CONTACT: Rebecca Bowe (510) 457-8799 or Liz Enochs (415) 323-0220
UPDATE: This press release has been updated with additional names in some award categories. The top section was modified for clarity.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, honors Shane Bauer of Mother Jones as Journalist of the Year for the 31st Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.

Beginning in December 2014, Bauer spent four months working undercover as a corrections officer at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana, a private prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. His investigation succeeded in providing a rare glimpse into private prisons, which aren’t subject to the same disclosure laws as publicly run facilities.

Bauer reported on his experience as a private prison guard in a five-part series that documented multiple stabbings, inmates’ lack of access to sufficient medical care, poor supervision that violated inmates’ basic rights, and the psychology of working in a dangerous environment as a prison guard earning $9 per hour. In the months after Mother Jones published his account, the Department of Justice announced it would stop contracting with private prisons, in turn causing shares in the nation’s two largest private prison companies to lose nearly half their value. The Department of Homeland Security also announced it would reevaluate its use of private prisons.

The SPJ NorCal board honors Pete Carey with the Career Achievement Award. Carey retired from the Mercury News in May after working there for nearly 49 years. An investigative and business reporter, Carey covered Silicon Valley since its early days as a tech hub. His international reporting on Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986, and his investigation of the collapse of a major freeway structure during the San Francisco Bay Area Loma Prieta earthquake helped the newspaper garner another Pulitzer in 1990. Carey’s more recent work involved investigations into mortgage fraud behind the recent housing bubble.

The Silver Heart Award goes to Youth Radio for its coverage of homeless youth. According to a 2015 count, unaccompanied youth make up about 20 percent of San Francisco’s homeless population, and Youth Radio’s innovative multimedia treatment of this issue artfully conveyed the personal narratives of homeless teenagers.

Ceil Muller, technical producer at KQED, receives the Unsung Hero Award. Muller is regarded within the KQED newsroom as a skilled producer who can be relied upon to infuse audio reporting with a creative flair and a clean edge. She considers herself to be a public radio “lifer” and has worked for National Public Radio, the National Council for the Traditional Arts and others in addition to KQED.

Jim Bettinger receives the SPJ NorCal Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service to Journalism Award for his years as director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University from 2000 to 2016. Bettinger joined the JSK Fellowships program as deputy director in 1989. He radically transformed the program a few years ago to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation in journalism in response to rapid and dramatic changes in the field.

The Public Service Award goes to the SF Homeless Project, a collaboration of more than 70 news organizations working together to bring attention to the persistent challenges of homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area. Participating media organizations collaborated to publish and broadcast during one week in June more than 300 stories about various aspects of homelessness and efforts to address them. The SF Homeless Project is a sign of a new era in journalism in which news outlets join their forces to fight for a better society.

A special board award goes to Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston of the East Bay Express for breaking the news that East Bay law enforcement officers had sexually exploited and trafficked a teenager while high-ranking officials looked the other way. The scandal was revealed as being linked to an Oakland police chief’s resignation, and the reporting led to suspensions and terminations for the officers involved. The board opted to give this special award to honor a pair of journalists whose fearless coverage delivered far-reaching impact.

Lila LaHood is honored with the board’s John Gothberg/Meritorious Service to SPJ Award. She joined the SPJ NorCal chapter board in 2010. She recently completed two years as chapter president and continues to serve on the board. LaHood is the publisher of the San Francisco Public Press.

The 2016 winners will be honored at SPJ NorCal’s 31st Excellence in Journalism Awards Dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the City Club in San Francisco.

For details and to purchase tickets, please see http://bit.ly/EIJ2016AwardsDinner




JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Pete Carey, Mercury News

SPECIAL AWARD: Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston, East Bay Express



DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO JOURNALISM: Jim Bettinger, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships




ARTS & CULTURE (print/online small division): John Burks, of Central City Extra, for his historical accounting of the “gods of modern jazz” at the Blackhawk club in the ‘50s and ‘60s, providing a glimpse into San Francisco’s coming of age as a jazz mecca.

ARTS & CULTURE (print/online large division): Nick Veronin, of Metro Silicon Valley, for his “Radius Clause” feature, which reveals the impact of a little-known music industry practice that is putting a damper on Silicon Valley nightlife.

