Fresno Bee reporter Mackenzie Mays was honored for her public service coverage of teen pregnancy in the 30th annual George F. Gruner journalism awards.
Four others from The Bee – Rory Appleton, Carmen George, Marek Warszawski and Gail Marshall – won first-place prizes. The awards for work produced in 2017 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 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.
The prizes honor George F. Gruner, whose 46-year career included 33 years at The Bee, retiring in 1988 as executive editor.
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Mays was honored for “Too Young?” The Valley is home to California’s highest teenage birth rates. Teen parents say they lack support at school, and sex education is infused with politics. Mays’ series of stories examined the issue from many angles, including teens’ perspectives on sex education.
Other winners of Gruner Awards for Public Service were Harold Pierce and Stephanie Innes of The Bakersfield Californian and Greg Little of the weekly Mariposa Gazette.
Honorable mention in the Public Service category went to the Visalia Times-Delta team of James Houck, Eric Woomer, Luis Hernandez, Calley Cederlof and Sheyanne Romero.
The winners and honorable mentions in the other categories:
News – Winners were Appleton for “Slaves of the Sex Trade,” his report on human trafficking in the Valley; Rob Parsons and Monica Velez of the Merced Sun-Star; and the Los Banos Enterprise team of Vikaas Shanker, Brianna Calix (now a reporter at The Bee) and Parsons. Honorable mention went to Bakersfield’s Pierce.
Features – Winners George for her story, “The forgetten children of Motel Drive have a champion in a former gang member;” Visalia’s Ward; 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 Daniel Casarez of Vida en el Valle.
Columns – Winners Warszawski for “Enough stalling. Now is the time to improve recreation along San Joaquin River,” Merced’s Parsons 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 Marshall for “We’ve failed our children by neglecting sex education. This is what we must do,” Mike Dunbar of The Modesto 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 Trevor Horn of The Bakersfield Californian, Shawn Jansen of the Merced Sun-Star 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 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.