CONTACT: Laura Hautala (510) 529-1977 or Lila LaHood (415) 846-5346

SAN FRANCISCO — The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, honors Matthias Gafni of the Mercury News/East Bay Times as Journalist of the Year for the 33rd Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.

The chapter honors Gafni for his tireless pursuit of public records and relentless reporting to get to the bottom of systemic problems. His work revealed the contribution of downed utility lines to Wine Country fires last year, exposed how governmental failures led to a toddler’s death from methamphetamine poisoning while she was in foster care, and showed how an Air Canada jet barely missed crashing into multiple airplanes at SFO on a landing approach.

The SPJ NorCal board honors Carolyn Tyler, who recently retired from ABC7, with the Career Achievement Award for Broadcast. Tyler spent 32 years chronicling many of the Bay Area’s major stories as a reporter and weekend anchor. She was part of the team that won a Peabody Award for coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake, and she snagged interviews with personalities from Willie Mays to Oprah Winfrey. She also relentlessly covered the region’s political stories, from homelessness to the fight for marriage equality.

The board also honors Gary Richards of the Mercury News/East Bay Times with the Career Achievement Award for Print. His low-key but determined approach to addressing readers’ problems with the region’s transportation network has consistently made his eight-times-a-week “Roadshow” column the Mercury News’s most popular feature. And when physical problems left him unable to drive, he conscripted traffic engineers, CHP officers, and even his life partner, now known as “Mrs. Roadshow” into the column to be his eyes and ears. Also: when he contacted the powers-that-be, things that were broken got fixed.

Kym Kemp receives the Unsung Hero Award. She is a Southern Humboldt blogger who covers hyperlocal community news and crime, which sometimes evolve into much bigger stories. Kemp’s initial reporting about multiple drivers who said Rohnert Park police pulled them over on minor pretexts and then seized their marijuana and cash under asset forfeiture led to a collaboration with KQED. Further investigation showed that the seized items were not properly logged by police. The city began an administrative investigation and subsequently put two of the officers involved in the incidents on leave.

KZST receives the SPJ NorCal Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service to Journalism Award. Staff at the Santa Rosa radio station pitched in and used their own cars to move nearby patients to safe locations when they heard their station was likely to be consumed by last year’s Wine Country fires. Once they got the all-clear, staffers — only one of whom had a journalism background — returned to work and rolled up their sleeves, changing the station format from music to news to serve their community’s immediate need for information about the fires.

The Silver Heart Award goes to Alexis Terrazas of El Tecolote. His in-depth research and fearless interviews with white nationalist proponents uncovered a nationalist who subsequently was terminated from employment and exposed a Ku Klux Klansman who was hiding his Catholic and Jewish heritage. His reporting has been used by KQED for its investigation into white nationalist groups implicated in the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, and aired by Univision in Spanish for a report that won a Northern California Emmy.

Dr. Derek Kerr is honored with the board’s John Gothberg/Meritorious Service to SPJ Award. Kerr is a member of the chapter’s Freedom of Information committee and a whistleblower who won a legal fight against San Francisco’s Laguna Honda hospital for firing him after he exposed their misuse of funds that were intended for patients. He has worked tirelessly in favor of sunshine laws and policies ever since, and has been a crucial supporter of SPJ NorCal’s work in this area.

The 2018 winners will be honored at SPJ NorCal’s 33rd Excellence in Journalism Awards Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Delancey Street Restaurant in San Francisco. For details and to purchase tickets, please see https://spjnorcal2018eij.eventbrite.com

2018 Award Winners

Board Awards

JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Matthias Gafni, Mercury News/East Bay Times


CAREER ACHIEVEMENT — PRINT: Gary Richards, Mercury News/East Bay Times

UNSUNG HERO: Kym Kemp, Redheaded Blackbelt

SILVER HEART: Alexis Terrazas, El Tecolote



Contest Awards

ARTS & CULTURE (print/online large division): Nastia Voynovskaya of KQED for “Saving the Music of Ghost Ship Victims Helps Loved Ones Heal.”