ARTS & CULTURE (radio/audio): Steven Cuevas and Victoria Mauleon, of KQED News, for “Los Punks,” which moves along with fantastic energy to capture a fresh underground music scene in Los Angeles.

BEST SCOOP (all media): Ryan Mac and Matt Drange, of Forbes, for breaking the story that pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker was being funded by Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, which came as news to even Gawker’s founder Nick Denton.

BREAKING NEWS (print/online): Alex Emslie, Dan Brekke, Adam Grossberg and David Weir, of KQED News, for their up-to-the-minute coverage of a local story of national significance: the killing of Mario Woods by San Francisco police officers.

BREAKING NEWS (radio/audio): April Dembosky, Sukey Lewis and Alex Emslie of KQED News for going in-depth beyond quick headlines and soundbites to cover the devastating Lake County Fire and keenly exploring the tough recovery ahead.

COMMENTARY (all media): Joel P. Engardio, for his “In My View” columns in the San Francisco Examiner, which represent well-crafted, compelling storytelling and positive prescriptions for public action.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (print/online): Stephen Magagnini, Renée C. Byer and Jessica Koscielniak, of the Sacramento Bee, for “No Safe Place,” which examines the harsh welcome received in Sacramento by Afghan refugees who were admitted with Special Immigrant Visas because they risked their lives helping U.S. troops.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Sabah Williams (Oakland Voices), Aqueila Lewis (Oakland Voices), Angela Scott (Oakland Voices) and Bill Joyce (Oakland Voices), for “Sights & Sounds of East http://buyrisperdalonlinenow.com Oakland,” a collaboration between KALW and Oakland Voices, which trains community members to tell their own stories. Additional collaborators: Hannah Kingsley-Ma (KALW), Liza Veale (KALW), Jeremy Dalmas (KALW) and Holly McDede (KALW).

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (TV/video): The staff of KDTV Univision 14 for “Desalojados,” a comprehensive look at how Latinos in many parts of the Bay Area are being impacted by evictions and the housing crisis.

DATA VISUALIZATION: Phillip Reese, of the Sacramento Bee, for creating strong projects that took publicly available datasets and turned them into interesting interactive data visualizations that help readers see larger patterns and drill into specific details.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Peter Hecht, of the Sacramento Bee, for “The Silas Project,” which traces one family’s fraught journey to save their epileptic son’s life, humanizing the debate around medical marijuana.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Frances Dinkelspiel and Emilie Raguso, of Berkeleyside, for their comprehensive coverage of homelessness in Berkeley using data and effective storytelling to identify problems, seek answers and analyze proposed solutions.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Laura Flynn, Thalia Beaty, Maggy Donaldson, Beenish Ahmed and Lisa Rudman, of Making Contact, for “Invisible Workers: Laboring in the Shadows,” commended for their excellent use of sound and descriptive writing.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (TV/video): Jennifer LaFleur, Amanda Pike, David Ritsher and Kyra Darnton for “Atomic Vets” — a collaboration between The Retro Report and  Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting — about thousands of soldiers exposed to radioactivity during atomic testing and the devastating consequences.

FEATURES & LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online large division): Cynthia Hubert, of the Sacramento Bee, for “Genny’s World – Homeless in Sacramento: A Death on the Streets,” an exhaustively reported story about Genny Lucchesi and the challenges her family and community faced in trying to help her secure a safe, secure home.

FEATURES & LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online small division): Sarah Stodder, of San Francisco Magazine, for “$1.2 Million. 13 Offers. 400K Over Asking. For This.” A beautifully crafted story showing how a rundown beach cottage reflects the history of the Outer Sunset and San Francisco’s fast-changing real estate market.

FEATURES & LONGFORM STORYTELLING (radio/audio): Hannah Kingsley-Ma, Elizabeth Veale and Jen Chien, of KALW, for “Seeking Asylum: Young Migrants Hope to Make Oakland Their Home,” which featured refreshingly compelling storytelling and artful use of details.

FEATURES & LONGFORM STORYTELLING (TV/video): Maria Leticia Gomez, Joe Perry and Luis Felipe Godinez, of KDTV Univision 14, for “Translatina,” a praise-worthy exploration of an underrepresented group within the Latino community.

