Montana Free Press work published last year has won recognition from industry peers, with MTFP projects picking up accolades in separate contests organized by the Montana Newspaper Association and Montana Broadcasters Association, both of which announced results last weekend.

Specific MTFP efforts singled out for recognition include the Shared State podcast, the newsroom’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the outlet’s website,

“In a year as chock-full of huge news stories being covered by a growing pool of talented print and broadcast journalists throughout Montana, we’re honored that some of our work was recognized as being among the best in the state,” said MTFP founder and Executive Director John S. Adams. 

The Montana broadcasters’ 2021 E.B. Craney Awards named the first episode of the Shared State podcast the non-commercial radio program of the year. That episode and the remainder of the Shared State’s first season, which was produced in collaboration with Montana Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio, dug into the political landscape that shaped Montana’s 2020 elections.

In the newspaper association’s 2021 Better Newspaper Contest, MTFP’s wide-ranging effort to help Montanans understand the details and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic won a first-place award for best continuing news coverage. MTFP was also awarded best website.

Specific MTFP stories were called out for recognition as well: Staff reporter Alex Sakariassen’s “Rural hospitals, beyond the rhetoric,” which explored efforts to keep the lights on at Montana’s small-town medical facilities, was named best news story of the year. Staff reporter Mara Silvers’ look at what the pandemic meant for the upcoming school year last July, “‘It would be nice to have some kind of plan,’” also won a first-place award for education coverage.

MTFP correspondent Jonathan Hettinger also received two individual nods, a third-place award for breaking news coverage for his story about a COVID-19 cluster among Big Sky construction workers, and a third-place outdoor writing award for his coverage of grizzly bear mortality near Yellowstone.

With a growing newsroom that currently consists of four staff reporters and an editor, MTFP competed for the first time this year in the newspaper association’s largest division, which includes the Billings Gazette, Missoulian, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and the Great Falls Tribune.

Founded in 2016 and based in Helena, MTFP is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization. Stories produced by MTFP’s newsroom are freely available for publication by other media outlets and are distributed to more than 60 media partners across the region.