Singing Our Own Praises: We Receive the Society of Professional Journalists’ NorCal Unsung Hero Award

Society of Professional JournalistsEvery year the NorCal Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honors members of the media. This year they chose Redheaded Blackbelt founder, Kym Kemp, (yes, I’m patting myself on the back because we’re so small, we don’t have anyone else to cover this) for the Unsung Hero award.

The Society announced the honor today. They note in the announcement that we cover “hyperlocal community news and crime, which sometimes evolve into much bigger stories.” They especially noted the articles, first reported on this site and dug into more deeply by KQED, about police officers taking marijuana grown in Humboldt County and then not logging it into evidence. This led to officers in the Rohnert Park Police and Fire Department being put on leave.

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Full Press release below:

The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, honors Matthias Gafni of the Mercury News/East Bay Times as Journalist of the Year for the 33rd Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.
The chapter honors Gafni for his tireless pursuit of public records and relentless reporting to get to the bottom of systemic problems. His work revealed the contribution of downed utility lines to Wine Country fires last year, exposed how governmental failures led to a toddler’s death from methamphetamine poisoning while she was in foster care, and showed how an Air Canada jet barely missed crashing into multiple airplanes at SFO on a landing approach.

The SPJ NorCal board honors Carolyn Tyler, who recently retired from ABC7, with the Career Achievement Award for Broadcast. Tyler spent 32 years chronicling many of the Bay Area’s major stories as a reporter and weekend anchor. She was part of the team that won a Peabody Award for coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake, and she snagged interviews with personalities from Willie Mays to Oprah Winfrey. She also relentlessly covered the region’s political stories, from homelessness to the fight for marriage equality.


The board also honors Gary Richards of the Mercury News/East Bay Times with the Career Achievement Award for Print. His low-key but determined approach to addressing readers’ problems with the region’s transportation network has consistently made his eight-times-a-week “Roadshow” column the Mercury News’s most popular feature. And when physical problems left him unable to drive, he conscripted traffic engineers, CHP officers, and even his life partner, now known as “Mrs. Roadshow” into the column to be his eyes and ears. Also: when he contacted the powers-that-be, things that were broken got fixed.


Kym Kemp receives the Unsung Hero Award. She is a Southern Humboldt blogger who covers hyperlocal community news and crime, which sometimes evolve into much bigger stories. Kemp’s initial reporting about multiple drivers who said Rohnert Park police pulled them over on minor pretexts and then seized their marijuana and cash under asset forfeiture led to a collaboration with KQED. Further investigation showed that the seized items were not properly logged by police. The city began an administrative investigation and subsequently put two of the officers involved in the incidents on leave.

KZST receives the SPJ NorCal Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service to Journalism Award. Staff at the Santa Rosa radio station pitched in and used their own cars to move nearby patients to safe locations when they heard their station was likely to be consumed by last year’s Wine Country fires. Once they got the all-clear, staffers — only one of whom had a journalism background — returned to work and rolled up their sleeves, changing the station format from music to news to serve their community’s immediate need for information about the fires.
The Silver Heart Award goes to Alexis Terrazas of El Tecolote. His in-depth research and fearless interviews with white nationalist proponents uncovered a nationalist who subsequently was terminated from employment and exposed a Ku Klux Klansman who was hiding his Catholic and Jewish heritage. His reporting has been used by KQED for its investigation into white nationalist groups implicated in the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, and aired by Univision in Spanish for a report that won a Northern California Emmy.
Dr. Derek Kerr is honored with the board’s John Gothberg/Meritorious Service to SPJ Award. Kerr is a member of the chapter’s Freedom of Information committee and a whistleblower who won a legal fight against San Francisco’s Laguna Honda hospital for firing him after he exposed their misuse of funds that were intended for patients. He has worked tirelessly in favor of sunshine laws and policies ever since, and has been a crucial supporter of SPJ NorCal’s work in this area.

