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Bee’s ‘Living in Misery’ project honored with Gruner Public Service award

Award-winner: This Jan. 28, 2016 photo by The Fresno Bee’s Craig Kohlruss was judged best sports photo in the 29th annual George F. Gruner Awards. Buchanan’s Abner Romero, left, celebrates after pinning Clovis’ Victor Vargas in the 162-pound match of their Tri-River Athletic Conference wrestling match.
Award-winner: This Jan. 28, 2016 photo by The Fresno Bee’s Craig Kohlruss was judged best sports photo in the 29th annual George F. Gruner Awards. Buchanan’s Abner Romero, left, celebrates after pinning Clovis’ Victor Vargas in the 162-pound match of their Tri-River Athletic Conference wrestling match. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Three Fresno Bee reporters were honored for their public service coverage of Fresno’s substandard rental housing at the 29th annual George F. Gruner Awards.

The awards for work produced in 2016 were announced Thursday night at a reception at the Fresno Art Museum.

The competition recognizes not only meritorious public service but also best news story, best sports story, best feature, best photo and best column or editorial, attracting a total of 100 entries from 21 San Joaquin Valley newspapers.

The Bee’s Bill McEwen and Craig Kohlruss were among the winners.

The prizes honor George F. Gruner, whose 46-year career included 33 years at The Bee, retiring in 1988 as executive editor.

The trio of Barbara Anderson, BoNhia Lee and Andrea Castillo won for “Living in Misery,” the special report published in May that launched a year of citywide debate before new Mayor Lee Brand’s rental inspection housing plan was launched this year. It was honored in the category for daily newspapers with circulation over 50,000.

The judges remarked, “This is a thoughtfully conceived and professionally executed examination of the grim choices facing tenants who are forced to live in Fresno’s low-cost rental units. The stories tell of great human hardship while also unearthing the historic and statistical patterns that created these problems – and the inaction that allows them to continue. The reporters demonstrate how important stories can be developed with both the ‘head’ and the ‘heart.’ 

Other winners of Gruner Awards for Public Service were Jim Houck, Juan Villa, Luis Hernandez and Calley Cederlof of the Tulare Advance-Register for their investigation of construction projects at Tulare Regional Medical Center in the category for daily newspapers with circulation under 50,000; and Vikaas Shanker of the Los Banos Enterprise in the category for weekly newspapers for his stories on the Los Banos school board.

Honorable mention in the Public Service category went to Joseph Luiz and Laura Brown of the Selma Enterprise-Kingsburg Recorder and Greg Little of the Mariposa Gazette.

The winners and honorable mentions in the other categories:

News – Winners were Harold Pierce, John Cox and Steven Mayer of The Bakersfield Californian in the large-daily category; Mike Eiman of The Hanford Sentinel in the small-daily; and Morgan Voorhis of the Sierra Star in the weekly. Honorable mentions: Tim Sheehan and Marc Benjamin of The Bee for their Sept. 25 story, “Why did it take a dozen years for Fresno’s leaders to wake up to tainted-water problems?” Rob Parsons, Michelle Morgante, Brianna Calix and Monica Velez of the Merced Sun-Star; and Laura Brown of the Selma Enterprise-Kingsburg Recorder.

Sports – Winners Jeff Evans of The Bakersfield Californian, Nayirah Dosu of The Porterville Recorder and Matt Johnson of the Mariposa Gazette. Honorable mentions were Marek Warszawski of The Bee for his human-interest story about the shooting death of Deondre “Day Day” Howard, Shawn Jensen of the Merced Sun-Star and Sean Lynch of the Los Banos Enterprise.

Features – Winners Jennifer Self and Robert Price of The Bakersfield Californian, Michelle Morgante of the Merced Sun-Star and Voorhis of the Sierra Star. Honorable mentions were Julissa Zavala of the Porterville Recorder and Jackson Moore of the Dinuba Sentinel.

Columns – Winners Lois Henry of The Bakersfield Californian, Eric Woomer of the Visalia Times-Delta and Little of the Mariposa Gazette.

Editorials – Winners McEwen for his editorial criticizing Fresno County for its handling of the Seth Ireland case, Mike Dunbar of the Merced Sun-Star and Brian Wilkinson of the Sierra Star.

News photo – Winners Felix Adamo of The Bakersfield Californian, Ron Holman of the Visalia Times-Delta and Gene Lieb of the Los Banos Enterprise. Honorable mentions were Kohlruss for his June 19 front-page photo of President Barack Obama in Yosemite National Park, Andrew Kuhn of the Merced Sun-Star and Voorhis of the Sierra Star.

Sports photo – Winners Kohlruss for his photo from the Buchanan-Clovis high school dual wrestling meet, Kuhn and Lieb. Honorable mentions were Adamo of The Bakersfield Californian, Wendy Alexander of The Madera Tribune and Keven J. Geaney of the Dinuba Sentinel.

The Gruner awards are sponsored by The 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.

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