SPJ NorCal Honors 2022 Excellence in Journalism Award Winners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

CONTACT: Ben Trefny (415) 290-2421, Ida Mojadad (714) 747-2440, Ramona Giwargis (408) 206-5327, or spjnorcal@gmail.com

SAN FRANCISCO — For the upcoming 37th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards, the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter, honors Michael Barba as Journalist of the Year for his work at The San Francisco Standard.

In the past year, Barba wrote many stories uncovering details of waste management company Recology’s corrupt relationship with San Francisco officials — journalism that was immediately followed by a department head’s resignation. His reporting on the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his appointed successor Brooke Jenkins ignited a storm of criticism and fundamentally altered the contours of the recent DA election. Barba has also led the way on coverage of the high-stakes argument over police use of video surveillance. Michael Barba’s work shows meticulous attention to detail, empathy, and care with language. And, as his editor wrote, “Across scores of stories over the [eligibility period], many of them sensitive and often on deadline, Michael did not have a single correction.”

The board honors Aileen Alfandary with the Career Achievement Award in broadcast for nearly half a century running KPFA’s newsroom. She brings national skills to the local outlet — a testament to her deep love for community media. At KPFA, Alfandary is an ethicist, a teacher and a mentor to generations of journalists. Her courageous work has even included grilling an executive from the Pacifica Network (of which KPFA is the flagship station) about the network’s decision-making. Aileen exemplifies what it means to commit to a life of journalistic public service.

The SPJ NorCal board honors Royal Calkins with the Career Achievement Award in the print category. Calkins was an editor and investigative reporter for the Fresno Bee from 1980 to 1999, where he won a national prize for an early report on head injuries among football players, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer as part of the staff reportage on the Coalinga earthquake. He has worked more recently at the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Monterey Herald, blogged at his own Monterey Bay Partisan, and does investigative work at Voices of Monterey Bay. He is a champion of overlooked people, a challenger to corrupt power and a mentor to journalists wherever he goes.

The board honors Odette Alcazaren-Keeley with the Unsung Hero award. As director of the Maynard 200 Fellowship with the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, she has built one of the most powerful incubators for journalists of color in the country. She is also president and founding partner of the strategic, multicultural media consultancy Global MediaX. Alcazaren-Keeley’s career commitment to lifting all voices is exemplified in her own words, that we can “heal our democracy together, regardless of and respecting each others’ differing beliefs.”

Subramaniam Vincent is being honored with the Distinguished Service to Journalism award. He directs the Journalism and Media Ethics program at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, focused on developing tools and frameworks to help advance new norms in journalism practice. He convenes journalists and technology platform leaders to discuss how to solve media problems that are eroding democracy. He is an influencer to the influencers whose tireless, data-based work scientifically addresses daunting but critical issues.

The Silver Heart is awarded to Madeleine Bair. In 2018 she founded El Tímpano, a text-based news service for Latino and Mayan immigrants in Oakland. She started it as a labor of love and received support through fellowships and grants to build out the project. El Tímpano has accomplished the kind of civic engagement and community-informed journalism to which much larger news organizations aspire, and its recent expansions show her work is resonating with the communities it is designed to serve.

The John Gothberg Award for Meritorious Service to SPJ NorCal goes to Ben Trefny for his work leading the organization for more than three years. Trefny currently works as Interim Executive Director at KALW Public Media serving the San Francisco Bay Area. As leader of SPJ NorCal, he has guided the chapter to conduct educational events, supported the SPJ NorCal satellite chapter at San Quentin State Prison, raised money, and helped grow and diversify the board. Trefny is dedicated to training journalists and addressing the industry’s equity issues.

The 2022 winners will be honored at SPJ NorCal’s 37th Excellence in Journalism Awards Ceremony, to be held virtually on Wednesday, Nov. 30. RSVP here.

