The Merced Sun-Star team of Rob Parsons and Monica Velez was honored in the 30th annual George F. Gruner journalism awards for its coverage of a party at a Merced hookah lounge that got out of control.
The awards, for work produced in 2017, were announced Thursday night at a reception at the Fresno Art Museum.
The competition recognizes meritorious public service as well as best news story, best column, best editorial, best sports story, best feature and best photos. It’s open to San Joaquin Valley newspapers and prizes are awarded in three categories – large daily newspapers (circulation over 50,000), small daily newspapers and weekly newspapers.
Parsons, Brianna Calix and Vikaas Shanker also won first-place in another division for their Los Banos Enterprise story of “Two LB officers shot, suspect killed in struggle for officer’s gun”.
Other winners from the Sun-Star: Parsons for best column for “I live in Merced and your ‘Worst Cities’ list can bite me” and Shawn Jansen, best sports story for “This Atwater student is second in touchdowns on the football team. And he’s blind.” Mike Dunbar won for best editorial for “Voters can flush bad odor from MID board”.
The prizes honor George F. Gruner, whose 46-year career included 33 years at The Fresno Bee, retiring in 1988 as executive editor.
The winners and honorable mentions:
News – Winners were Rob Parsons and Monica Velez of the Merced Sun-Star; the Los Banos Enterprise team of Shanker, Brianna Calix (now a reporter at The Fresno Bee) and Parsons; and Rory Appleton of The Fresno Bee;. Honorable mention went to Bakersfield’s Pierce.
Public Service - Winners were Mackenzie Mays of The Fresno Bee, Harold Pierce and Stephanie Innes of The Bakersfield Californian and Greg Little of the weekly Mariposa Gazette. Honorable mention went to the Visalia Times-Delta team of James Houck, Eric Woomer, Luis Hernandez, Calley Cederlof and Sheyanne Romero.
Features – Winners: Carmen George of The Fresno Bee, James Ward of the Visalia Times-Delta; and Gabriel Dillard of the Fresno Business Journal. Honorable mentions: Steven Mayer of Bakersfield, Julissa Zavala of the Hanford Sentinel, Jackson Moore of the Dinuba Sentinel and David Casarez of Vida en el Valle.
Columns – Winners: Merced’s Parsons, The Fresno Bee’s Marek Warszawski and Mariposa’s Little. Honorable mentions Lois Henry of The Bakersfield Californian; Make Hazelwood of the Visalia Times-Delta; and John Spevak of the Los Banos Enterprise.
Editorials – Winners: Dunbar of the Merced Sun-Star, Gail Marshall of The Fresno Bee and Reggie Ellis of the Exeter Sun-Gazette. Honorable mentions: Dunbar, Silas J. Lyons of the Visalia Times-Delta and Brian Wilkinson of the Sierra Star.
Sports – Winners: Merced’s Jansen, Trevor Horn of The Bakersfield Californian and Matt Johnson of the Mariposa Gazette. Honorable mentions: Noe Garcia of the Hanford Sentinel and Wilkinson of the Sierra Star.
News photo – Winners: Felix Adamo of The Bakersfield Californian and Morgan Voorhis of the Sierra Star. Honorable mentions: Craig Kohlruss of The Fresno Bee, Gene Lieb of the Los Banos Enterprise and Jackson Moore of the Dinuba Sentinel.
Sports photo – Winners: Adamo, Ron Holman of the Visalia Times-Delta and Patrick Dillon of the Exeter Sun-Gazette. Honorable mentions: Eric Paul Zamora of The Fresno Bee, Wendy Alexander of the Madera Tribune and Kevin J. Geaney of the Dinuba Sentinel.
The Gruner awards are sponsored by The Fresno Bee and the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Fresno State. The judging is done by a group of professional journalists outside the Valley.
The Gruner awards are funded by the Central Valley Foundation and the Central Valley Community Foundation. Each first-place award comes with a $500 prize.