Friday, December 25, 2015

Paul Grabowicz, former Trib reporter, dies

Paul Grabowicz
(Associated Press) Paul Grabowicz, a former Oakland Tribune reporter who became a digital journalism pioneer at UC-Berkeley, has died.

The UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism said in an obituary on its website that Grabowicz died Thursday (Dec. 24). He was 66 and suffering from cancer.

Grabowicz, or "Grabs" as he was referred to by students, arrived at the school in 1995 and founded its New Media Program, which teaches students to combine video, audio and other media to create stories online.

Grabowicz also taught students what public records were available online and how to access them. Before joining UC Berkeley, Grabowicz spent 20 years as an investigative reporter for The Oakland Tribune.

Photo by Richard Koci Hernandez.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Longtime AP political writer Doug Willis dies

The following is AP's obit for Doug Willis.

BY TOM VERDIN, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Doug Willis, who followed Ronald Reagan from the governor's office to the presidential campaign trail and covered Jerry Brown's first stint as governor during a three-decade career writing about California politics for The Associated Press, has died. He was 77.

He died Tuesday night at a hospital in Sacramento from complications following hip surgery, said his wife, Judy. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's about three years ago and had been living in a memory-care home since summer, she said.

In this Jan. 19, 2011 AP photo by Rich Pedroncelli,
AP Correspondent Doug Willis talks
to Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento.
Judy Willis said it was especially sad that her husband suffered from dementia because he had such a quick wit, nimble mind and fail-safe memory throughout his journalism career and their 22-year marriage.

"Somebody once called him a walking encyclopedia," she said. "It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Indeed, Willis was something of an anomaly in a profession notorious for its aversion to math: He had won a full-ride engineering scholarship to Stanford University before getting bored with that major and switching to journalism.

Colleagues recalled him as a congenial but fierce competitor who never forgot a fact or let sources off the hook.

"He didn't give up. He would get his question answered," said Rebecca LaVally, a Sacramento State University communications lecturer who was a reporter and manager in the state capital for the competing wire service, United Press International, during the 1970s and 1980s.

She described Willis as determined, cordial, tenacious — and a bit rumpled.

"He didn't try to be showy or flashy," she said. Willis started with the AP in San Francisco in 1969 after beginning his career as a police and general assignment reporter for the old San Jose News and a brief stint as an editor for a newspaper in Bend, Oregon.

A year later, he was offered a temporary job helping the AP's Sacramento bureau cover the state Legislature. He did so well he was invited back the following year, when his assignment in the capital became permanent. He became correspondent, the bureau's top position, in 1974.

In a memoir written a decade after he retired, Willis recalled his first big scoop as a young reporter covering state government, one that relied on his analytical skills: Piecing together various threads of information, he was able to say how much state taxpayers were shelling out for each trip then-Gov. Ronald Reagan took in a leased private plane. Willis said his reporting on the cost every time Reagan flew to an event "annoyed both Reagan and my press corps rivals for the next three years."

Willis covered Reagan's last term as California governor and his two runs for the Republican nomination for president, in 1975-76 and 1979-80. He also was the AP's lead reporter covering another famous California governor with presidential aspirations. In his memoir, Willis described the abrupt transition from Reagan to Brown, who was 36 years old when he stepped into the governor's office the first time in 1975.

The buttoned-down formality of the Reagan years transitioned to an administration populated with Buddhist monks and former astronauts, Willis wrote. Reporters covering Brown in his current stint as governor would recognize some of Willis' successful techniques in getting the famously hard-to-nail-down governor to talk.

"Forget the press office," Willis wrote in his memoir. "Just catch up with Brown anyplace where there weren't a lot of people around to distract him, and just start asking questions. Once he was talking, if he started to lose interest and cut off an interview, I would just repeat one of his points back to him, but in a slightly inaccurate way. It always worked. He would stick with me until he was absolutely certain that I understood."

No reporter had better access to Brown than Willis, said Chuck McFadden, who was an AP reporter in Sacramento from 1970 to 1974. "Jerry admired people with brains, and Doug had a super abundance of brains," he said.

It was Willis who in March 1976 dictated the urgent news that Brown would run for the Democratic nomination for president, calling it in to the AP's San Francisco bureau from the governor's office and beating rival UPI by 35 minutes. Willis wrote that the governor hovered over his shoulder as he made the call and offered suggestions about what the story should say, "which I ignored."

In a statement issued Wednesday, the governor praised Willis' reporting style. "Doug was dogged, honest and a real pleasure to work with," Brown said. "We could use a few more like him."

An only child, Willis was born April 16, 1938, in Oakland, California, and was raised by his mother and grandmother. His father died during World War II, shot down in the Pacific while serving in the Army Air Corps.

Judy Willis said her husband never regretted changing majors from engineering to journalism. Rather, he fed off the excitement of being present at some of the biggest events of the day.

Willis was one of four AP staffers covering President Gerald Ford's visit to Sacramento in 1975 when Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme tried to shoot the president as he walked toward the Capitol. In addition to covering politics, he wrote about Cesar Chavez's farmworker strikes, got a jailhouse interview with mass murderer Juan Corona and helped cover one of the biggest tragedies in Sacramento history, when a fighter jet crashed into an ice cream parlor during an air show in 1972, killing 25.