ARTS & CULTURE (print/online small division): Rebecca Huvel, Rachel Leibrock, Steph Rodriguez of Sacramento News & Review for their food reporting in “Baked-in love,” “The cost of a meal,” and “The paprika steeper.”

ARTS & CULTURE (radio/audio): Ian Coss, Nancy Mullane and Tony Gannon of Life of the Law for “Gift and Curse of Music — Haiti’s Fight for Copyright.”

ARTS & CULTURE (TV/video): Kelly Whalen of KQED for arts and culture filmmaking, including “Meet the Ace of Cups, the Haight’s (Almost) Forgotten All-Girl Band,” “Watch a Santa Rosa Cartoonist’s ‘Fire Story’ Come to Life,” and “Street Artist Reflects Native American Dignity at a Monumental Scale.”

BEST SCOOP (all media): Jennifer Wadsworth of Metro Silicon Valley for her coverage of claims about Santa Clara councilman Dominic Caserta’s history of sexual harassment, loss of endorsements, police investigation and resignation.

BREAKING NEWS (print/online): Joe Eskenazi, Laura Wenus, Julian Mark of Mission Local for their coverage of Mayor Ed Lee’s untimely death, the feelings of the Chinese community in the Mission and other Mission leaders, and appointment of Mark Farrell as interim mayor.

BREAKING NEWS (TV/video): KNTV NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48 for their coverage of the North Bay firestorm and its immediate aftermath.

COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (print/online): Mark Fiore of KQED for his “Drawn to the Bay” graphic commentary, including “Filomena’s Flight: A Story of Family Separation” and “The Needle Sweepers.”

COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (radio/audio): Kanwalroop Kaur Singh, Lisa Morehouse, James Rowlands and Gabe Grabin of KALW for “‘I ain’t here for no reason’: Stories of Sikh-American resilience.”

COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (TV/video): AJ+ staff for the Newsbroke series, a comedic deep-dive into issues lurking behind the daily headlines.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (print/online – general): Joe Eskenazi, Lydia Chavez and Julian Mark of Mission Local for their range, texture and depth of coverage of San Francisco’s Mission District.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (print/online – single subject): The San Francisco Public Press for “Solving Homelessness,” a project exploring several ways for getting more people into housing, including an analysis of city data on empty rooms in residential hotels.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): KALW and Oakland Voices for “Sights & Sounds of East Oakland” which highlights neighborhood stories featuring local history, youth voices, transit issues, neighborhood safety and more.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (TV/video): The Northern California staff of Univision 14, for a special episode of “Tu Gente, Tu Voz” featuring an array of community stories.

DATA VISUALIZATION (all media): Allison McCartney, Emmanuel Martinez, Michael Corey and Aaron Glantz from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting for “Kept Out,” an interactive visualization showing racial discrimination in mortgage lending across the United States.

DESIGN (print): Reid M. Brown, HyunJu Chappell and Noah Arroyo of the San Francisco Public Press for the print layout, graphics and design for “Solving Homelessness.”

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Julia Lurie of Mother Jones for her reporting on the opioid epidemic, including portraits of the human cost of addiction, with stories of treatment and relapse, as well as the battles of law enforcement and medical personnel to cope and help.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online large division – multimedia): Jennifer Gollan of Reveal for The Center for Investigative Reporting for “Treading Dangerously,” about lax safety inside a Goodyear tire plant that resulted in the death of a worker.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Matt Levin, Ben Christopher and  John Osborn D’Agostino of CALmatters for “Californians: Here’s why your housing costs are so high,” which included a take on what a $500,000 home looks like in different parts of the state, the influence of foreign investors and housing costs for refugees.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Eli Wirtschafter, Andrew Stelzer, James Rowlands and Gabe Grabin of KALW for “Curb Wars,” a series of stories about parking, public parklets and the high demand and competition for curb access in San Francisco.

