: “Solid. Strong story on school policy on religious holidays.”  “Recognized potential for broader ramifications when a local judge threw out evidence gathered in a police said.”




Paige Jones, The Frederick News-Post: “Showed initiative with FOI request.” “Versatile. Twitter link.”





Maddy Lauria, Cape Gazette:  “Good spot news.”  “Showed great adaptability in subject areas. In addition to the usual government/political coverage, it was clear she really hustled for the murder story.”





Ryan Marshall, The Daily Times:  “Strong overall sports skills, especially digital. Solid.”  “Shows promise as a sports reporter.”  “Highlighted an interesting issue when he wrote about high school athletes transferring schools—and the system was later changed.”






Julian Sadur, Montgomery County Sentinel: “Solid sports reporter.” “Demonstrated aptitude with multi-media”  “Kudos for videos.” 




Amanda Yaeger, Howard County Times: “Solid reporter. Versatile.”  “Good job with impact of Howard County calorie restrictions for public events.”  “Her stories are well-reported and comprehensive with multiple sources.”

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