Bridge wins 12 awards from Society of Professional Journalists for state coverage

Bridge Magazine earned a dozen “Excellence in Media” awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Detroit Chapter, for 2014 reporting on such varied topics as state education, consumer watchdog issues, the legacy of NAFTA and Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy.

Competing in the online journalism division, open to all online, print and broadcast media, Bridge swept the Consumer/Watchdog Reporting category and took first place in four of the eight awards categories for its 2014 reporting at the SPJ annual awards ceremony in Troy on April 15 (See full list of Bridge winners below).

“Bridge is building its staff and its ambitions and we’re just beginning to hit our stride,” said Bridge Editor David Zeman. “I think we feel like we can compete with anyone, while continuing to deliver incisive, thought-provoking journalism for our growing readership.”

Bridge Senior Writer Ron French took first place in Consumer/Watchdog reporting for “Oil lease proposed under 400-year-old virgin pines,” which revealed the state’s plan to put a parcel of Hartwick Pines State Park with the largest remaining stand of old growth white pines in the Lower Peninsula up for auction for possible oil drilling. The state Department of Natural Resources later pulled that 9,700-acre parcel from the auction block after a public uproar following French’s report. Bridge also took second place with French teaming with then-Central Michigan University students Kyle Kaminski and Kurt Nagl on “The five-year four-year degree,” which revealed that most Michigan public and private universities had four-year grad rates below the national average, raising costs for students and their families.

Two Bridge education stories also took top honors. French took first place in the Feature Story category for “13 Miles to Marshall,” about the merger of two school districts, one poor and mostly African-American and the other predominantly white and more affluent. And French, Mike Wilkinson and Chastity Pratt Dawsey won the General News Reporting category for “The smartest kids in the nation,” which explored what Michigan can learn from high-achieving or fast-improving education states such as Massachusetts, Tennessee, Minnesota and Florida.

Bridge freelance reporter Serena Daniels won first place in the Best Localization of a National Story category for “The 20 year legacy of NAFTA in Michigan,” which showed how the trade agreement spawned a burgeoning auto industry in Mexico while also impacted companies back in Michigan.

Bridge received two awards for its work as part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, among eight awards total for DJC partners. Wilkinson teamed with DJC colleague Sandra Svoboda of WDET, Detroit Public Radio, to take second place in Digital Media Presentation for reports showing the impact of so-called Super PACS on Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan’s mayoral campaign, and third place in Watchdog Reporting for a DJC-wide effort, “Benchmark Detroit,” which measured the city’s progress on key performance metrics under Duggan. WDET won 14 awards total at the SPJ event, including six for its DJC reporting.

SPJ Detroit’s Excellence in Media awards were presented to media organizations for their work in 2014 in such categories as news and sports reporting, column and editorial writing, photography and graphics. SPJ said this year's contest received over 400 entries. Winners were selected by the Louisville and Florida SPJ professional chapters. A full list of winners is on the chapter’s website,

At the awards event, SPJ honored Detroit Free Press reporter Jennifer Dixon, who led the paper’s investigation of Michigan’s charter school system, as the chapter’s Journalist of the Year. Free Press reporter Nathan Bomey, who led the Freep’s city bankruptcy coverage, was named Young Journalist of the Year.

Here’s a list of Bridge honors:

Consumer/Watchdog Reporting
1st Place – Ron French - Oil lease proposed under 400-year-old virgin pines
2nd Place – Ron French and CMU journalism students – The five-year four-year degree
3rd Place – Mike Wilkinson, Chastity Pratt-Dawsey, Nancy Derringer, Rick Haglund and DJC partners – Benchmark Detroit

Feature Story
1st Place – Ron French – 13 Miles to Marshall
Honorable Mention – David Ashenfelter – Tom McMillin: Tea Party conservative, ACLU sympathizer

General News Reporting
1st Place – Ron French, Chastity Pratt-Dawsey, Mike Wilkinson – The Smartest Kids in the Nation
Honorable Mention – Pat Shellenbarger, Ted Roelofs – Down and Out in Michigan

Best Localization of a National Story
1st Place – Serena Daniels – The 20 Year Legacy of NAFTA in Michigan

Digital Media Presentation
2nd Place – Mike Wilkinson, Sandra Svoboda – Duggan donor database
Honorable Mention – Mike Wilkinson – One state, many nations

Spot or Breaking News
3rd Place – Nancy Derringer, Ron French, Ted Roelofs, Mike Wilkinson – November election analysis

Honorable Mention – John Bebow – March Gradness

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Tue, 04/21/2015 - 8:35am
Bridge has by far the best writing on current issues in Michigan. The Gannett papers are a sad pathetic joke, Mlive is just about as bad and the local TV coverage, well, don't even ask.
Roger Martin
Tue, 04/21/2015 - 9:49am
As a former journalist at a pretty darn high level, I can objectively observe that Bridge is doing the best journalism in Michigan right now. As more news content moves onto digital delivery platforms, Bridge is well positioned to assume the throne as Michigan's best and most trusted source of information that matters most to our communities, families and daily lives. Proud to be a reader and proud to be an early advocate of this emerging enterprise.
Lou Ann McKimmy
Tue, 04/21/2015 - 10:37am
Congratulations for such perceptive reporting and even representation.
Ellie Cruze
Tue, 04/21/2015 - 11:08am
Kudos to the Bridge team!
Charlene Schlueter
Tue, 04/21/2015 - 12:07pm
I'm not surprised. I subscribe to the Bridge newsletter, and it's the first place I go to when researching a Michigan related topic. Congratulations!
Kim Gribi
Tue, 04/21/2015 - 10:28pm
Well done and well deserved. In this day and age of sound bite news, I am truly appreciative of both the breadth and depth of the coverage provide by The Bridge and Center for Michigan. Your coverage of important Michigan issues is fair and balanced (truly!) with a focus on exposing issues for the purpose of improving our state. Thank you!
john grant
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 5:56pm
Congrats, everybody! Quality work in a news media desert. Keep up the good work.