CALmatters took home 23 awards, including nine first place winners, at the California News Publishers Association Journalism Awards dinner in Long Beach, CA.

The awards, given out May 4, celebrate the best journalism in the state. This was the first year digital news outlets like CALmatters could enter.

“We’re very proud of our very talented CALmatters team,” said Editor Dave Lesher, who also credited Managing Editor Vicki Haddock, Deputy Editor Shawn Hubler, Senior editor Dan Morain, and Contributing Editor Linda Rogers along with the reporters, videographer and news developer who were recognized.

Reporter Ben Christopher, videographer Byrhonda Lyons, news developer John Osborn D’Agostino won first place for Public Service for our 2018 Election Guide. The judges called the guide “an absolute wonderful example of public service.” … “The news organization did a comprehensive job of laying out all the issue and candidate positions in an online magazine format with videos. Then after the election, CALmatters came back and explained it all. A real reader service.”

CALmatters also took first place for the home page of our website and second place for General Excellence. “Rarely does a non-profit, community funded news Website rise to the level of what CALmatters offers,” the judges said. “When you visit CalMatters, you get the sensation that you are visiting a large news organization. And, of course, the journalism is superb.”

CALmatters Senior Editor Dan Morain, Laurel Rosenhall and Christopher also won second place in Breaking News for what the judges called “impressive wall-to-wall coverage of the statewide general election (that) reflected well-thought-out planning and the team’s deep knowledge of the candidates and the issues. The standout piece in this superb package analyzed the big issues awaiting the governor-elect.”

Two Video Journalism awards went to videographer Byrhonda Lyons, with Environment reporter Julie Cart and Rosenhall. Climate Change won first place. “Explaining California’s war on climate change in fewer than five minutes is no easy task,” the judges said. “But this video does so in an engaging, effective way. With a narrator that viewers immediately know they can trust, high-quality, easy to understand animated graphics that unravel complex concepts, and photographs that tell the story of the present and the past, this video packs everything you need to know into one package. The opening shots of the smog days of old in California was a particularly compelling way to set the stage for the story.” The fourth place award was for a video about the police shooting of Stephon Clark.

Political reporter Laurel Rosenhall won two first place awards. She was honored in Coverage of Local Government for As the revolving door turns, a Capitol fixer is poised to ascend with Gavin Newsom—and legal weed. “Reporter Laurel Rosenhall shines a bright light on the highly lucrative revolving door through which the ethically compromised Kinney has gone many times during his career as an advisor to powerful politicians and as a lobbyist,” the judges said. “This is a powerful piece of journalism that vitally serves the public interest in two ways: explaining Kinney’s cozy relationship to California’s new governor and how relatively unknown people exert great influence behind the scenes. The “politics & pot” graphic succinctly captures the ties linking Kinney, Gavin Newsom and the cannabis industry.” Rosenhall also won first place in the Feature Story category for No legislator has confronted the effects of wildfire like this forensic dentist and fourth place for Colusa County Welcomes Retiring Gov. Jerry Brown.

Ricardo Cano won second place in for Coverage of Local Government for California’s School Bonds: the Rich Get Richer and the Poor, not so Much,” which the judges called out for using data “to document the financial challenges facing small and rural public-school districts in their quest to provide safe, clean, modern facilities for teachers and students. The story is reader- friendly because it isn’t drowning in numbers and Cano effectively mixes in interviews with officials trying to get new facilities built. The graphics accompanying the story allow readers to see how their district compares to others.”

Former Education reporter Jessica Calefati, also won third place for Teacher Pension Debt Swamps School Budgets. “Great reader service of identifying how ballooning teacher pensions are going to spell financial disaster for schools down the road,” the judges said.

Higher education reporter Felicia Mello won first place in the Coverage of Youth and Education category for California’s for-profit college watchdog fails to police as feds back down. Mello was also honored with a third place award for Writing for California Campuses Confront a Growing Crisis: Homeless Students.

Data and housing reporter Matt Levin won first place in Land Use Reporting for a series of stories on foreign investors driving up real estate prices and legislation that would force cities to build affordable housing around transit hubs. The judges gave this shoutout: “This is digital done right! The stories gave context to complex issues and used a variety of digital layers to connect readers with the information.” A second place award for feature writing also went to Levin, for California housing costs create harsh reality for refugees. “Huge relevance in today’s world,” the judges noted, adding. “A story that needs to be told that can help led to answers of a serious problem.”

CALmatters freelance reporter David Gorn won first place for Enterprise News Story or Series for stories on wellness, which the judges called out for “Great balance of stories about people and data – how to make changes in government finances and people’s health. Excellent reporting. Good and important read.” Levin won third place for How Attainable is the California Dream today?

CALmatters also won two fourth place awards, one for In-Depth Reporting on climate change by Cart, which the judged called a “Top-notch series that shows climate-change regulations are shortchanging taxpayers.” Christopher also won for his profile on Gov. Newsom. The judges said, “It’s hard to stand out when writing a profile about Gavin Newsom…But this well-written one…gave a bigger more nuanced picture of California’s governor.”

Read about all the CNPA awards.

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Marcia Parker was Publisher and COO of CalMatters from 2017 through mid-2022.