The Bay Area News Group, the region's largest collection of journalists, won the biggest share of awards from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, with a total of nine including two prizes for fast-breaking news coverage of a mass murder near Cupertino and the Occupy movement in Oakland.
"This is an extraordinary accomplishment because of the diversity and number of awards," said David J. Butler, editor of the newspaper group, which includes the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and their sister newspapers. "Superb teamwork was recognized for outstanding print and online efforts."
The awards for 2011-2012 recognized Northern California journalists for outstanding work in a variety of news media, from large daily newspapers to radio and television stations and small online and ethnic publications.
The SPJ gave its prestigious breaking news award for newspapers to the San Jose Mercury News staff for its "comprehensive and compelling" coverage of the quarry shooting near Cupertino last October. The newspaper dispatched more than a dozen reporters, photographers and editors to cover the shooting and the intense manhunt for the disgruntled employee who opened fire on his co-workers, killing three and injuring seven others.
The BANG photography staff won an award for its "fair and balanced depiction" of the
'Cost of dying' series"
Lisa M. Krieger, a health writer for the San Jose Mercury News, won first place for explanatory journalism for her moving series, "Cost of Dying," which included reporting on the death of her own father, whose final 10 days resulted in more than $300,000 in medical bills.
"Witnessing the slow death of my father left me feeling helpless, angry and confused," said Krieger. "Writing was the only way to heal. How we die matters. It matters to us, and to those who survive us. It's been really rewarding to start a conversation about something no one wants to talk about -- and spark change."
The Oakland Tribune won feature writing and photojournalism awards for a collaborative look at violence and its negative effects on the city's young people.
In the feature storytelling category, reporter Scott C. Johnson won for his package headlined "Three dead boys, no real answers," which brought into focus the violence afflicting Oakland through the murders of three children under age 6.
His photographer colleague, Karl Mondon, won a photojournalism award for his work on the same stories, which SPJ praised as " a chilling chronicle of violence in the city."
Both Mondon and Johnson wished to share their prizes with the families of the children.
"I think the success of this project was due to the trust the victims' families put in Scott Johnson and myself," Mondon said. "Despite their unspeakable grief caused by the loss of three preschool children to gun violence, they shared with us the heartache."
The Tribune staff also won a multimedia award for its use of writing, video and photography to capture the activity on the streets during Occupy Oakland.
San Jose Mercury News photographer Dai Sugano added three more prizes to his impressive trophy case, which includes a previous Emmy Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. SPJ awarded Sugano for "Lost Voices," a news video featuring interviews for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the friends and family who left messages on the cellphone of United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Mark Bingham. Sugano also won a magazine photo award for "China Unbound -- Capitalism Meets Communism," and for a video, "Bharatanatyam in Motion."
In other major awards, the SPJ honored Aaron Glantz of the Bay Citizen as journalist of the year, former KTVU-TV South Bay reporter Lloyd LaCuesta for distinguished service to journalism, and reporter Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle and former KPIX-TV reporter Hank Plante for career achievements.
Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767.