INVESTIGATIVE (print/online large division): Jessica Calefati, of the Bay Area News Group, for “Is an Online School Cashing in on Failure?” revealing how a company operating online schools fails its students while enjoying handsome financial rewards. She debunks the firm’s claims, deploys compelling examples and displays total mastery of her topic.

INVESTIGATIVE (print/online small division): John Flynn, of Metro Silicon Valley, for “Lost in Translation,” a fine-grained investigation into a shortage of interpreters in the Santa Clara County justice system, undermining the rights of non-English speakers who face interminable delays in obtaining interpretation services.

INVESTIGATIVE (radio/audio): Will Evans and Michael Montgomery, of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, for “Decoding Discrimination,” which exposes a hidden bastion of shocking — and intentional — employment discrimination at temp agencies around the country.

INVESTIGATIVE (TV/video): Ben Deci, of KTLX Fox 40 News, for “Marijuana’s New Black Market,” which shows how black market sales of marijuana permits as well as economic and social changes are affecting communities throughout California as the marijuana industry expands.

JOURNALISM INNOVATION: Bobbie Johnson, of Medium, for “Ghost Boat,” which takes crowdsourcing in a new direction with deep engagement. More than 75,000 people searched satellite images. Participants also helped with geolocated messages, shipping records, refugee camp data, satellite photography and social media information.

OUTSTANDING EMERGING JOURNALIST: Alex Emslie, of KQED News, demonstrates a mastery of the police beat and goes beyond the usual coverage to investigate with tenacity and produce significant articles about homicides and officer-involved shootings. His cross-functional approach to storytelling is impressive, including radio stories and television appearances.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (photo essay): Renée C. Byer, of the Sacramento Bee, for the beautiful composition and cohesive narrative of her photo essay for “No Safe Place,” a moving story about Afghans who were granted citizenship and the promise of a better life in the Sacramento area in return for helping U.S. troops.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (portfolio): Jane Tyska, of the Bay Area News Group, for a portfolio that successfully showcases a variety of images to demonstrate technical and aesthetic abilities.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (single image): Paul Kitagaki, Jr., of the Sacramento Bee, for “Bloody Clash,” a newsworthy image that is compositionally interesting, and demonstrates good layering and balance while accurately capturing all the subjects in a highly-charged, quickly changing story.

PUBLIC SERVICE: SF Homeless Project (See description above.)

SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENT and HEALTH REPORTING (print/online): Jane Braxton Little, for “Burn Notice,” in Audubon Magazine. Deeply reported from the ashes of California’s wildfires, the piece sheds new light on an environmental issue of critical importance in the American West.

SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENT and HEALTH REPORTING (radio/audio): April Dembosky and Ingrid Becker, of KQED News, for “State of Mind,” a seven-part series examining the chronic shortage of affordable mental health care in California. This gripping series revealed the roots of a systemic failure of the medical establishment.

SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENT and HEALTH REPORTING (TV/video): Gabriela Quiros, Mia Zuckerkandel, Lincoln Else and Linda Peckham, of KQED News, for “Giant Sequoias Struggle With Drought,” which shows, with brilliantly illustrated in-depth storytelling and animation, the effects of global warming and drought on California’s iconic giant sequoias.

STUDENT SPECIAL PROJECT (all media): Melina Tupa, of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, for “The Search,” a compelling story about a grandmother’s search — dating back to 1978 — for her grandson, the child of her daughter, who was slain during the Argentine government’s campaign of terror against student activists opposing military rule.

TECHNOLOGY REPORTING (print/online): Lauren Smiley, of Backchannel, for “Silicon Valley’s Economic Impact From Soma to Bangalore,” a collection of articles that are the work of a sophisticated technologist and master storyteller. Smiley tackles some of the biggest stories in tech today — through the lens of the individuals whose lives were upended.

VIDEO JOURNALISM (feature): Michael Schiller, GW Schulz, Rachel de Leon and Amanda Pike, of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, for “The Dead Unknown,” which employs a sophisticated database for cross-reference research of missing individuals and unidentified bodies. This team delves into the data to find stories and show how technological gaps, bureaucratic inefficiencies and plain human indifference fail families trying to find lost loved ones.

VIDEO JOURNALISM (portfolio): Mike Anderson, of Al Jazeera America, for work that shows great professional instinct in the rush of daily reporting as he captures the essence of each story location from Havana to Winnipeg.

— 30 —