State’s John Monk wins 2021 SC Journalist of the Year

John Monk, one of South Carolina’s most venerable reporters and a crime and courts reporter for The State Media Co., has been named South Carolina’s 2021 Daily Reporter of the Year by the South Carolina Press. Association.

“John Monk is a legend among SC reporters with his jaw-dropping inside scoops and his sources like no other,” press association co-executive director Jen Madden said when she announced Monk as the winner on Friday during of an awards banquet. “He works with government officials and lawyers and is known around the world for reporting compelling stories and taking calls from sources who, in many cases, won’t speak to any other reporter.”

Monk, an Army veteran born in Washington, D.C., and raised in that area, worked in journalism for nearly 50 years, starting with The Sun News of Myrtle Beach in 1973. He went to work for The Charlotte Observer in its South Carolina bureau in 1979 before becoming the paper’s correspondent in Washington, DC. Monk came to The State in 1996.

Monk was honored due to several series of stories. They include coverage of the saga of Alex Murdaugh, a high-powered Lowcountry lawyer charged with multiple crimes; South Carolinians blamed Jan. 6 insurrection at nation’s capitol; and the trial and sentencing of Nathaniel Rowland, convicted of kidnapping and murdering a University of South Carolina student in 2019.

The SC Press Association’s Daily Journalist of the Year award is one of the highest honors in the South Carolina newspaper industry. State reporters have been named Daily Journalist of the Year in four of the past five years.

The state’s David Travis Bland and Sammy Fretwell were named Daily Journalist of the Year for 2020 and 2017. For 2018, then-state reporter Avery Wilks got the nod. Wilks now reports to the Charleston Post and Courier.

The state’s Chiara Eisner also received another top honor from the press association, the Jay Bender Award for Assertive Journalism, which recognizes a journalist for tenacious and compelling reporting.

Gina Smith, The State’s projects editor, described Eisner’s work as “bold and fearless.”

“She’s made a strong commitment to standing up to bullies,” Smith said.

Eisner’s Secrets of the Death Chamber series tells the stories of people who carried out executions for South Carolina and exposed the secrecy with which the state enacts the death penalty.

Eisner also uncovered the practices and lobbying of a coastal South Carolina-based company that uses horseshoe crab blood for medical testing, even though synthetic alternatives exist.

In total, The State’s reporters, visual journalists, designers and digital staff won 30 first, second and third place awards in the SC Press Association’s annual newspaper competition, encompassing work published from December 2020 to November 2021.

“I am very proud of the work that John, Chiara and the entire team at The State produce every day,” said Brian Tolley, President and Editor-in-Chief of The State Media Co. “The awards confirm that The State journalists succeed in providing readers with useful, detailed information that also holds officials accountable.

First place

Top honors went to the entire staff for news coverage and feature series.

Other first place awards were given to:

Michael Laanna, sports beat reports.

David Travis Bland, in-depth report

Lucas Daprile, education beat reporting.

Ben Portnoy, writing sports reports.

Sarah Ellis, short story

Caroline Watkins, Nikki Naik and staff, the use of social media.

The second place

For the Judson Chapman Award, Eisner placed for its story on former South Carolina executioners.

Bristow Marchant, obituary.

Lucas Daprile and Cal Lunmark, digital project.

Andre Caplan, business reports.

Lou Bezjak, sports history spot.

Chris Trainor, individual use of social media.

Sarah Ellis, writing a profile article and a short story

Third place

State staff for COVID-19 coverage; Trudi Gilfillian for the EA Ramsaur Award for Editorial Writing; Sammy Fretwell for corporate reports; Eisner for investigative reporting; Rebecca Liebson for beat ratios; Joseph Bustos for government beat reports; Merchantt for educational beat reporting; Bland for writing lifestyle articles; Lananna for a sports report; Josh Boucher for the function photo; Tracy Glantz for pictorial.

This story was originally published March 12, 2022 1:49 p.m.

David Travis Bland has won the SC Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for Community Journalism. He joined The State in 2018. He writes about crime, law enforcement and the criminal justice system. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2010.
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