Who championed open government in 2020? And who blocked it?

Transparency FTW! The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is continuing our annual tradition of recognizing the most helpful — and least helpful — public agencies and officials through our Window, Wall and Sunshine Awards. 

And we need your help with nominations!

The Window Award will go to the person or public agency that most prioritized transparency and the public’s right to know in 2020. Our Wall Award will go to the person or public agency that made it hardest for journalists to do their jobs in 2020, ignoring requests or otherwise compromising the public’s right to know. And our Sunshine Award will go to a journalist or community member who worked the hardest to make the government more transparent and hold elected officials accountable.

Submit nominations here by Feb. 28, 2021. You can read up on last year’s winners (and losers) here.

Younger Journalists May Have to Wait for a COVID-19 Vaccination

Journalists across California have been delivering the latest news on COVID-19 vaccinations to the public, likely with one question in the back of their minds: When can I be vaccinated?

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists wanted to find answers for our journalism community regarding California’s vaccine distribution plan. 

Originally, journalists and members of the media were included in the state’s Tier 1C for vaccinations, under the “Communications” employment category, which includes “Workers who support radio, television, and media service, including, but not limited to front line news reporters, studio, and technicians for newsgathering, reporting, and publishing news,” according to the state’s COVID-19 website.
But the tier system now appears to be irrelevant. 

Darrel Ng, the senior communications advisor for California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, said the state is moving to an “age-based eligibility” plan for vaccine distribution.

“After the current Phase 1B, Tier 1, the remaining population will be prioritized by age,” Ng told us. “This is consistent with those who are most at risk for hospitalization or death from COVID. Phase 1B, Tier 2, and Phase 1C would no longer be relevant.”

When asked about those with pre-existing conditions, Ng said only that more details will be released in the coming weeks.

County of San Diego spokesman Michael Workman said, “The county is still trying to get further into Tier 1B. We are waiting for more granular guidance from the state.” 

Workman continued, “The only good thing about covid is that everything changes all the time. I hope this changes too.”

Naturally, we still have questions. SD-SPJ will continue to monitor this issue and keep the journalism community in the loop. 

2020 San Diego SPJ Special Awards and Scholarships

Sol Price Award for Responsible Journalism: Jeff McDonald, Kelly Davis and Lauryn Schroeder of The San Diego Union-Tribune for their series “Dying Behind Bars”

Diversity Prize: Claire Trageser of KPBS for her piece “DR JS: How a Gang Shooting Changed Southeast San Diego”

Herbert Lockwood “Woody” Award for Humor Writing: Irv Erdos with The San Diego Union-Tribune.

First Amendment Award: Tom Jones, Mari Payton, Bill Feather, Paul Krueger and Jay Yoo with NBC 7 for “Border Agents Created Secret Database of Journalists, Attorneys and Immigration Aid Workers”

Excellence in Journalism prize: Brad Racino and Jill Castellano with iNewsource for “Risky Research” 

Neil Morgan Community Impact Award: gWill Huntsberry with Voice of San Diego for “Exposure of Doc Who Helped Families Avoid Vaccination Led to New State Law”

Gloria Penner Award for Political Affairs Reporting: Mary Plummer with inewsource for the story “San Diego Voters Promised Billions in Infrastructure Fixes, But Money Running Dry”

Distinguished Coverage Award: KPBS’ Claire Trageser, Erik Anderson, Steve Walsh, Matt Hoffman and David Washburn for “San Diego’s Climate Crisis”

2020 SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS

SPJ Scholarship Winners:

Jack Trent Dorfman, UC San Diego

Victoria Holmes, University of San Diego

Lance Nelson, Mesa College/Columbia University

Bella Ross, San Diego State University

Amber Salas, San Diego State University

Agnes Diggs Scholarship:

Katy Stegall, Southwestern College/San Diego State University

Claire Trageser, SPJ San Diego 2020 Journalist of the Year


Credit: Janet Bark Photography

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to announce our 2020 Journalist of the Year: KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser.

Claire was doing the hard work of reporting on police misconduct and racial disparities in criminal justice long before the current wave of interest in the topic. And she always approaches her stories with tact and humility.

In February 2019, she unveiled a six-part series called DR J’S: How A Gang Shooting Changed Southeast San Diego. This was a deep dive into a seminal moment for San Diego’s Black community: a horrific crime that led to a major increase in police presence, which many in the neighborhood felt created whole new problems that are still evident today.

Throughout 2019, Claire also reported on police records newly made public thanks to SB 1421. She broke the story of former San Diego police Officer Donald Moncrief, who was accused of sexual assault, resigned before receiving any discipline and was never charged with a crime. Her reporting led to a lawsuit that forced the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to turn over five years of records on complaints against deputies.

Claire’s reporting on criminal justice has featured deeply personal stories. In August 2019, she released a two-part feature on the controversial “felony murder rule,” which allows a defendant to be charged with murder even if they didn’t kill anyone. Claire told the story of Shawn Khalifa, who is incarcerated after a conviction under the rule for a robbery he took part in when he was 15. And she has done stories on celebrations and victories, too, like Southeast San Diego reclaiming the intersection of Euclid and Imperial Avenues as the “4 Corners of Life” instead of the “4 Corners of Death.”

To top things off, Claire often finds interesting and newsworthy stories where no one else is looking, like the large number of broken trash bins in San Diego or the Humane Society’s controversial practice of releasing feral cats back onto the streets. In addition to her excellent reporting, Claire has also been a leader in the local journalism community, previously serving as SD-SPJ president and organizing the SPJ Regional Conference in San Diego in 2017. 

Claire earned this award with her dedication to seeking out and telling impactful stories that truly matter. Unfortunately, we cannot celebrate Claire’s work in person this year. But we hope you will join us for a virtual ceremony the evening of Aug. 24. More details will follow!