2022 Award Winners

Board Awards

  • JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Michael Barba, The San Francisco Standard
  • UNSUNG HERO: Odette Alcazaren-Keeley, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
  • DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO JOURNALISM: Subramaniam Vincent, Santa Clara University
  • SILVER HEART: Madeleine Bair, El Tímpano

Contest Awards

ARTS & CULTURE (print/online large division): Luke Tsai of KQED for his food coverage telling stories of migration, culture and history.

ARTS & CULTURE (print/online small division): Andrew Gilbert of Mission Local for his coverage of the music scene in San Francisco’s Mission District.

ARTS & CULTURE (radio/audio): Jeneé Darden, Porfirio Rangel, David Kwan and David Boyer of KALW for “Sights and Sounds Magazine” episodes on country music culture in the Bay Area, artists motivating people to have tough conversations, and how artists face gentrification.

ARTS & CULTURE (TV/video): The KQED Arts & Culture Video Team for “If Cities Could Dance” episodes featuring a disability arts ensemble, the growing audience and appreciation for indigenous dance, and the work of transgender and gender nonconforming artists in modern dance and choreography.  

BEST SCOOP (all media): Lisa Fernandez of KTVU for her reporting on an incident in which sources said Oakland police chased a suspect and then fled the scene after a deadly crash that also injured bystanders whose lives were upended by the incident.

BREAKING NEWS (print/online): Fiona Kelliher, Karl Mondon, Paul Rogers, Marisa Kendall of the Bay Area News Group/Mercury News/East Bay Times for their coverage of the evacuation from the advancing flames of the Caldor Fire in the Sierra Foothills near Lake Tahoe, and why the area faces so much fire danger.

BREAKING NEWS (TV/video): KCRA 3 staff for their coverage of the Caldor Fire burning out of control in the Sierra Foothills near Lake Tahoe.

COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (print/online): Twilight Greenaway of Civil Eats for “Op-ed: The Flood of Climate Disasters Has the Food System Reeling. It’s Time to Act.” 

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (print/online): Noah Arroyo and Madison Alvarado of the San Francisco Public Press for their reporting on rent debt, public housing conditions, power outages on Treasure Island and tenant organizing rights in San Francisco.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Francisco Martinez, Marisa Waddell and Benjamin Purper of KCBX for  “Beyond the Furrows,” with episodes on working conditions for farmworkers, goals of pursuing citizenship or returning home, and the sense of community in the Central California coast town of Guadalupe.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (TV/video): Jason Marks and Jack Noonan of KCRA for a series of features about efforts to engage young people in Sacramento to reduce violence and provide emotional support.

DATA VISUALIZATION (all media): Will Jarrett of Mission Local for his data visualizations of corruption, campaign finance and scooter accidents.

DESIGN (print design): Jamie Stark and Max Whittaker of Sactown Magazine for their profile of youth literacy group 916 Ink.

ENVIRONMENT REPORTING (print/online): Rachel Becker, Julie Cart and Nadia Lopez of CalMatters for their environmental reporting in English and Spanish, including stories on marijuana growers stealing water, drought farming, groundwater issues, air quality and environmental justice, and reducing the carbon footprint of cement production.

ENVIRONMENT REPORTING (radio/audio): Danielle Venton, Ezra David Romero, Laura Klivans and Raquel Maria Dillon of KQED for their environment reporting, including stories on stories, racism in highway emissions policies effective forest management, San Jose’s water supply, fatigue faced by professionals fighting wildfires, and how different parts of the Bay Area grapple with drought

ENVIRONMENT REPORTING  (TV/video): Andrea Igliozzi and Maikel D’Agostino of Univision for their report on dangerous bacteria contamination along parts of the American River.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Julie Cart of CalMatters for “Trial by Fire,” an account of the fatigue and trauma California firefighters endure — including suicide, PTSD and other mental health issues — as the state’s wildfires become more severe and frequent. 

