Sunshine, Window and Wall Award Winners Announced

On Wednesday, March 14, please join the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at 57 Degrees as we celebrate Sunshine Week and continue our annual tradition of recognizing the most (and least) transparent public agencies. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. This year, we’re adding a fun twist to the event and inviting PIOs from city, county and state agencies for a casual meet-and-greet mixer with SPJ members and journalists from other media orgs. We’re hoping it’ll be an opportunity to put names to faces and get to know each other a little better in a relaxed, fun environment.

What: Annual Window, Wall and Sunshine Awards

When: Wednesday, March 14, 6:30 p.m.

Where: 57 Degrees, 1735 Hancock St., Middletown

RSVP here

Sunshine Award

This year’s Sunshine Award winner is Guylyn Cummins, a communications attorney with Sheppard Mullin who’s spent more than three decades fighting on behalf of reporters, media organizations and the public to hold government accountable and defend First Amendment rights. Honoring Cummins is long overdue — for years, she’s been San Diego media organizations’ go-to lawyer when public agencies and elected officials refuse to release critical information. At the end of 2017, she announced she was going into semi-retirement, and one of her last cases was particularly meaningful for San Diego SPJ: Cummins was part of the legal team that successfully challenged, pro bono, the county’s attempt to force local journalist, and SPJ board member, Kelly Davis, to testify and turn over material relating to her reporting on jail deaths. The case highlighted the critical need for a federal reporter shield law, an issue that Cummins has long championed and one that we’re certain she’ll continue to fight for.

Wall and Window Awards

Our Window Award goes to a public official or agency that prioritized transparency and the public’s right to know. The Wall Award goes to a public official or agency that ignored media requests or otherwise compromised the public’s right to know.

Window Award

Kendal Bortisser, a retired public information officer and fire captain for Cal Fire San Diego, is the recipient of our 2018 Window Award. For more than three years, Bortisser provided assistance to journalists across San Diego County outside of and during fire emergencies. That work continued even after Bortisser’s December 2016 retirement. He returned to work during the Lilac Fire to help media personnel get into evacuation zones and provided minute-by-minute updates to the public on the fire’s progression. When he wasn’t responding to media calls during emergencies, Bortisser made a point to stop by each newsroom to provide fire safety seminars that covered journalists’ rights to information and access in emergency zones. Bortisser has always performed his duties in a transparent manner, helping journalists deliver the facts quickly and accurately to viewers and readers.

Wall Award

San Diego County government is the recipient of our 2018 Wall Award. During an unprecedented hepatitis A outbreak last year that killed 20 people, left hundreds of others ill and made countless more residents and tourists fear for their health, county officials lagged on declaring a public health emergency. While officials ultimately offered regular updates on some elements of the emergency and on the county’s response, their replies to formal record and data requests fell well short of full or timely disclosure. County officials refused to release ZIP-code-level data on hepatitis A cases for weeks and only did so after a demand from a lawyer for Voice of San Diego. The county also refused to release the names of the dead, where they lived or where they died—information that multiple news organizations requested on behalf of the public and which would have gone a long way toward easing public health concerns. As The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board wrote, “their lives merited more than statistics and their deaths make details crucial to members of the public.” More recently, county officials targeted freelance journalist and local SPJ board member Kelly Davis in court after she exposed the deaths of dozens of people in its jails. The county’s expensive legal attempt to subpoena notes, require testimony and reveal confidential sources, rejected by a judge, represented an unconscionable failure of transparency and a misguided attack on a journalist instead of an attack on the very real and important problems she uncovered.

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2018 Journalism Contest

Calling all winners! San Diego SPJ is now accepting entries for our 2018 contest.

We’ve updated numerous categories this year to reflect new journalism trends in areas such as social media, multimedia, data/visualization and much more, so please review all your options at the outset. We’ve also renamed two of our top awards as follows: The Mark of Excellence Award that honors the best story, series or show is now known as the Excellence in Journalism Award and the Wildcard Award is called the Distinguished Coverage Award, which this year honors the outlet that best covered immigration and the border.

Contest entries will be accepted until 9 p.m. on Monday, April 9. Those submitted by midnight on Monday, April 2 will get $5 off their entry fees in every category but our top and special awards. We are also accepting applications for five $1,000 scholarships through Monday, April 9. One, the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation’s Agnes Diggs Road to College Scholarship, is open to San Diego County or Riverside County students from underserved communities. The others are open to all San Diego County students.

Winners will be announced in mid-to-late-May or early June.

Submit your entries using the BetterBNC Media Awards Platform. If you have entered other contests on this platform before, either for last year’s contest or for the SD Press Club, you are already in their system and you just have to ask to enter the 2018 SPJ awards contest.

