The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) held its annual award dinner on July 19 at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa. These awards recognize print and online journalism in a variety of categories. San Diego Free Press contributors Mark Hughes and Martha Sullivan received first place recognition and contributor Lawrence Herzog and editors Doug Porter and Barbara Zaragoza garnered second place and honorable mention for their work in 2016.
A different kind of journalism This is the fifth year that San Diego Free Press has won awards for its citizen journalism. We are all volunteers-SDFP has no paid reporters, editors or contributors. We are not professional journalists although a few of us have been schooled and employed in journalism. We ask contributors to write about what they know and what they care about. The result is a vibrant patchwork of diverse voices providing authentic and unique grassroots perspectives on regional politics and culture.
SDFP– a media platform for speaking truth to power This year’s winning articles reflect different approaches and powerful responses to pressing issues.
Mark Hughes begins his article From Coal to Climate: the Evolution of an Activist
So, here is a question: what’s about as likely as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly jointly admitting they’ve been wrong and dedicating their lives and fortunes to fighting sexism, racism, white supremacy, homophobia, and misogyny?
Answer: that a guy like me would end up volunteering for a grassroots, climate action group.
I grew up in Kansas, famous for Dorothy, sunflowers, and reliably voting against your best interest.
Mark provides an intimate glimpse into a professional and personal journey that led him to ask “How do we change the fundamental assumptions that we build our lives upon?” Mark’s career and life style choices and volunteer activism with San Diego 350 detail the possibilities we can embrace to save our planet. Mark received first place in the Environmental Story category.
Martha Sullivan presents a forceful critique of the San Diego Police Department’s report on racial bias in traffic stops in Study: SDPD’s Racial Bias is Undisputed and Ineffective. She folds the existence of rape culture within SDPD into the critique and lays out clear steps that must be taken to assure those impartial and independent investigations of citizen complaints of misconduct hold law enforcement accountable.
Mayor Faulconer and the incoming City Council now have joint authority over the now-renamed “Community Review Board on Police Practices” – and they have a mandate to deliver on the promise made in their Argument in Favor of Measure G. To do so, they MUST provide the CRB with the same resources and powers supplied to the City’s Ethics Commission: Independent Investigators, Independent Legal Counsel and Subpoena Power.
Holding SDPD officers and their leadership accountable and doing it transparently – in the same way that residents are held accountable to comply with laws and regulations — IS the way to build trust between ALL San Diego residents and the police department charged to protect and serve them. It’s quite simple, really.
Martha and Women Occupy of San Diego have a remarkable ability to cut to the chase when it comes to solutions, then organizing to get the work done. Martha won first place in the Opinion/Editorial category.
Lawrence Herzog writes “Fake news stories, Internet hacking, and websites that pump out false information remain a point of contention. Has this “post-fact” epidemic trickled down to our local elections?” in his article Land Use Planning in a ‘Post-Fact’ World? Looking Back on Measures B and C in Our Recent Election. Lawrence provides insight into the ways that developers obfuscate the deficiencies of projects with a misleading patina of sustainability and “smart growth” verbiage. He describes Measure B: Lilac Hills development as “urban sprawl on steroids.”
Accretive Investments tried at least two different tactics to cover over the fatal flaw of the project’s unsustainable location. First, they dressed it up with energy-saving materials for the buildings, trails, open space, and water recycling. This allowed the project to advertise itself as “smart growth”, even though it lacked the most critical element a “smart growth” community requires—alternative transit. Not a single alternative transit option would be available (no trolley lines, rail, or bus rapid transit) at the Lilac Hills location.
His assessment of Measure C, the Stadium Plan in East Village is no less withering.
So, in Measure C, the Chargers were relying on the smokescreen of fan loyalty toward the team, combined with the now discredited trope about stadiums bringing economic development to downtown. The stadiums = downtown redevelopment myth has now been dismissed by a majority of economists, public policy and urban planning experts around the country.
Lawrence reminds us that powerful development interests aren’t going away anytime soon nor is the “post-fact” syndrome. He received Honorable Mention in the Political/Government category.
Barbara Zaragoza won two awards this year– one for her column “North of the Fence,” the other for the article The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, San Diego Chapter.
“North of the Fence” provided a weekly roundup of news from South Bay which Barbara routinely augmented with her own sharp reporting on education and politics. It has been essential reading about a large and diverse area of the county that does not get the coverage it merits. Barbara received Honorable Mention in the Column Category.
“The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, San Diego Chapter” provides a richly detailed glimpse into the history and activities of this group whose goal is “to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.” Barbara traces the beginnings of the Sisters “to the days when AIDS ravaged the gay male population and few people—if any—wanted to serve their needs.” Her lively writing mirrors a community that is active in improv theater and charitable activities and building healthy self-esteem within their members.
The Sisters come from all different walks of life. In the San Diego Chapter, one is a business consultant, another a former CPA. Sister Amanda spent six and a half years as an Air Force Captain. She was a navigator who left the military right before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. She also happens to be the Board President of the non-profit corporation.
Barbara won an Honorable Mention in the Multicultural category. Barbara recently resigned from the SDFP editorial board to complete her book and prepare for an upcoming museum installation. We wish her the best and look forward to reading the extensive interviews of South Bay residents which she has been compiling. Be sure to check her site South Bay Compass.
Doug Porter– In a league of his own Doug is one of the most visible writers at San Diego Free Press. For the past five years, since SDFP launched in 2012, Doug has been an editor and he also writes a daily column “The Starting Line”. His column–he’s written over 1,300 of them– provides a no holds barred progressive commentary on regional news that affects us all.
The man is a powerhouse. Every Friday he publishes an extensive Event Calendar that has become required reading since Trump was elected. The Resistance isn’t always televised, but it gets indepth coverage from Doug, who also makes it a point to show up at many of the rallies and events.
Doug has a devoted readership. Here is a recent comment left on one of his articles:
Dear Doug Porter,
Day after day, you make San Diego a better city.
Thanks for doing what you do!
A devoted reader
We second that.
Doug won a second place award this year for his “Starting Line” column. He has won first or second place for this column every year for the past five years.
Behind the scenes… The annual SPJ awards dinner was the culmination of many hours of intense deliberation among the daily editors Annie Lane, Anna Daniels, Doug Porter and Barbara Zaragoza. They met multiple times earlier this year to review the work of the eighty contributors who had submitted articles in 2016. This year we submitted forty-eight articles for consideration. In 2013, we submitted only five. Editor Rich Kacmar prepared the entries for submission.
The depth and breadth of our coverage last year was truly astounding–remember, these are all volunteers. We feel that every submission deserved recognition.
And finally, we would like to recognize our donors whose generosity and ongoing commitment to citizen journalism enable us to not only keep the lights on, but also underwrite the SPJ entry fees and award dinner.
Thank you all for supporting San Diego Free Press. We cannot do it without you.