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Nico Savidge and Supriya Yelimeli of Berkeleyside for “9,000 homes by 2031? How Berkeley will try to pull it off

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Christopher Egusa of KALW for “Dismissed: COVID & Disability in California” about the limited resources of the U.S. healthcare system and how decisions made about distributing them contribute to a caregiving crisis.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (TV/video): Andrea Igliozzi, Christian Vazquez-Garcia and Natanael Lopez of Univision for “Hasta $2,000 al mes; la realidad de una diabética en Sacramento,” their report on the shocking cost of insulin.

FEATURES JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Vanessa Rancaño of KQED for “What’s a Black School Worth in Oakland? Grass Valley Elementary Community Braces for 2nd Closure in a Decade

FEATURES JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Peter-Astrid Kane of The San Francisco Standard for “The Mystery of the Missing Bassoon Named Passionfruit: $50K Instrument Was Stolen in a Smash-and-Grab

FEATURES JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Sasha Khokha, Izzy Bloom, Victoria Mauleon and Suzie Racho of KQED for “Meet Three of the Women Behind an Indigenous Land Back Effort to Reclaim an SF Peninsula Farm

FEATURES JOURNALISM (TV/video): Michael Bott, Christine Ni, Janelle Wang and Jeremy Carroll of NBC Bay Area for “Eviction Loophole Could Leave Tenants Homeless

HEALTH REPORTING (print/online): Viji Sundaram of the San Francisco Public Press for stories from “Coercive Control: Abuse That Leaves No Marks,” a series ​​about expanding the definition of domestic abuse in California and its uneven application in family court

HEALTH REPORTING (radio/audio): Angela Johnston of KALW for “Housing As Healthcare: How Housing Can Save Seniors’ Lives,” including stories on the pandemic’s shelter-in-place hotels benefiting unhoused seniors, a doctor who wants to prescribe housing and new programs to help patients transitioning from medical care who lack housing.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (print/online large division): Scott Rodd of CapRadio and Danielle Venton of KQED for “Cal Fire Fumbles Key Responsibilities to Prevent Catastrophic Wildfires Despite Historic Budget

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (print/online small division): Scott Morris, Brian Krans and John Glidden of the Vallejo Sun for “Left Alone in Their Rooms: Death and dysfunction in Vallejo’s COVID housing for the homeless,” about poor conditions in Project RoomKey — a program providing housing to homeless people during the pandemic — leading to deaths in Vallejo.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (radio/audio): Emily Zentner and Sammy Caiola of CapRadio for “After The Assault investigation into sexual violence cases in Sacramento,” including episodes on how most cases are resolved without arrest or trial and survivors of rape saying they don’t get justice.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (TV/video): Michael Bott, Candice Nguyen, Mark Villarreal and Michael Horn of NBC Bay Area for their investigation of child sex abuse by clergy in Northern California

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online large division): Lauren Smiley for Wired for “‘I’m the Operator’: The Aftermath of a Self-Driving Tragedy

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online small division): Katia Savchuk for The Atavist Magazine for “A Crime Beyond Belief

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (radio/audio): Spencer Whitney, Katrina Schwartz and Olivia Allen-Price of KQED for “Remembering Russell City: A Thriving East Bay Town Razed by Racist Government

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (TV/video): Kelly Whalen, Benjamin McBride, Elie M. Khadra and Karega Bailey of KQED for “When the Waters Get Deep

ONGOING COVERAGE (print/online large division): Ally Markovich of Berkeleyside for her reporting on how the Berkeley school district mishandles sexual misconduct cases.

ONGOING COVERAGE (print/online small division): Scott Morris, Brian Krans and John Glidden of the Vallejo Sun for their reporting on how badge bending became a ritual among Vallejo police.

ONGOING COVERAGE (radio/audio): Tyche Hendricks of KQED for her reporting on how asylum seekers in California struggle to navigate a dysfunctional immigration court system.

ONGOING COVERAGE (TV/video): KCRA 3 staff for their reporting on unemployment fraud in California, including stories on identity theft and frozen disability accounts.

