Chronicle, Mercury News win multiple journalism honors

SPJ gives top awards to investigative work that frees innocent men of murder convictions and reforms juvenile systems. Grade the News wins for on-line opinion.


Source: Northern California chapter, Society of Professional Journalists
Posted Sept. 13, 2004

Reporters at the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Jose Mercury News won the top awards in the Society of Professional Journalists-Northern California chapter's 2003-2004 Excellence in Journalism awards.

The San Francisco Chronicle received six awards, more than any other news organization.

The Mercury News' Karen de Sa was named journalist of the year for a series of articles focusing on juvenile facilities in Santa Clara County -- a series that spurred reform in the system. The Bay Guardian's Adam Clay Thompson won the public service award. His reporting revealed that two men were wrongly convicted of murder.

Special honors were given this year to Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur for their seven-year, multimedia project on aging in America.

Winners will receive their awards at a dinner Nov. 9 in the Hotel Nikko, San Francisco.

The complete list of winners:

Journalist of the Year: Karen de Sa, The Mercury News in San Jose, for her stories on the Santa Clara County juvenile hall and children's shelter and the California Youth Authority. Her reports on a string of abuses and neglect prompted new policies to be put in place.

Public Service - Adam Clay Thompson, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, for reporting that showed two men innocent men had been convicted of murder. Thompson's coverage -- "the finest type of watchdog journalism" -- convinced two lawyers to take on the case and win the prisoners' release.

Career Achievement - Rasa Gustaitis, Coast & Ocean Magazine, published by the California Coastal Conservancy. She is an "author, editor, superb and versatile writer, journalistic pioneer, mentor and source" on environmental matters.

Meritorious SPJ Service, the John Gothberg Award -- Sally Lehrman, free-lance writer and chair of the national SPJ diversity committee and creator of the annual multicultural magazine seminar in the Bay Area.

Distinguished Service to journalism -- Erna Smith, San Francisco State University professor of journalism, for her innovative teaching, her work in diversifying and mentoring journalism faculty and her contributions to professional journalism organizations.

Unsung Hero -- Marcus Chan, San Francisco Chronicle assistant business editor, who was praised as unflappable on deadline and able to improve copy, see stories where others don't and pull together exceptional projects.

Special honors -- Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur, a husband and wife team who spent seven years developing their project, "Aging in America: The Years Ahead," that resulted in a documentary shown around the country on PBS stations; a book; a traveling photo exhibit, and magazine and newspaper articles.

Breaking News

Daily print over 100,000
Mark Gladstone, Laura Kurtzman, Ann E. Marimow, Howard Mintz, Dion Nissenbaum, Jim Puzzanghera, Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News, Schwarzenegger announced candidacy. After he announced his candidacy on the Jay Leno show, "what readers got the next morning was a thorough, well-executed deadline package combining the most salient facts with incisive reporting and solid analysis."

Stephen Shankland, Scott Ard and Jeff Pelline,, "Hidden text shows SCO prepped lawsuit against BofA" - "The story asks about intellectual property - what is common property, who has the right to set up toll booths along the way. No gaps in storytelling."

Depth Reporting

Daily print over 100,000
David Lazarus, Carrie Kirby and Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, series on outsourcing that "shed new light on the personal privacy issues that affect all of us" and of the socioeconomic consequences that this practice poses.

Daily print under 100,000
Rob Denis & Tom Anderson, Fremont Argus, "The color threshold" -- Discrimination in lending series "did a good job crunching government statistics and presenting them in an understandable way" and presented alternatives.

Non-daily print
Chris Thompson, East Bay Express, "AXT's Poison Pill." It was "a compelling story of business, politics, public health, worker safety and the lives of immigrants seeking their own American dream"

Doug Sovern, KCBS Radio, "San Francisco Homeless" series. "A compelling example of emotional story-telling ... gave voice to homeless people and a small group of people helping them in innovative ways."

John Borland, Evan Hansen and Mike Yamamoto, -- "Corporate classrooms: Is tech industry a savior or danger to education?" a "timely expose of the hidden costs of corporate donations to schools."


Swetha Iyengar, Indian Life & Style, columns -- "Courage to challenge the strongly held cultural beliefs of her ethnicity in a series of thought-provoking columns."

John McManus, Grade the News, for criticism of journalism practices. The "opinion pieces stand out because of their grounding in hard facts based on original and painstaking research on Bay Area news media."


Brant Ward, San Francisco Chronicle, photos of city's homeless. "We felt like we had eye contact with a segment of society that often we wouldn't get to see."

Graphic Journalism

Daily print over 100,000
Joe Shoulak, San Francisco Chronicle, graphic on the new west span of the Bay Bridge, "an amazing amount of information perceptively presented and clear."

Daily print under 100,000
Dennis Bolt, Marin Independent Journal, on local architecture and historic preservation. "Beautiful and unique design on a diversity of architectural treasures in the Bay Area."

Non-daily print
Mike Mechanic & Jesse Reklaw, East Bay Express, "2003 Illustrated." "The story's theme matched the illustrative style. Good renderings of story principals."

Feature Writing

Daily print over 100,000
Joan Ryan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Lost Girls." "Dramatic arch to storytelling, eye-opening, compelling narrative."

Non-daily print
Susan Goldsmith, East Bay Express, "Frank's War." "She took an off beat, esoteric, academic battle (and made it) compelling and understandable."

Laurie Udesky, Consumer Health Interactive, "Out of the Shadows: Battling the Stigma of Depression" - "These stories revealed symptoms that men, in particular, might not realize are indicators of mental illness."

Outstanding Emerging Journalist

Daily print over 100,000
Simone Sebastian, San Francisco Chronicle - "Simone found unusual sources and extracted great quotes."

Daily print under 100,000
Emily Fancher, San Mateo County Times - Stories were "very perceptive, great quotes from all over, wonderful details."

Non-daily print
Malcolm Gay, East Bay Express - "Malcolm's stories are astonishingly well researched - some of the best quotes we have ever seen."

Andrea Coombes, CBS MarketWatch - "Good job making complex information digestible and finding the reader's interest."

The winners were selected by 21 judges from around the Bay Area: Cristina Azocar, Randy Alfred, Joanna Biggar, John Burks, Michelle A. Carter, Bill Chiang, Reese Erlich, Cindy Hu, Diane Keaton, Paul Kleyman, Rick Knee, Bill Knowland, Sally Lehrman, Steve O'Donoghue, Jack Russell, Joyce Slaton, Erna Smith, Dorothy Vriend, Venise Wagner, David Weir, Gene Williams, plus the board of SPJ NorCal. Beverly Kees is chair of this year's Excellence in Journalism committee.