|Every year, The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognizes a select number of journalists for our Honors awards. These individuals stand out in our profession for contributions in a variety of areas from investigative reporting to public service and mentorship.|
Please join us at our awards banquet, Thursday June 16, 6:30 to celebrate the contributions of our Honorees. Buy tickets today!
Lifetime Achievement Award
Todd Curtis, Deseret News
For 35 years Curtis has served as a copy editor at the Deseret News, laboring quietly behind the scenes and laying the foundation for more than three decades of quality journalism. It is for years of excellent work, absent the thanks and prominence that those in front of the curtain can enjoy, that we are proud to present Curtis the Lifetime Achievement Award. Curtis is well known and respected for his vigilance over style and grammar, and his willingness to raise questions of fairness and accuracy. He has also served in a mentoring in the organization including his faithful publishing of “Todd’s Two-Tip Tuesday,” a staff-wide email spotlighting two refresher points of AP style to improve copy in the newsroom.
Josephine Zimmerman Pioneer in Journalism Award
Salt Lake Tribune/FrontLine for “Shots Fired”
The Utah SPJ board hailed the groundbreaking work behind the “Shots Fired” project not only for investigative effort and impressive data journalism but also for its uniquely effective multi-platform storytelling. The work reporters put into creating a comprehensive database of police shootings when nobody else would in the state—including state law enforcement—was impressive on its own. But the team went beyond that by also telling the stories behind these tragic episodes so effectively through a variety of media from thorough print articles, a compelling documentary and community events like screenings and discussions.
Quintus C. Wilson Ethics Award
Sheryl Worsley, Dave Cawley and Cold podcast team
The Cold and Talking Cold team are to be commended for their sensitive reporting on a traumatic rape case pivotal the story of the second season. The team consulted with a sexual assault advocate to help them tell them convey the horror of the incident without being exploitative. The Talking Cold discussion was also enriching and educational in helping listeners understand the stigma and issues that surround sexual assaults.
Public Service Award
The Utah Investigative Journalism Project/Salt Lake Tribune for “The Eviction Empire”
The board was pleased to award the Public Service award to this nearly two-year long reporting project. The series involved reviewing thousands of documents and interviewing nearly 150 sources, including more than 100 evicted Utahns to understand their experiences. The reporting uncovered numerous practices by the state’s leading eviction law firm considered predatory by critics. Beyond that, the story helped renters understand the perils facing them in Utah’s courts where the decks are stacked so thoroughly against them. The reporting project even included the creation of EvictedinUtah.com, a website that consolidated various resources for renters and translated the intricacies of Utah’s housing laws into plain English.
Don Baker Investigative Award
Wendy Halloran, KUTV for “Parole Supervision Failure”
Wendy Halloran’s impressive exploration of the failures of law enforcement to track parolees, discovering officials lost track of more than 300 parolees every month in 2021, has earned this year’s investigative prize. Her reporting found other deficiencies in a program designed to keep all Utahns safe, from officials marking parole visits as a “success” even when the parolee failed to show up to law enforcement agencies not communicating with one another about parole violations. The results have been tragic and heartbreaking. Fortunately, the results of Halloran’s reporting have been incredibly impactful. The Department of Public Safety created new policies for dealing with parolees, a legislative audit has been called for Adult Probation & Parole, and the reports even helped get a $250,000 medical bill waived for the family of a teenage crime victim. Halloran’s reporting was comprehensive, fair and fearless.
Roy B. Gibson Freedom of Information Award
Cathy McKitrick and David Reymann, fight for Kerry Gibson investigation file
The SPJ board is honored to present the FOIA award to journalist Cathy McKitrick and attorney David Reymann for their successful three-year court battle to obtain a closed investigative file into former Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson. While the records made for a great story, the battle for the records was even more important — it helped to cement into state law that public officials can’t block the release of records just because their release might be embarrassing to them. Getting to the unanimous Utah Supreme Court decision wasn’t easy. It took McKitrick winning her appeal with the Ogden city board, and then when that was challenged, Reymann helped pursue the matter through the twists and turns of the judicial system. Ultimately it led to a verdict beneficial to all journalists and one that will make it harder for other public figures to try to block and delay the release of damning records.
Clifford P. Cheney Service to Journalism
Brian Champagne, Utah State University
For USU journalism professor Brian Champagne there is nothing theoretical about the business. Not only does he energize and excite his students to enter the broadcasting world, but as an accomplished freelance broadcaster he helps students succeed by getting them freelance gigs and making important connections well before they get their degree. His development of Aggie TV on campus helped turn the humble student production into a repository for talent across the nation. His former students have graduated with job offers waiting in local and national markets. The SPJ board is pleased to join these students in appreciation of Champagne’s thorough service to journalism by not just inspiring students but showing them the path to successful careers.
The Sunshine Award
SUWA and Ed Carter, Brigham Young University for litigating for public meeting’s access
In 2017 the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed a complaint against Garfield, Kane and San Juan counties for having closed meeting with then Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. A district court not only dismissed the claim but ordered SUWA to pay the opposing side’s legal bills, an unusual move sending a clear chilling message. Ed Carter struck back and filed briefs with the Utah Supreme Court on behalf of Fox 13, the Deseret News and the Utah SPJ chapter. Carter was able to show that the closed meetings impacted journalists and the public at large and led to a reversal of the lower court’s decision. Not only was it a win for access to open meetings, but it also made the state supreme court recognize the right of journalists to have standing in court cases affecting openness and transparency even if they weren’t involved in the initial complaint.