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Detroit News' Lansing Bureau reporter Mauger headlines slate of SPJ awards

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Detroit News staff won 43 honors, including Lansing Bureau reporter Craig Mauger as Journalist of the Year, during the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists' annual award ceremony on Thursday.

Lansing Bureau reporter Craig Mauger was named Journalist of the Year during the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists' annual award ceremony on Thursday.

Mauger was cited for his extensive reporting on state politics and campaign finance.

Mauger also won first place in the Open-Government Reporting category for reporting on secret severance deals involving two former top state officials.

“This series is a shining example of dogged reporting that has a tangible impact. The writing is clear and the reporting is persistent,” the competition judges said. “I especially appreciate how the reporter noted when questions or record requests went unanswered, and how they explained what the revelations meant in terms of transparency and the handling of public dollars.”

The News also won eight other first-place prizes and 16 second-prize honors during the ceremony at San Marino Club in Troy.

The accolades recognize the work of Metro Detroit journalists during 2021. They were selected by a jury of veteran journalists and educators from several news media outlets outside the area, SPJ Detroit said.

“Despite the pandemic, this was another incredible year of entries in the chapter’s Excellence in Journalism completion for identifying the best work produced in 2021,” chapter president Beth Konrad said in a statement last month.

The Detroit News winners in each category were:

Breaking/Spot News Reporting

The Detroit News staff won first place for coverage focused on the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School that left four students dead and left six students and a teacher wounded..

Washington correspondent Melissa Burke won second place for “Inside House chamber: Gas masks, barricades, an 'I love you' text.'” The piece covered the scene of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Community/Local News Reporting

Former Staff Writer Neal Rubin won second place for “Signs of recovery build in Sanford one year after Edenville dam collapse.”

Editorial Writing

Deputy editorial page editor Ingrid Jacques took first place for her editorials, which the judges described as "plain-spoken."

“And while the themes are slightly different — university president salaries, checking on fact-checkers and government business conducted in secret — the underlying theme is the public's right to their government and knowledge about how it runs,” the judges wrote. “Well done!"

Education Reporting

Higher education reporter Kim Kozlowski won second place for “Detroit's college aid program falls short, but hopes remain.”

Explanatory story

Washington correspondent Riley Beggin won first place for a package of stories on the mining required to build electric vehicles.

The judges said: “Relevant to the community, information the average person couldn't get themselves, extremely well balanced, well explained, and does well to cover other aspects like native and environmental.”

Riley Beggin

Mauger earned second place with “How mistakes in rural Michigan county led to big election disinformation.”

Feature Page Design

Senior design editor Antone Amye won first place for “Celebrating Juneteenth.” 

The judges said: “Strong impact through the use of the dominant photograph, color and type of the page. Good uses of sizes and shapes to pull the reader into the page.” 

Amye also won second place for “Food for your love.”

Feature Photography

Assistant multimedia editor Andy Morrison won first place for his photo of airborne sledders at Grosse Ile Country Club.

“The happiness sparked in the people sledding transmits to the viewer and has the ability to create a sense of joy and fun within them,” the judges said.

Andy Morrison

Feature Reporting

Detroit Pistons beat writer Rod Beard won second place for “Pistons' superstar mother beats cancer, builds amazing family, career.”

Headline Reporting

News editor Andreas Supanich won second place.

Investigative Reporting 

Lansing Bureau reporter Beth LeBlanc won second place for her reporting on fraud and mistakes in Michigan's unemployment system

News Photography

Staff Photographer David Guralnick won second place for “Flooding disbelief.” 

Page One Design

Graphic artist Diana McNary won second place for “Rampage shatters Oxford.”

Portrait Photography

Photographer Max Ortiz won first place for “Dorothy Zehnder celebrates 100,” which showcased the matriarch of the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth.

“It's an engaging portrait that shows her interacting with the environment and captures her life,” the judges said.

Sports Column Writing

Sports columnists Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo won first and second place, respectively. 

“The distance between first and fourth place is razor thin,” the judges said. “Each of these columnists is a powerful writer with unique analysis. But Wojnowski is the cream of the crop.”

Sports Page Design

Page designer Richard Epps won first place for “End of an Era.”

The judges wrote: “Strong center of visual impact that help lead the reader through the page. Clean, simple and easy to follow typographic devices for strong readability.” 

Rick Epps

Sports Photography

Guralnick won first place for “Touchdown catch.” 

The judges said: “This image captures peak action with full bodies and faces to really draw in the viewer. The frame is well executed by including enough of the background to get a sense of the environment.”

Sports reporting

General assignment reporter Carol Thompson won second place for “Southeast Michigan kayakers died in 'absolute worst' Lake Superior conditions.” 

Car Review

Auto columnist Henry Payne won first place.

Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne


Features reporter and critic Melody Baetens won second place for her restaurant reviews.


Morrison won second place for “Michigan Marvels: The Soo Locks.”

Sojourner Truth Award in Topical Reporting

Reporter Oralandar Brand-Williams won second place for her work.