SPJ San Diego Announces 2017 Journalist of the Year

Morgan Cook

The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is thrilled to announce its 2017 Journalist of the Year: Morgan Cook, an investigative reporter at The San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Diego has seen its share of big stories this past year, but our board believes no local journalist did better work than Cook in her relentless accountability reporting on Congressman Duncan Hunter’s use of campaign funds for personal expenses. She broke the story last year and continues to follow it after the Department of Justice made clear in March that it is investigating Hunter, whose district covers Alpine, Escondido and Temecula.

Cook’s first story came last April after she found a letter posted by the Federal Election Commission questioning Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, for using campaign funds to pay for video games. Cook then wrote about Hunter’s other questionable self-reported expenses that he claimed were mistakes — items such as oral surgery, private school tuition and a garage door. Then she dug through Hunter’s campaign filings to fact check additional expenses and found other items that didn’t add up, including $229 for “food and beverages” at a Disneyland gift shop where the only food sold is PEZ and a Star Wars-themed Rice Krispies treat.

Throughout her coverage, Cook has explained to readers why this matters — the practice of campaign contributors funding a candidate’s personal life, not just his campaign, opens up the possibility of undue influence. To that end, Cook’s reporting has included who was giving the money and what they might be getting in return. She has persevered in her coverage despite a barrage of criticism and lack of cooperation from Hunter’s campaign.

In light of Cook’s stories, Hunter has returned more than $60,000 to his campaign and the Department of Justice is continuing its investigation. We applaud Cook’s dogged reporting that has stayed focused on what is important — and why — and are honored to recognize her as our Journalist of the Year.

Celebrate Cook and all of this year’s winners at our banquet on Wednesday, July 19, at Kona Kai. The full list of winners and all banquet details will be announced in June.

Announcing the 2017 Sunshine Award, Plus Our Window and Wall Winners

Please join SPJ in celebrating the Sunshine Award winner, as well as the Window and Wall awardees, on Wednesday, May 17, at 57 Degrees. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.

The San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is proud to announce Brooke Binkowski is the winner of our annual Sunshine Award, which honors efforts to make government more transparent and hold elected leaders accountable. As managing editor of the fact-checking website Snopes.com, Binkowski and her team of journalists have become instrumental in sorting out truth from fiction in this new era of “fake news” and “alternative facts” and providing important context to help readers better understand complex issues.

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Report Card on the Media Is Back

rcotm-2017

Our annual Report Card on the Media usually makes news — remember the “800-pound man in fuzzy slippers”? — and this year should be no different.

Come to this year’s panel on Thursday, March 16 to hear the subjects of big news stories this year give their takes on the coverage, and describe what it’s like to be on the other side of the microphone or notepad or keyboard.

The Panelists:

Marquis Parks, an El Cajon activist who helped organize many of the protests after a police officer shot and killed Alfred Olango.

Nicole Capretz, director of the Climate Action Campaign, which has been involved in San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, SANDAG’s transportation plan and fights with SDG&E.

Jan Goldsmith, the former San Diego City Attorney, who really needs no introduction.

Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate who manages a Twitter account and Facebook page devoted to homeless news.

Please join us as they grade the media (including you!).

For related news before the event and live tweets during the discussion, follow @GradeTheMedia on Twitter. Join in the conversation that night using the hashtag #spjgtm.

Where: TV Studio at San Diego City College (1313 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101)
The closest parking lot is at C and 14th. After parking, walk east on C street to a driveway. Walk up the driveway and into the building facing you, called the “C” building. Go straight through the orange breezeway doors and the TV Studio is there.

When: Thursday, March 16. Mixer at 6 p.m., panel at 6:30 p.m.

Admission: Free, and we will provide light refreshments. Please RSVP here.

Students can get career help at SPJ San Diego’s resume workshop

Join San Diego’s Chapter of SPJ for a Resume Workshop!

Who: News editors and college students
What: Editors review student resumes and provide feedback
When: Thursday, Feb. 2, 6-8 p.m.
Where: On campus at San Diego State, hosted by School of Journalism & Media Studies, located in the Professional Studies and Fine Arts Building (PSFA), Room 358.

Featured Editors:
Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego
Kris Vera Phillips, KPBS
Sara Libby, Voice of San Diego
Donna Stewart, NBC San Diego
Joe Guerin, KPBS
Radvile Rinkeviciute, San Diego Union-Tribune

The event is free and there will be free pizza! Please RSVP here:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/san-diego-society-of-professional-journalists-resume-workshop-tickets-30907589432

To purchase a visitor parking permit: https://aztecs.t2hosted.com/cmn/auth_guest.aspx
(closest visitor parking located in Parking Structure 12).