In summary

The annual contest honors the best politics and public policy journalism in California.

CalMatters journalism was recognized as “in-depth,” “exquisite” and “standout” in four first place honors given in this year’s Sacramento Press Club awards. CalMatters took home top honors amongst the state’s best media outlets, including the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times.

Public health

Reporter Kristen Hwang was awarded first place for public health reporting.

The Press Club noted of Kristen’s story: “Kristen blended data reporting and humanizing details in stories ranging from California’s soaring rates of congenital syphilis to its Medi-Cal gap in coverage for working undocumented immigrants. Her work demonstrated solid investigative chops, as well as in-depth, fact-based reporting. The judges described the winners’ work as “terrific public policy reporting that gives Californians clear insights into what is and what is not working in the Medi-Cal program as state leadership prepares for an ambitious, experimental expansion that will affect public health.”

Kristen was honored for stories including an in-depth look at California’s abortion access policy, a story bringing to light soaring congenital syphilis rates as public health funding dwindled prior to the pandemic, and a first-hand look at street teams working to provide homeless health care.

Social justice and equity

Reporter Jocelyn Wiener was awarded first place for social justice and equity reporting.

Judges noted of Jocelyn’s reporting: “Step by step, Wiener’s story documents the events that resulted in a mentally incompetent young man being detained for eight years, nine months and 24 days not only without a trial but also without any coherent plan for treatment or legal disposition of his case. The story is thoroughly reported, and the writing is exquisite. It explains the challenges that face courts and social service agencies when they confront the issue of how to handle mentally incompetent accused individuals, and details both failures and some progress in that arena.”

Jocelyn’s gripping tale told the story of Lorenzo Mays, an intellectually disabled man who spent years lost in a criminal justice system in California that too often fails people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.

Daily Capitol coverage

Reporter Alexei Koseff was awarded first place, along with Dustin Gardiner of the San Francisco Chronicle, for daily Capitol coverage.

Judges noted of Alexei’s work: “Alexei impressed with sharp angles about the people and issues shaping state politics and with his engaging prose. His CalMatters piece on the state’s cannabis industry deftly explored the pressure facing Gov. Gavin Newsrom to address problems with a change he championed. An analysis of leftover campaign cash shed light on the large and languishing political fund maintained by former officeholders.”

Alexei’s winning coverage dug into problems following the legalization of cannabis, officials looking to make California a haven for abortion rights, politicians stashing $35 million in leftover campaign cash, efforts to implement the state’s “red flag” gun law and Gov. Gavin Newsom leaning into his first term agenda.

Short-form TV public policy

And the team of Julie Watts of CBS 13 in Sacramento and CalMatters (Alejandro Lazo, Jeanne Kuang, Lill Kalish and Erica Yee) was awarded first place for short form TV California politics and policy coverage.

The Press Club noted of the video: “This piece’s focus on wage theft was well-researched and presented in a clear and interesting fashion. They humanized the issue by profiling individuals such as a fast food employee who had not received a raise in 17 years. The judges called the work “a good example of accountability journalism that pointed to lack of enforcement of state law.”

The video “California Wage Theft: When Bosses Don’t Pay” was built out of the CalMatters wage theft series “Unpaid Wages: A Waiting Game.”

CalMatters staff members were finalists in seven categories in this year’s awards. The nonprofit newsroom’s staff has won several top honors in the previous two years of the contest, including first place in reporting on housing and homelessness by Manuela Tobias and journalist of the year for Laurel Rosenhall.

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Sonya builds bridges between the community and CalMatters as director of membership and engagement. Previously she managed engagement, fundraising, marketing, digital storytelling and UX at Voice of OC,...