Kozlowski named SPJ Detroit Journalist of the Year; News staff claims 40 awards

Amelia Benavides-Colón
The Detroit News
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Detroit News reporter Kim Kozlowski on Tuesday was named Journalist of the Year and The News staff claimed 40 awards and 12 honorable mentions during the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists annual award ceremony.

Kozlowski has been a reporter at The News for 21 years and has covered higher education since 2009.

Four years after she covered the sex abuse scandal at Michigan State University involving Larry Nassar, she got a call from Robert Julian Stone. He was the first to accuse the late-Dr. Robert Anderson of sexual misconduct, and his claim brought out more than 850 other accusers with similar allegations. Her coverage of Anderson led to her recognition from SPJ.

Abuse Survivor Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, prepares to speak to students at Birmingham Seaholm High School on Thursday, January 23, 2020 about her courageous decision to publicly accuse Nassar.

“I am grateful that Robert and other sexual assault victims have trusted the media to share their stories in their efforts to find closure and demand justice,” Kozlowski said Tuesday.

In addition to Kozlowski's top prize, The News swept the editorial writing, feature page design and sports page design categories. The News also received first-place awards in the Racial Justice Reporting category for coverage of protests after the death of George Floyd and Consumer/Watchdog Reporting category. 

Autos reporter Breana Noble was runner-up for Young Journalist of the Year. 

Here are the Detroit News winners in each category: 

Consumer/Watchdog Reporting

Christine Ferretti won first place in the Consumer/Watchdog Reporting category for her story Redford trailer park tenants sue owner over 'neglect', 'blighted conditions. The story was commended by judges for its engaging storyline as it focuses on the struggle of an 81-year-old tenant fighting to keep her home.

Riley Beggin closed out the category with an honorable mention for her piece: 550,000 pickups are cheating on diesel emissions; Michigan has no program to stop it.

"Pee Wee Boxer;" Jackson Palmer warms up with his coach and manager Kevin McKinney before a boxing match at the Downtown Boxing Gym for the Michigan Silver Gloves youth boxing tournament.


Ingrid Jacques swept the Editorial writing category with her column, Whitmer order endangers nursing homes; end it now, winning first place. Her piece on charter students earned second; third place went to Even in a crisis, school accountability is key.


Jennifer Chambers won first place in the Education category with her story, Homeless students face extra obstacles amid COVID-19. Chambers also won second place with her story, Lack of high-speed internet leaves rural Michigan students disconnected from learning.

Chambers closed out the Education category with her fourth-place win for her article, Schools in Michigan take hard look at teaching 'soft skills'.

Explanatory Story

Neal Rubin won first place in the Explanatory Story category with his piece, Mill workers at Zug Island steel themselves for the end.

Second place in the category went to Kalea Hall and Jordyn Grzelewski for their story: Workers seek answers about their rights as pandemic rages on.

Environmental Reporting

Beth LeBlanc placed second with her story on the Edenville Dam failure.

Mike Martindale and Kalea Hall placed third with their story: After flood reached Dow, Superfund pollution site, regulators have yet to test water.

Shanise Tucker of Allen Park with her dog Madison sit on a custom designed couch topped with mirror balls in the basement level of her unique home.

Feature Page Design

First, second and third places went to Antone Amye, with fourth place going to Diana McNary for their work on features. 

Feature Photography

David Guralnick took home the second-place award for his Virtual Service photographs.

Feature Reporting

Francis X. Donnelly won an honorable mention for his body of work.

General Column Writing

Maureen Feighan won third place for a selection of her columns, and Brendan Clarey received an honorable mention for his editorial columns.

General News Reporting

Christine Ferretti brought home her second award with a third-place win for her story: "I die a hero": COVID-19 sweeps away matriarch in flood-ravaged mid-Michigan.

Headline Writing

Steve Wilkinson won first place for his headlines.

Investigative Reporting

Kozlowski won second place for her investigation of Dr. Robert Anderson, and Craig Mauger received an honorable mention for his piece on Michigan nursing home deaths.

News Photography

"Unimaginable Pain:" Cassandra Brown touches the forehead of her late husband, Freddie Lee Brown, Jr., after she cries over her late son, Freddie Lee Brown, III, right. They both died from COVID-19 three days apart.

Photographer Todd McInturf won second place for his "Unimaginable Pain" photographs.

Open-Government Reporting

Mauger brought in his second award with his first-place win for his piece: Investigations into mystery money and donor influence.

Page One Design

James Hollar won third place for his Zug Island page design and also received an honorable mention for his Impala's Last Run page design.

James Hollar took third place in the SPJ Detroit contest for this April 20, 2020 design featuring Zug Island.

Portrait Photography

Max Ortiz brought home two awards in the portrait photography category with second place going to his portrait of Shanise Tucker and third place going to his portrait of Rachael Denhollander.

Racial Justice Reporting

The News took home another first-place award, this time for its coverage of the Detroit protests by Ferretti, George Hunter, Sarah Rahal and Casey Harrison. The judges made note of the thoroughness of the reporting, applauding the piece.

Sports Column Writing

John Niyo was awarded third place for his work.

Sports Page Design

It was another full sweep for The News as Julie Altesleben walked away with first and second place for sports page design, with Amye winning third place, and an honorable mention going to Hollar.

Sports Photography

Daniel Mears was given first place for his "Remembering Kobe" image, second place went to David Guralnick for his "Hard Check" photo and Max Ortiz founded the category off with a third-place win for "Pee Wee Boxing."

"Remembering Kobe:" A giant image of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant appears on the big screen at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit during a special pre-game ceremony to remember the late superstar one day after he died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 in California.

Sports Reporting

Reporter Tony Paul received third place for his story on ex-Tiger Armando Galarraga with an honorable mention going to his story: Big and rich: Beefy Bryson DeChambeau turns DGC into his 'bomber's paradise'.

Spot or Breaking News Reporting

The News won second place for its coverage of the Midland flooding by Donnelly, James David Dickson, LeBlanc and Hunter.

Third place went to Robert Snell, Melissa Burke, LeBlanc, Ferretti and Hunter for their story: The alleged plot to kidnap a governor, overthrow a government

Ariana Taylor, Beggin and Grzelewski received an honorable mention for their story: Fights, drivers using woods as toilet, workers out sick: USPS buried in Metro Detroit mail

Automotive Reporting

Noble placed second with her story: "After the Germans and Italians, can Chrysler 'pull together' with the French?" and received an honorable mention for her story "Dealerships have fewer vehicles to sell. Some like this 'new normal'.

Third place in the automotive category went to Hall for her article: "Chevrolet Impala's last run: Production ends, but spirit likely to live on."

"Hard Check:" Detroit defenseman Filip Hronek checks Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon into the boards in the second period.

Cover Design

McNary brought home two more awards and an honorable mention in the cover design category. Second place went to her "All About Orchids" design, third place to "Comfort & Joy" and an honorable mention for her "The Light Fantastic" design.


Restaurant critic Melody Baetens wrapped up the award show with her third-place win for her best work.

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