Modesto Bee takes second place in general excellence at California Journalism Awards

The midway at the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock, Calif. is pictured Thursday evening July 12, 2018 at sunset by The Modesto Bee’s drone.
The midway at the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock, Calif. is pictured Thursday evening July 12, 2018 at sunset by The Modesto Bee’s drone. jlee@modbee.com

The Modesto Bee took second place in overall general excellence at the California Journalism Awards on Saturday night.

Bee reporters and photographers finished among the top three in eight categories, with an additional five placing among the top five in the annual contest that celebrates the best journalism in California.

The event was held at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach.

The Bee, competing in the 15,001-50,000 circulation category — along with the likes of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the Los Angeles Daily News and the Bakersfield Californian — placed second in six categories.

Ken Carlson finished second in coverage of Agriculture for his work on the state’s attempt to pull water from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. He finished third in coverage of Youth and Education. He was pointed out for his stories on the plight of refugee students in Modesto City Schools.

Erin Tracy, Deke Farrow, Kevin Valine, Garth Stapley and John Holland helped The Bee secure a second-place award for Breaking News Coverage for the shooting death of Newman Police Department Cpl. Ronil Singh. The Chico Enterprise-Record won for its coverage of the Camp Fire in Paradise.

Farrow was awarded second place in the Profile category for his gripping story on Eli Price, the army veteran suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Bee was given second-place honors for City Government coverage, touting the work of Valine, Carlson and Rosalio Ahumada for their look into the departure of Modesto’s former city auditor Monica Houston.

Former Bee Opinions editor Mike Dunbar won a second-place award for Editorial Comment on his stinging look at Modesto’s City Hall and fourth place in Column Writing for pieces on water and a local candidate debate.

Photographer Joan Barnett Lee won third-place honors for News Photo for her gripping image of the brother of Newman Police Department Cpl. Singh during a press conference detailing the events surrounding the Dec. 26 shooting death. She finished fifth in Feature Photo for her shot of the setting sun with the Stanislaus County Fair in the foreground.

Ahumada took fourth place in Enterprise reporting for his stories on immigration titled, “Dodging Deportation: When ICE comes knocking on the door.”

Garth Stapley, who in February won first place for Public Service Journalism at the Gruner Awards ceremony in Fresno for is coverage of alleged sexual abuse by youth pastors at Modesto’s former First Baptist Church, won fourth place in Investigative Reporting and fifth place for In-Depth Reporting for those stories.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat beat out The Bee in the General Excellence category.

Of The Bee, judges wrote: “The Modesto Bee offers a great sense of place. The reporting goes deep when necessary, and the writing is excellent.”

Among other local newspapers honored were the Merced Sun-Star (15,000 and under) — Andrew Kuhn, Sports Action Photo, 1st; Mike Dunbar, Editorial Comment, 5th); the Los Banos Enterprise (weeklies, 11,000 and under) — Gene Lieb, Sports Feature Photo, 1st; the Turlock Journal (weeklies, 4,301-11,000) — In-Depth Reporting, 1st and Video Journalism News (under 200,000), 1st; and the Patterson Irrigator (weeklies, 4,301-10,000) — News photo, 2nd.