He even smoked cigars and drank rum with Fidel Castro during a reporting assignment to Cuba in the 1980s. "He led a good life in Sacramento, and it was immensely gratifying for him," McFadden said. "It had to be gratifying to be a major political reporter in a state as big as California."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards announced

The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club presented the 38th Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, which honored the work of more than 140 journalists representing 35 media organizations. The club presented nearly 200 awards during the luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.

The club received received 398 entries from the 11 counties in the Bay Area. The contest was judged by press clubs in Cleveland, Florida, New Orleans, Orange County and Kern County.

Top award winners for Overall Excellence included:
•   South Bay Accent, First Place, Magazine/Trade Publications/Newsletters
•   India Currents, First Place, Digital Media
•   Palo Alto Weekly, First Place, Newspapers/Non-Daily
•   Pacifica Tribune, Second Place, Newspapers/Non-Daily
•   The Press Democrat, First Place, Newspapers/Daily
•   The San Francisco Examiner, Second Place, Newspapers/Daily
•   The Daily News Group, Third Place, Newspapers/Daily

Michael Howerton, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Examiner, gave a keynote speech, and investigative reporter Jonathan Greenberg was a guest speaker. The SFPPC awarded three $1,500 scholarships to promising student journalists: The Jack Russell Award was presented to Kellen Browning of Davis Senior High School; and Herb Caen Awards were presented to Maci Martell and Kyle Schmidt, both from Santa Rosa Junior College.

A new scholarship was established to honor the journalism career of Bill Workman, a former SF Chronicle reporter and past president of the SFPPC. Marla Lowenthal, Workman’s wife, presented the Bill Workman News Writer Award to the First Place winner of the Newspaper/Daily News Story category, Glenda Anderson of The Press Democrat.

(Click on the awards for better resolution)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Press Club awards luncheon tomorrow

The Press Club's Excellence in Journalism luncheon is tomorrow (Dec. 5, 2015), and below is a list of those who won, although we're not saying who got first-, second- or third-place awards until tomorrow's event. The luncheon will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1221 Chess Drive, Foster City.

Click here to register.

Organizations who won include: 

Al Jazeera America, The Argus, Bay Area Reporter, Bay City News, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg News, Central City Extra, Daily News Group, The Daily Post, East Bay Express, Fusion, Hechinger Report, The India Currents, KDTV Univision 14, KQED 9,, Los Gatos Weekly Times, Oakland Tribune, Pacifica Tribune, Palo Alto Weekly,, Press Democrat, Re/Code, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Examiner, The San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo County Office of Education, Santa Cruz Sentinel,, South Bay Accent,, Traditions Magazine,

Individual winners include: 

AJ Marson, Alexis Madrigal, Ali Thanawalla, Ali Winston, Alison Vekshin, Anita Felicelli Anne Campbell, Annie Pong, Antonia Ehlers, Aris Bernales, Ben Schein, Bert Johnson, Beth Schlanker, Bill Johnson, Breena Kerr, Carol Blitzer, Chris Bollini, Chris Roberts, Christopher Chung, Cierra Webb, Coburn Palmer, Cynthia Stone, Daily News Group Staff, Daniel Brown, Darwin Bond Graham, Dave Price, David Bacon, Debra Schaffner, Dick Sparrer Donna Krey, E.A. Barrera, Elena Kadvany, Elizabeth Schwyzer, Erin Baldassari, Gabriella Gamboa, Gennady Sheyner, Glenda Anderson, Godofredo Vasquez, Greg Frazier, Greg Silva, Horace Hinshaw, Jake Nicol, Jamey Padojino,

Jamie Morrow, Jane Northrop, Jane Tyska, Jason Lelchuck Jason Green, Jason Leskiw, Jaya Padmanabhan, Jayme Roy, Jeramy Gordon, Jeremy Hay, Jesse Garnier, Jessica Christian, Jessica Kwong, Jim Sweeney, Joanne Engelhardt, Joaquin Palomino, Joe Matazzoni, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriquez, Joel Engardio, Joel White, John Murphy John Angell Grant, John Orr, John Reid, Jonah Lamb, Jonathan Allen, Jonathan Greenberg Jondi Gumz, Julia Park Tracey, Kalpana Mohan, Kara Swisher, Kashmir Hill, Kathleen Richards, Kent Porter, Kerry Benefield, Kevin Kelly, Kevin Roose, Lillian Mongeau, Lindsay Oda, Lisa Rosenthal, Lise Stampfli Torme, Liz Gannes, Lowell Cohn, Luke Tsai,

Malcolm Fleschner, Marjorie Beggs, Mark Hedin, Matt McFetridge, Matthew S. Bajko, Matthew Stensland-Bos, Melissa Chan, Michael Barba, Michael Howerton, Michelle Wilkinson, Mike Anderson, Miles Garnier, Nancy Magee, Natalie Yemenidjian, Nellie Bowles, Norman Bonney, Pam Marino, Patty Hayes, Paul Dunn, Paul Gullixson, Peter Kafka, Peter Waldman, Phil Barber, Richard Gunderman, Robert Cartagena, Robert Digitale, Robert Gammon, Roxanne Pasibe, Sam Lefebvre, Sam Levin, Sara Gaiser, Sarah Burke, Sarah Todd, Sarita Sarvate, Scot Tucker, Scott Compton, Scott Morris, Sean McCourt, Shawn Whelchel, Shayna Rubin, Sue Dremann, Susan Hathaway, Susan Kerr, Terri Lobdell, Vandana Kumar, Veronica Weber, Vytas Mazeika, Walt Mossberg