OUTSTANDING EMERGING JOURNALIST (all media): Ally Markovich of Berkeleyside for her reporting on sexual misconduct allegations at Berkeley High School, the overrepresentation of Black and Latino students in special education classes in the Berkeley Unified School District, and a feature on the retirement of a beloved Berkeley swimming instructor.  

PHOTOJOURNALISM (breaking news – individual): Karl Mondon of the Bay Area News Group/Mercury News/East Bay Times for his breaking news photos of the Caldor Fire near South Lake Tahoe

PHOTOJOURNALISM (breaking news — team): Karl Mondon, Jose Carlos Fajardo and Dai Sugano of the Bay Area News Group/Mercury News/East Bay Times for their breaking news coverage of the Colorado Fire, the Caldor Fire and the aftermath of a mass shooting that left six people dead in Sacramento.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (photo essay): Dai Sugano of the Bay Area News Group/Mercury News/East Bay Times for his photo essay on how the COVID-19 pandemic forced families to make elder care decisions.

PHOTOJOURNALISM (portfolio): Jose Carlos Fajardo the Bay Area News Group/Mercury News/East Bay Times for his portfolio of work on a variety of subjects.

PODCAST JOURNALISM (features reporting): Hana Baba, Imran Ali Malik, Jeb Sharp, Judy Silber and Tarek Fouda of KALW for “Becoming Muslim,” a series of portaits of Bay Area residents who converted to Islam

PODCAST JOURNALISM (news reporting): Erin Baldassari and Molly Solomon of KQED for “Sold Out: Rethinking Housing In America,” including episodes on the high concentration of evictions in Antioch, why Black women are more likely to face eviction, and when and where landlords decide to evict.

PUBLIC SERVICE (all media): Sonia Narang, Scott Carroll, Angela Johnston, James Rowlands and Gabe Grabin of KALW for “What Works: Grassroots Solutions Around the Bay,” identified high-potential programs and reforms that address the health and equity needs of four of the most vulnerable communities in the Bay Area. 

SCIENCE REPORTING (print/online): Lydia Lee for Alta Journal for “The West Coast’s Native Oyster

SCIENCE REPORTING (radio/audio): April Dembosky, Lesley McClurg, Ezra David Romero and Danielle Venton of KQED for their coverage of sea level rise in the Bay Area and possible effects, how the Tahoe area protected itself from the Caldor Fire, how schizophrenia puts people at risk of dying from COVID-19, and the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression treatment.

SCIENCE REPORTING (TV/video): The Deep Look team from KQED for using extreme magnification to report on the world around us, including the sex lives of barnacles, fruit flies laying eggs in berries we eat, the behavior of waterbugs, mushrooms imitating decaying meat, and the bloodssucking mechanics of kissing bugs

STUDENT SPECIAL PROJECT (all media): David Rowe, Shiloh Johnston, Leticia Luna, Derek Sylvester, Luke Wrin Piper and Pamela Rudd of The Peralta Citizen at Laney College for their reporting on campus security in the Peralta Community College District following an altercation between a district-hired security guard and a man living in his vehicle near the college.

TECHNOLOGY REPORTING (print/online): Eugene Kim of Business Insider for his reporting on the inner workings of Amazon, including stories about the company’s business applications, plans for its physical stores and drone delivery, how it is grappling with record inflation, and the leadership of CEO Andy Jassy.

TECHNOLOGY REPORTING (radio/audio): Rachel Myrow of KQED for “Incorrectly Deleted From Facebook? Getting Back On Might Take Connections

TECHNOLOGY REPORTING (TV/video): The KCRA 3 staff for “Forecasting Our Future: Two ways high-flying technology helps track and predict California’s water supply

VIDEO JOURNALISM (breaking news): Dylan Bouscher of the Bay Area News Group/Mercury News/East Bay Times for “San Jose Police release new body camera video in March 27 police shooting of K’aun Green

VIDEO JOURNALISM (feature): The staff of San José Spotlight for “Backbone of Silicon Valley,” a video storytelling project documenting the plight of six essential workers.