Sun-Gazette editor Paul Myers and publisher Reggie Ellis win meritorious public service award and best news story from annual George Gruner awards
FRESNO – Valley reporters descended on Fresno last week, but not to investigate any misdeeds or cover any breaking news. Instead they were there to recognize each other’s accomplishments.
Put on by the Fresno Bee and Fresno State, the prizes honor George F. Gruner, whose 46-year career included 33 years at The Fresno Bee, retiring in 1988 as executive editor.
This year the Sun-Gazette submitted for two categories, meritorious public service award and best news story for 2018, and won them both. Editor Paul Myers won his first Gruner Award for meritorious public service with his three-part series on mental health training for law enforcement. Myers shined a light on the killing of Tulare man Jontell Reedom, 27, who suffered from schizophrenia.
On March 12 of last year Tulare police officers fatally shot Reedom after a physical confrontation. His mother, Anyka Harris, called for better training of law enforcement officers. Myers spoke with police chiefs throughout the County and revealed there is not a standard in California for officers to undergo post academy mental health training. And some police departments in the County have only a handful of officers who have received additional training, if any at all.
The project was a result of a University of Southern California, Annenberg Center for Health Journalism Fellowship. Myers received a $1,000 grant to complete the fellowship, and a four day seminar at USC campus covering statewide health care topics.
“It’s nice to have your work recognized. The fellowship was a pretty intensive six months and covered a lot of ground. It’s nice to put a cap on it with my first Gruner award,” Myers said.
Other winners in public service: Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee; Vikaas Shanker, Merced Sun-Star. Honorable Mentions: Sam Morgen, Bakersfield Californian; Sheyanne Romero, Visalia Times-Delta; Greg Little, Nicole W. Little, Matt Johnson, Laura Phillips and John Mabon, Mariposa Gazette.
Publisher Reggie Ellis and Myers were also recognized for their coverage of alleged Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. Ellis and Myers published their story about the one time Exeter police sergeant who served between 1973 and 1976, the week following his arrest in April last year. Ellis and Myers, in the story, reveal the former officer’s past, the testimony of former officers who served with DeAngelo, identifies connections to his time as the Visalia Ransacker, and ultimately describes how detectives captured DeAngelo using commercial DNA data bases.
“The Golden State Killer was one of the most notorious serial killers in the country,” Ellis said. “To find out that he was a police officer, much less an Exeter police officer, makes for one of the most interesting stories I’ve worked on.”
Other winners in best news story category: Robert Price, Bakersfield Californian; Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star. Honorable mentions: Yesenia Amaro, Fresno Bee; staff, Visalia Times-Delta; Greg Little, Mariposa Gazette.