FEATURES JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Ellen Huet of Bloomberg Businessweek for “The Dark Side of OneTaste.”

FEATURES JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Raheem F. Hosseini of Sacramento News & Review for “His brother‘s keeper.”

FEATURES (radio/audio): Anouthinh Pangthong, Greg Eskridge, Kelton O’Connor, Luke Colondres and Miguel Sifuentes of San Quentin Radio and KALW for a series of audio features on losing your language, rebuilding family relationships, autism, team building and the cycle of incarceration in one family.

FEATURES AND LONGFORM STORYTELLING (TV/video): Dena Takruri, Shadi Rahimi, Dariel Medina, Youssif Hussein, Matt Volla, Joe Correa, Melissa Aparicio of AJ+ for “Why Oakland Wants Ex-Convicts To Grow Weed.”

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (print/online large division): Thomas Peele and Harriet Blair Rowan of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for “Burned Out,” their shocking report on the failure of fire inspectors across the Bay Area to perform state-required inspections of schools and apartment buildings.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (print/online small division): Jennifer Wadsworth of Metro Silicon Valley for reporting on the Santa Clara County sheriffs’ hate speech texting scandal, including a demotion, an ouster, a statement from other officers who said they would leave, campaign compromises, a lost endorsement and ultimately a resignation.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (radio/audio): Sukey Lewis, Marisa Lagos and Lisa Pickoff-White of KQED for “‘My World Was Burning’: The North Bay Fires and What Went Wrong.”

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (TV/video): Vicky Nguyen, Kevin Nious, Jeremy Carroll and Mark Villarreal of KNTV NBC Bay Area for “Drivers Under Siege.”

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online large division): Julia Prodis Sulek and LiPo Ching of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for “Hanging: The Mysterious Case of the Boy in the Barn.”

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online small division): Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside for “One day, one night: The fuse that lit the Battles of Berkeley.”

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (radio/audio): Angela Johnston, Marissa Ortega-Welch and Lisa Morehouse of KALW for “Persistent Poison: Lead’s toxic legacy in the Bay Area,” including segments on its connection to the housing crisis, problems with data about lead poisoning, a possible solution and resources.

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (TV/video): Maggie Beidelman, Dolly Li, Jun Stinson and Michael Nguyen of AJ+ for “Chinese Food: An All-American Cuisine.”

ONGOING COVERAGE (print/online large division): Marisa Kendall of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for ongoing coverage of the housing crisis, including stories on the shortage of construction workers, homebuyers sending ‘love letters’ to sellers, vulnerable renters and a trend of startups hiring outside the Bay Area.

ONGOING COVERAGE (print/online small division): Joe Eskenazi, Julian Mark, Mallory Newman and Charlotte Silver of Mission Local for their coverage of the police department in San Francisco, including stories on reform efforts, communication with residents, analysis of an officer involved shooting and the police union.

ONGOING COVERAGE (radio/audio): Julie Small of KQED for her coverage of the San Joaquin County coroner, including stories on an autopsy doctor who quit following allegations that sheriffs interfered with findings, which could have compromised murder cases and the death investigation of a man killed by police.

ONGOING COVERAGE (TV/video): Dena Takruri, Shadi Rahimi, Youssif Hussein, Alessandra Ram, Melissa Aparicio and Kevin Gong of AJ+ for “Is The U.S. Military Prepping For War With North Korea?

OUTSTANDING EMERGING JOURNALIST (print/online): Pendarvis Harshaw of KQED for his weekly columns exploring issues of interest to the community, including “‘We‘re Still Here’: ‘BBQ’n While Black’ Draws Oaklanders Out in Force,”  “Remembering a Warriors Superhero, On and Off the Court” and “What Could You Catch Fishing in Lake Merritt?

