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Boston Globe names top journalists to be new Spotlight Fellows

Newspaper will team up with Portland Press Herald on investigation

Sarah Ryley reports in East Harlem.
Sarah Ryley reports in East Harlem.Edwin J. Torres

The Boston Globe on Thursday announced that it will partner with the Portland Press Herald in Maine for next year’s Spotlight Fellowship, joining forces to produce a multipart investigative report that will be published by both media companies’ websites and newspapers.

Penelope Overton, who covers the lobster industry, will be the lead reporter for the Press Herald, but the project may involve other journalists from both newsrooms, including photographers, designers, and editors.

The Globe has also selected Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sarah Ryley of New York to work with the Spotlight Team as a Spotlight Fellow.

Spotlight Fellow Penelope Overton of the Portland Press Herald.
Spotlight Fellow Penelope Overton of the Portland Press Herald.

“We had an extraordinary group of applicants this year, but these two stood out,” said Scott Allen, the Globe’s assistant managing editor for projects and one of the judges who selected the fellows. “Penny brings a wealth of experience and a powerful instinct for finding the real story, while Sarah is one of the most capable young investigative journalists in the country.”

The Spotlight Fellowship, entering its sixth year, is funded by Participant, co-producer of Spotlight, the Academy Award-winning movie about the Globe’s famed Spotlight Team. The movie tells the story of the team’s best-known investigation, exposing the coverup of the sexual molestation of thousands of children by bishops and cardinals in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

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“The work that past Spotlight Fellows have done — and that this year’s Fellows will certainly do — has been critically important to holding powerful institutions and individuals to account,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant. “We’re so proud to stand alongside these journalists in their mission to right wrongs, and speak truth to power.”

The collaboration with the Press Herald represents a first for the fellowship program, which allows fellows to work with Spotlight reporters and editors on a project of their choice. This time, the Globe will be teaming up with another newsroom, combining resources to produce an ambitious project of great import to the region and compelling interest nationally.

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Overton, a Yale University graduate, has been a journalist for more than two decades, the last four years at Maine’s largest newspaper where she covers the state’s $1.4 billion lobster industry as well as the growing recreational marijuana industry. The New York Times Magazine once described her as a “fresh faced, but dogged investigative reporter.”

“We’re thrilled about the opportunity to team up with The Boston Globe,” said Press Herald managing editor Steve Greenlee, who spent 12 years as an editor at the Globe before moving to Portland. “Pairing one of our best reporters with the Globe’s top investigative journalists will help us elevate our work to an even higher level. We can’t wait to get started.”

Ryley, who will work directly with the Spotlight Team on a second project, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for her series with the New York Daily News and ProPublica on the New York Police Department’s use of the nuisance abatement law to drive people from their homes and business. Her investigation led to sweeping reforms. She has also reported for outlets such as the New York Times Opinion Video and BuzzFeed News, and has been recognized with a total of 23 awards and honors.

“I feel fortunate to have someone as talented as Sarah Ryley joining us this coming year,” said Spotlight Team editor Patty Wen, who was also one of the judges. “She brings superb data-gathering and interviewing skills and seems like such a team player too. She will clearly be such an asset.”

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Past Spotlight Fellowships have produced groundbreaking work, including “Secrets in the sky” by Jaimi Dowdell and Kelly Carr, and “The danger in our salad bowls,” by Christine Haughney. The Globe will soon publish a new investigation by Spotlight Fellow Mike Stanton. For more information about the fellowship program, go to www.spotlightfellowship.com.