Hawaii News Now took top honors in the public service reporting category with its Red Hill anniversary story.

For the 13th consecutive year, Civil Beat was selected as the best overall news site by the Society for Professional Journalists’ Hawaii chapter.

The honor was among several announced Tuesday during SPJ’s annual awards ceremony in Honolulu. It was the first in-person presentation since the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020.

The competition is judged by out-of-state journalists and includes work from 2022 submitted by newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and student journalists across the islands.

Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ, Awards
The team shows off some of Civil Beat’s awards after the SPJ presentation in Honolulu. (Ashley Ong/Civil Beat/2023)

The judges praised Civil Beat’s website design, including data visualizations, in-depth guides, a large opinion section and investigative pieces.

People in Hawaii “should be proud they have one of the best local news sites in the country as a news and information source. This one is hard to beat — anywhere,” the citation said.

You can find a full list of the awards at this link. Here are more highlights.

First place for public service reporting, which is considered the top prize, went to Mahealani Richardson, Peter Tang, Brenda Salgado of Hawaii News Now for “HNN Investigates: Red Hill, One Year Later.”

That story, which explored the continued impact of the Navy’s water contamination crisis on the local community, also won the series reporting/documentary/special news category in the television division.

Civil Beat reporter Christina Jedra also was honored for her probing coverage of Red Hill. She received first place for investigative reporting in the all media division.

Second place went to Civil Beat’s investigations editor John Hill for his series examining the state’s process for removing children from their parents.

Jedra also teamed up with Civil Beat interactive developer April Estrellon to design an interactive game showing the problems and delays plaguing Honolulu’s permitting process. The SPJ judges chose “Game: How Long Does It Take To Get A Permit From Honolulu?” as the best multimedia presentation.

Civil Beat swept the government reporting category, with first place going to Washington reporter Nick Grube’s story showing that former Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele had been having other members cast his votes for months.

Columnist Eric Stinton received top honors in several categories, including column writing or blog/news and column writing or blog/features or sports.

Civil Beat also got a rare mention in the sports reporting category with third place for Stinton’s column “A Boxing Club For Troubled Youth Gets New Life In Kalihi.”

Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter awards
SPJ awards on a table ahead of the presentation at the annual ceremony. (Kim Gamel/Civil Beat/2023)

The Civil Beat team of Thomas Heaton and Nathan Eagle received first place in science reporting for “Ticking Ecological Time Bombs: Thousands Of Sunken Ships From World War II Are Rusting At The Bottom Of The Pacific.”

The story was part of a series probing the lethal legacy from the war that continues to plague the Solomon Islands.

Heaton also was named third place in the public service category for the “UXO: Lethal Legacy” project.

Eagle, meanwhile, received first place in feature photography/videography for his “mesmerizing” photo of an underwater plane wreck in the Solomon Islands.

Reporter Cassie Ordonio, who now works for Hawaii Public Radio, received second place in the science reporting category for her Civil Beat story “How To Keep Hawaii’s Rarest Plants From Disappearing? Freeze Them.”

Ordonio also got first place in the arts/entertainment writing category for “A Tale Of 2 Monarchies: Queen Elizabeth’s Death Stirs Up Mixed Feelings In Hawaii.”

Hawaii Business Magazine reporter Noelle Fujii-Oride’s work won first, second and third place for data journalism story or series, with “May 2022 – Here’s Which Ethnic Groups Make the Most Money in Hawaii” taking top honors.

“Inside Saguaro Prison,” HNN’s on-site look at the Arizona facility that holds many Hawaii inmates, won first place in the special section category for Lynn Kawano and Peter Tang.

In the online news reporting category, Kirstin Downey received first place for “’It’s A Nightmare’: Feral Pig Population Explosion Rattles East Honolulu Neighborhood.”

Maui-based Civil Beat reporter Marina Riker won first and third place in the online feature reporting category for two stories on a couple living in their car to make ends meet on the Valley Isle and a Hawaiian family’s effort to reclaim ancestral land.

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