OUTSTANDING EMERGING JOURNALIST (radio/audio): Farida Jhabvala Romero of KQED for her coverage of  important stories of the day, including “‘Fintech’ Loans: A Sometimes Costly Lifeline for Small Business,” “With DACA in Limbo, Financial Analyst Focuses on What She Can Control” and “Creating a Safe Passage for Kids in San Francisco’s Gritty Tenderloin.”

OUTSTANDING EMERGING JOURNALIST (TV/video): Emily Harger of  Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting for her short documentary films featuring underserved communities and underrepresented voices, including “Refuge in the Mountain State,” “Before Prison” and “Fought for, Forgotten.”

PHOTOJOURNALISM (breaking news – individual): Karl Mondon of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for the “Lonely Wheelchair” photo captured in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa after it was decimated by fire.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (photo essay): Max Whittaker of Sactown Magazine for “Six Days in Sacramento,” a photo essay portraying the tension and emotion during the week after the shooting death of Stephon Clark.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (portfolio): Jose Carlos Fajardo of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for a portfolio of images including an array of compelling sports photojournalism, and capturing serious and delightful community moments.

PODCAST: Hana Baba, Leila Day, Julie Caine and Jen Chien of KALW for “The Stoop,” a podcast about issues relating to Black identity, including episodes on cultural appropriation, the history of colorism, hair and lack of representation, and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality.

PUBLIC SERVICE (all media): Angela Johnston, Marissa Ortega-Welch and Lisa Morehouse of KALW for “Persistent Poison: Lead’s toxic legacy in the Bay Area,” including segments on its connection to the housing crisis, problems with data about lead poisoning, a possible solution and resources.

SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH REPORTING (print/online): Lisa M. Krieger of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for her reporting on a variety of subjects, including the prospect of treating genetic disease with CRISPR, the cause of rockfalls at Yosemite, plant smuggling along the California coast, the cost of Alzheimer’s disease to families and the search for extraterrestrial life.

SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH REPORTING (radio/audio): The KQED Science Team for explaining the science of the day’s news stories, including gene therapy, preparing for flooding in California cities, how sexual harassment is damaging to victims’ health, how winds exacerbated the North Bay fires and a live blog of last summer’s transcontinental solar eclipse.

SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH REPORTING (TV/video): Deep Look, KQED’s web science series, including episodes on how ponderosa pines fight off pine beetles, how ticks dig in when they bite, bleeding with leeches, how Daddy Longlegs escape predators and ‘love’ between Praying Mantises.

SPORTS REPORTING (radio/audio): Staff of Al Jazeera and Jetty for the “Game of Our Lives” podcast.

SPORTS REPORTING (TV/video): Jeremy Flint of KXTV-TV ABC 10 for his use of interesting videography and editing techniques in a series of non-narrated stories, including “Cyclocross comes to West Sacramento. What is Cyclocross?” and “Sacramento Kings Dancers teach dance at a local gym in Natomas.”

STUDENT SPECIAL PROJECT (all media): Reis Thebault and Alexandria Fuller of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for “‘Justice For Who?’ Unequal treatment is the norm in Fresno.”

TECHNOLOGY REPORTING (print/online): Mark Gurman of Bloomberg News for “Unpeeling Apple,” his ongoing coverage of the company with scoops and insights into products that set industry trends, including articles about iPhone innovation, secret development of new gadget display screens, touchless control screens, home robots and the company’s efforts to stop employees from leaking information to media.

TECHNOLOGY REPORTING (TV/video): Luz Peña, Joe Perry and Luis Godinez of Univision 14 for “Codigo Imborrable” about inmates at San Quentin Prison who are learning how to code.

VIDEO JOURNALISM (feature): Marta Franco of CNET en Español for “Un autómata que repara corazones rotos: El arte de Carlos Zapata.”

VIDEO JOURNALISM (portfolio): Olivia Merton of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting for her portfolio of work exploring what it means to be human, including pieces about experiencing grief in the public spotlight, high rates of incarceration for women in Oklahoma, low-wage work as a substitute for prison time, the long-term environmental effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill and a profile of the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.