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The Bee wins first-place awards for public service journalism, photography

This photo of Hilmar’s Issac Sharp getting knocked out of bounds by Modesto Christian’s Mario Hernandez won first place at the George F. Gruner Awards Wednesday night.
This photo of Hilmar’s Issac Sharp getting knocked out of bounds by Modesto Christian’s Mario Hernandez won first place at the George F. Gruner Awards Wednesday night.

The Modesto Bee’s Garth Stapley received a 2019 George F. Gruner Award for a selection of stories about sexual abuse cover-ups decades ago at First Baptist Church. Bee photographers Joan Barnett Lee and Andy Alfaro also won first-place awards in the competition.

Former Editorial Page Editor Mike Dunbar won for column writing for the Merced Sun-Star, which he also oversaw. And former sports reporter James Burns won honorable mention for a sports story.

The awards for work produced in 2018 were announced Wednesday night at a reception at the Fresno Art Museum. The prizes honor George F. Gruner, whose 46-year career included 33 years at The Fresno Bee, retiring in 1988 as executive editor.

The competition recognizes meritorious public service, best column, best news story, best sports feature story, best feature, best news/feature photo and best sports photo. It’s open to San Joaquin Valley newspapers and prizes are awarded in three categories – large daily newspapers, small daily newspapers and weekly newspapers.

Stapley, now The Bee’s editorial page editor, won for public service, Barnett Lee for news photo and Andy Alfaro for sports photo.

The winners and honorable mentions in the other categories:

Public Service – Winners: Stapley; Vikaas Shanker, Merced Sun-Star; Paul Myers, Foothills Sun-Gazette. Honorable mention: Sam Morgen, Bakersfield Californian; Sheyanne Romero, Visalia Times-Delta; Greg Little, Nicole W. Little, Matt Johnson, Laura Phillips and John Mabon, Mariposa Gazette.

Best column – Winners: Marek Warszawski, The Fresno Bee; Dunbar, Merced Sun-Star; and John Spevak, Los Banos Enterprise. Honorable mention: Robert Price, Bakersfield Californian; James Ward, Visalia Times-Delta; Greg Little, Mariposa Gazette.

Best sports photo – Winners: Alfaro; Andrew Kuhn, Merced Sun-Star; Johnson. Honorable mention: Kohlruss; Ron Holman, Visalia Times-Delta; Gene Lieb, Los Banos Enterprise.

Best news story – Winners: Price; Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star; Myers and Reggie Ellis, Foothills Sun-Gazette. Honorable mention: Yesenia Amaro, The Fresno Bee; staff, Visalia Times-Delta; Greg Little, Mariposa Gazette.

Best feature story – Winners: Morgen; Parker Bowman, Hanford Sentinel; Greg Little, Mariposa Gazette. Honorable mention: Carmen George, The Fresno Bee; Ward; Laura Brown, Enterprise Recorder.

Best sports feature story – Winners: Trevor Horn, Bakersfield Californian; Vongni Yang, Visalia Times-Delta; Shawn Jansen, Los Banos Enterprise. Honorable mention: Burns; Noe Garcia, Hanford Sentinel; Johnson and Jeremiah Martinez, Enterprise Recorder.

Best news/feature photo – Winners: Barnett Lee; Andrew Kuhn, Merced Sun-Star; Lieb. Honorable mention: Walker; Ron Holman, Visalia Times-Delta; Little.

The Gruner awards are sponsored by The Fresno Bee and the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Fresno State. The judging is done by a group of professional journalists outside the Valley. The Gruner awards are funded by the Central Valley Foundation and the Central Valley Community Foundation.

Patty Guerra is managing editor at The Modesto Bee. She has held several writing and editing roles since starting at The Bee in 1999. She’s a graduate of Fresno State.