NMG’s Rubinkam, Whittle win Best of States awards

Mike Rubinkam

Mike Rubinkam

NMG members Mike Rubinkam and Patrick Whittle have won the past two Best of the States awards from the AP.

Rubinkam, the Allentown correspondent, won last week for his story on the 10th anniversary of casino gambling being legalized in Pennsylvania, which now ranks second in gross revenue behind Nevada.

Rubinkam examined years of tax revenue data to determine whether the 2004 claims of Gov. Ed Rendell and top state lawmakers that casino gambling would result in major relief from high school property taxes. He found that PA casino revenue has held down the growth of property taxes and eliminated them for poor seniors _ but hasn’t cut most homeowners’ tax bills. By crunching numbers from all 500 school districts, he found the average discount off tax bills was just $187 over five years.photo - Copy (3)

His story generated front-page play in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and four other newspapers, plus a number of editorials.

Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, won the week before for a story breaking the news that the Gulf of Maine _ the heart of the region’s billion-dollar-a-year lobster industry _ is warming faster than 99 percent of the oceans.

After joining AP in March, Whittle worked hard on the fisheries beat and while visiting the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, he heard that startling statistic. Scientists there hadn’t yet released their data, so he started asking questions about how the warming might be affecting the fisheries.

Whittle contacted other scientists doing related research for their assessment. They agreed the 99 percent figure was accurate, as did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which received the scientist’s report. He also helped line up a scientist for a video interview to go with the widely used story, slugged Maine Without Lobster.