SPJ ANNOUNCES 2009 EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM AWARD WINNERS HOLLY KERNAN OF KALW PUBLIC RADIO GETS TOP AWARD
San Francisco, September 21, 2009 – The Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognized Holly Kernan, news director of KALW, as Journalist of the Year in its 2009 Excellence in Journalism Awards. Kernan’s creativity and determination, prevailing in an undeniably challenging year, showed the potential for a strong future for journalism in Northern California.
Amid unprecedented layoffs of journalists throughout the region and continued shrinkage of many media outlets in Northern California, Kernan had the audacity and drive to expand KALW’s ambitious weekly newsmagazine, Crosscurrents, to a daily format, winning national attention and audience. Under Kernan’s guidance, Crosscurrents has stepped in — expanding as others recede —to provide essential coverage of local news and culture for Bay Area communities.
Operating on a shoestring budget, Kernan leads a team of reporters putting together a quality news program with a focus on covering underserved communities. This year, she launched two paid summer reporting fellowships where she teachers at Mills College and UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
This year, the SPJ NorCal Board of Directors also recognizes the humanitarian contributions of former board member Lani Silver, who passed away on January 28, 2009, by establishing the Silver Heart Award. Through oral history, radio and freelance writing, Silver dedicated her 40- year career to telling the stories of the oppressed and forgotten people of the world, notably tens of thousands of victims of the Holocaust. In the future, this award will honor others whose careers reflect an extraordinary dedication to giving voice to the voiceless.
SPJ’s Excellence of Journalism Awards competition, since its inception 24 years ago, has always sought to recognize those whose work reflects the organization’s ideals of integrity, initiative and achievement. The resilience of Bay Area journalism is also seen in the remarkable efforts of reporters, editors and news organizations in adapting to the changing media landscape. This year, to recognize the pioneers at the frontiers of journalism, SPJ NorCal introduced two new awards for Innovation/Entrepreneurship and Blogs. To focus attention on an issue to which journalists have a special obligation this year, SPJ created a third new category for outstanding coverage of the economy.
The Innovation/Entrepreneurship award goes to the Oakland Tribune’s InsideBayArea.com, for its interactive news packages, which feature multiple platforms to organize breaking stories, and provide interactive components that allow readers to select story aspects and in what order, they wish to access. The Blog award recipient is John Myers of KQED-FM for Capital Notes, his engaging and sophisticated blog on complex and important issues related to California politics and policy.
For outstanding coverage on The Economy, judges selected Charles Piller of the Sacramento Bee. Piller’s investigative series that revealed who benefited the most from the federal bailout. In stories that involved months of analysis of thousands of public records, Piller uncovered critical and damning evidence to show how Warren Buffett, a champion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), emerged as one of its top beneficiaries, as well as how TARP propped up local community banks with risky practices.
Although this remains a tumultuous time for the media, there is much good work being done this year, thanks to the commitment to the craft by Northen California journalists. SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism Awards once again commends a group of media makers whose writing, images, enterprise, and whose investigative and innovative spirit contributed to outstanding journalism in the past year.
Winners of the 2009 SPJ Excellence in Journalism Awards covered topics ranging from climate change to bonded servitude in Nepal, from home foreclosure scams to San Francisco’s service animal laws. They came from a diverse mix of local and national media, including the San Jose Mercury News— which won four awards— the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, KQED, New America Media and MarketWatch. Winners will be honored at an awards dinner on November 10, 2009 at Jillian’s restaurant in San Francisco.
This year, both the Public Service and the Investigative Print Daily awards go to Sean Webby of the San Jose Mercury News for its reportage on public drunkenness arrests, a year-long series that provided solid analysis of a sobering trend in San Jose policing—the apparently excessive arrests of Latinos for public drunkenness. In his balanced and thorough report, Webby analyzed public records to draw comparisons with other major cities in order to illustrate a pattern of subjective enforcement of a vague and easily abused statute. As a result, San Jose adopted measures to change police arrest practices.
Veteran Bay Area journalist, Susan Sward, is the winner of the Career Achievement Award.
As a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle for 30 years, Sward covered nearly every beat and is regarded as one of its most prolific members of the paper’s investigative team. This year, Sward’s work prompted federal investigations when she reported that a chemical plant leaked toxic chemicals into the communities surrounding Searles Lake, causing widespread illness. Sward has also lent her vision and energy to internal efforts to revamp the Chronicle’s coverage in the 1990s, and before her departure from the paper this year, she was heralded among the Chronicle staff for her dedication to promoting newsroom diversity, and mentoring legions of young reporters.
Paul Kleyman, Ethnic Elders editor at New America Media, receives the Distinguished Service Award. Kleyman has dedicated much of his career to in-depth coverage of aging and the elderly. For more than 20 years, he served as the longtime editor of Aging Today, the newspaper of the American Society on Aging, and he currently edits the Ethnic Elders beat for New America Media. A frequent speaker on the coverage of aging, Kleyman also founded and served as national coordinator for Journalists Exchange on Aging, an invaluable network of reporters covering aging and healthcare nationwide. The exchange, recently reorganized as the Journalists Network on Generations, delivers a weekly newsletter to 1,100 reporters nationwide.
The Unsung Hero Award goes to Geoff Link, publisher and editor of the Central City Extra, a monthly newspaper for the residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Civic Center and Sixth Street Corridor neighborhoods. Through its community-oriented reporting and a dedication to providing nuanced coverage of a marginalized community, the paper publishes local news, human-interest profiles and obituaries with humanity, intimacy and candor. A full-time copy editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, Link also serves as executive director of the SF Study Center, which supports community groups through organizational development and publishing assistance.