Below are directions for preparing and submitting entries. If you have questions, please contact Terry Williams at 619-743-3669 or spj.sandiego@cox.net.

All contest entries must be submitted online (except for entries in the College Media Best Newspaper category, which must be mailed and postmarked by the contest deadline to SPJ to P.O. Box 880482, San Diego, CA 92168-0482). All entries must be entered by or on behalf of the individuals who produced the work and must identify those individuals.

To register or enter the contest online now, open a new browser window or tab to http://www.betterbnc.com. Keep this window open to refer to as you submit your awards.

1. How to Enter

2. Contest Guidelines 2018

3. Categories 2018

4. FAQs 2018

5. Scholarship Instructions

SD-SPJ statement on Davis case

The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is deeply concerned about San Diego County government’s inappropriate treatment of journalist Kelly Davis after she exposed the deaths of dozens of people in its jails. Its action represents a failure of transparency and a misguided attack on a journalist instead of an attack on the very real and important problems she uncovered.

The County’s expensive legal attempt to subpoena notes, require testimony and reveal confidential sources is unconscionable. We demand a public pledge from the County to refrain from such retaliatory tactics against journalists who seek to hold government accountable on behalf of the citizens government should serve.

This case underscores the need for a federal shield law to protect journalists from being compelled to release confidential information. Either through legislation or case law, 48 states and the District of Columbia recognize the need for these protections and it is time for Congress to do the same.

We also commend attorney Matthew Halgren and his firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP for representing Davis pro bono and U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew G. Schopler for ruling in Davis’ favor.

Disclosure: Davis is an SPJ San Diego board member

Statement on U-T sale; upcoming journo events

U-T file photo.
U-T file photo.

SD-SPJ statement on U-T sale

The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is watching the news of the sale of San Diego’s and Los Angeles’ local papers with great interest. Both our industry and the ownership of The San Diego Union-Tribune have changed rapidly and repeatedly these past several years. But the principles of ethical journalism and the importance of a strong local press remain clear. San Diego SPJ encourages new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong to prioritize local reporting in both San Diego and Los Angeles, and to respect the voices of staff at both award-winning newspapers. We hope he will champion a strong local presence and stellar reporting in both communities.

‘Better Journalism Workshops’ begins Feb. 20

The first in a yearlong SD-SPJ series of “Better Journalism Workshops” is coming up Tuesday, Feb. 20. RSVP today.

SUCCEEDING ON MULTIPLE PLATFORMS: Learn how to shoot eye-popping photographs and video and capture high-quality audio

Kris Arciaga, video journalist, KPBS

Kinsee Morlan, engagement editor, Voice of San Diego

Howard Lipin, photographer, The San Diego Union-Tribune

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20

Where: San Diego Central Library, Shiley Suite (9th floor), 330 Park Blvd., San Diego 92101

News literacy at the library

The San Diego Public Library is hosting a series of news literacy programs entitled “Breaking News @ The Library.” Upcoming talks include “News Literacy and You” on Feb. 20 at the Scripps Miramar Ranch library, “Minorities and the Media” on Feb. 28 at the Central Library, and Women in the Media on March 20 at the La Jolla/Riford library.

For more details, see https://www.sandiego.gov/public-library/media-literacy.

Let’s ‘Grade the Media’

Report cards will be handed out February 28 for this year’s Grade the Media event sponsored by SD-SPJ. Invited panelists were the subject of big news stories this past year and this is their chance to talk about what it was like to be in the spotlight. Moderated by Claire Trageser of KPBS, the panel includes:

Taylor Winston – The Iraq war veteran from Ocean Beach who put his life on the line during the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Tony Manolatos – A PR consultant working for several high-profile clients, including the San Diego school system, the campaign against community choice aggregation and Councilman Chris Cate following his decision to share a confidential memo.

David Alvarez – This San Diego City Councilman spent 2017 wrestling with such issues as local governments’ hepatitis A response, homelessness, and vacation-rental regulations.

Dulce Garcia – A Dreamer and immigration attorney who has sued President Donald Trump.

Where: Colt Hall on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego

When: Wednesday, February 28. Mixer at 6 p.m., panel at 6:30 p.m.

Admission: Free; light refreshments provided. Please RSVP.

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.

ONA on online images

The Online News Association is hosting a discussion entitled “How to Find Newsworthy Images on Social Media” from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 3 at NBC 7/Telemundo 20, 9680 Granite Ridge Dr., San Diego.

Steve Myers, editor of The Lens and former managing editor of Poynter Online, is scheduled to speak.

For more info and to RSVP, click here.