The John Gothberg Award for meritorious service to SPJ NorCal goes to Janet Mandelstam, a former board member and past co-chair of the Excellence in Journalism Awards. A highly respected freelance writer and former associate managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mandelstam made lasting contributions to the Excellence in Journalism Awards. She established a high standard for judges and judging, envisioned themes for each year, and she transformed the awards dinner into a dynamic event by instituting honorary co-chairs and inviting keynote speakers who addressed issues of timely journalistic interest. As layoffs began to quicken in frequency, Mandelstam was deeply committed to an SPJ project that sought to assess the impact of the loss of reporting and editing capacity in Northern California.
Full List of Winners:
Journalist of the Year: Holly Kernan, KALW Public Radio
Career Achievement: Susan Sward, formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle
Distinguished Service to Journalism: Paul Kleyman, New America Media
Unsung Hero: Geoff Link, Central City Extra
John Gothberg Award for Meritorious Service to SPJ: Janet Mandelstam, freelance writer
The Economy: Charles Piller, Sacramento Bee
Public Service: Sean Webby, San Jose Mercury News
Breaking News – Print (daily): The Oakland Tribune for reflecting a complex community with insight and accuracy through its coverage of the Oscar Grant shooting in “BART Shooting Video Fans Flames of Anger” and “Outrage and Grief.” – Broadcast: Steven Short, KALW-FM for his balanced coverage of the heated emotions following the Supreme Court ruling over the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban.
Explanatory Journalism – Print (daily): Nanette Asimov and Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, for “Eyes on the Prize: A Special Report,” which tracked the 1995-1996 graduates of a kindergarten class from San Francisco’s Bayview District in order to illustrate how
minority students deal with challenging socioeconomic circumstances. – Print (non-daily): Joe Eskenazi, SF Weekly, for “Service With a Snarl,” a piece that examines, with clarity and humor, the laws around the use of service animals in San Francisco. – Broadcast: Craig Miller and the Quest Production Staff, KQED Public Media, for “California at the Tipping Point,” which tells the story of California’s climate and water in terms of its past, present and future. – Online: MarketWatch, for “The Spiral of Deflation,” a five-part, multimedia enhanced series that uses easy-to-understand analogies and historical references to explain why people should be worried when prices go down.
Investigative Journalism – Print (daily): Sean Webby, San Jose Mercury News, for “Public Drunkenness,” a year-long series that provided solid analysis of a sobering trend in San Jose policing—the apparently excessive arrests of Latinos for public drunkenness. – Print (non-daily): Kathleen Richards, East Bay Express, for “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0,” a strong example of consumer-affairs reporting that resulted in the online review company’s pledge to change practices that had corrupted its independence. – Broadcast: Sarah Varney, KQED-FM, for “Chemicals at Home—Unknown Substitutes,” which judges praised for embracing the medium of radio along with a subject matter that impacts people in profound ways.
Feature Writing – Print (daily): Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle, for “Saving Nepal’s Indentured Girls,” a story that uses an inspiring local angle to illuminate the international human rights issue of kalmari, the practice of Nepalese bonded servitude. – Print (non-daily): Stacey Palevsky, The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, for “Spiritual Caregivers: Volunteers Provide a Ray of Light to People Nearing the End,” which illustrates the moving relationship between a Jewish spiritual caregiver and an elderly patient facing the end of her life. – Broadcast: Doug Sovern, KCBS Radio, for three thought-provoking reports, “Back to the Bayou,” “20 Seconds” and “Bye, Bye to the Republican Guy,” which demonstrate original and clever broadcast writing, and a unique approach to mixing
soundbites, music and commentary.
Sandip Roy of New America Media, for “Back to India,” a package that explored the challenges, discoveries and delights of Americans who have moved back to India.
- Andrew Lam, New America Media, for “Letter from Athens: Greek Tragedies and News Media in the Age of Twitter”, “Our Man Obama: The Post-Imperial Presidency” and “How McCain Became MacBeth,”, three opinion pieces that reflect a well-considered point of view and a unique ability to portray contemporary events in a rich context by drawing on history, literature and philosophy. Lam is the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora
Criticism – Karen D’Souza, San Jose Mercury News, for “There Goes the ’hood: ‘Trailer Park’ is a Hoot,” “Mining Chekhov’s Regret,” and “The Rejection Connection,” three theater reviews that connects artists with audiences through creative storytelling and imaginative writing.
Blogs – John Myers, KQED-FM, for Capital Notes Blog. From the state’s prison health care debacle to the budget crisis to fancy watches for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Myers keeps his readers and listeners well-informed. Judges called it a standout among many impressive entries.
Innovation/Entrepreneurship – Oakland Tribune, InsideBayArea.com, for employing the use of multiple platforms to organize on-going stories, along with truly interactive components that lets readers select which story aspects, and in what order, they wish to read/view/listen.
Judges found this series of increasingly improving interactive news packages organized around specific topics to be good examples of emerging media.
Photojournalism – Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News, for his photo essay and multimedia project, “Left Behind in India’s Rise,” which documents those that have been left behind in India’s economic boom.
Outstanding Emerging Journalist – Zoe Corneli, KALW Crosscurrents, for “Foreclosure Scams,” “Foreclosure Scams Follow-Up,” “Profile of Judge Larry Goodman” and “Alameda County Sheriff Ride- Along,” a smart, aggressive series of stories on foreclosure scams that led to an
investigation by the state Department of Real Estate.
Student Special Project – Humboldt State University’s Investigative Reporting Class, The North Coast Journal, for “Meltdown,” which used public records and dozens of interviews to chronicle the environmental hazards that led to the sudden closure of an ice plant vital to the local fishing industry.