The 2018 winners will be honored at SPJ NorCal’s 33rd Excellence in Journalism Awards Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Delancey Street Restaurant in San Francisco. For details and to purchase tickets, please see

2018 Award Winners
Board Awards
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Matthias Gafni, Mercury News/East Bay Times



CAREER ACHIEVEMENT — PRINT: Gary Richards, Mercury News/East Bay Times
UNSUNG HERO: Kym Kemp, Redheaded Blackbelt
SILVER HEART: Alexis Terrazas, El Tecolote

Contest Awards
ARTS & CULTURE (print/online large division): Nastia Voynovskaya of KQED for “Saving the Music of Ghost Ship Victims Helps Loved Ones Heal.”

ARTS & CULTURE (print/online small division): Rebecca Huvel, Rachel Leibrock, Steph Rodriguez of Sacramento News & Review for their food reporting in “Baked-in love,” “The cost of a meal,” and “The paprika steeper.”

ARTS & CULTURE (radio/audio): Ian Coss, Nancy Mullane and Tony Gannon of Life of the Law for “Gift and Curse of Music — Haiti’s Fight for Copyright.”
ARTS & CULTURE (TV/video): Kelley Whalen of KQED for arts and culture filmmaking, including “Meet the Ace of Cups, the Haight’s (Almost) Forgotten All-Girl Band,” “Watch a Santa Rosa Cartoonist’s ‘Fire Story’ Come to Life,” and “Street Artist Reflects Native American Dignity at a Monumental Scale.”


BEST SCOOP (all media): Jennifer Wadsworth of Metro Silicon Valley for her coverage of claims about Santa Clara councilman Dominic Caserta’s history of sexual harassment, loss of endorsements, police investigation and resignation.

BREAKING NEWS (print/online): Joe Eskenazi, Laura Wenus, Julian Mark of Mission Local for their coverage of Mayor Ed Lee’s untimely death, the feelings of the Chinese community in the Mission and other Mission leaders, and appointment of Mark Farrell as interim mayor.

BREAKING NEWS (TV/video): KNTV NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48 for their coverage of the North Bay firestorm and its immediate aftermath.


COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (print/online): Mark Fiore of KQED for his “Drawn to the Bay” graphic commentary, including “Filomena’s Flight: A Story of Family Separation” and “The Needle Sweepers.”

COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (radio/audio): Kanwalroop Kaur Singh, Lisa Morehouse, James Rowlands and Gabe Grabin of KALW for “‘I ain’t here for no reason’: Stories of Sikh-American resilience.”

COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS (TV/video): AJ+ staff for the Newsbroke series, a comedic deep-dive into issues lurking behind the daily headlines.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (print/online – general): Joe Eskenazi, Lydia Chavez and Julian Mark of Mission Local for their range, texture and depth of coverage of San Francisco’s Mission District.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (print/online – single subject): The San Francisco Public Press for “Solving Homelessness,” a project exploring several ways for getting more people into housing, including an analysis of city data on empty rooms in residential hotels.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): KALW and Oakland Voices for “Sights & Sounds of East Oakland” which highlights neighborhood stories featuring local history, youth voices, transit issues, neighborhood safety and more.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM (TV/video): The Northern California staff of Univision 14, for a special episode of “Tu Gente, Tu Voz” featuring an array of community stories.

DATA VISUALIZATION (all media): Aaron Glantz, Emmanuel Martinez, Allison McCartney and Michael Corey from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting for “Kept Out,” an interactive visualization showing racial discrimination in mortgage lending across the United States.


DESIGN (print): Reid M. Brown, HyunJu Chappell and Noah Arroyo of the San Francisco Public Press for the print layout, graphics and design for “Solving Homelessness.”

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Julia Lurie of Mother Jones for her reporting on the opioid epidemic, including portraits of the human cost of addiction, with stories of treatment and relapse, as well as the battles of law enforcement and medical personnel to cope and help.


EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Jennifer Gollan of Reveal for The Center for Investigative Reporting for “Treading Dangerously,” about lax safety inside a Goodyear tire plant that resulted in the death of a worker.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Matt Levin, Ben Christopher and  John Osborn D’Agostino of CALmatters for “Californians: Here’s why your housing costs are so high,” which included a take on what a $500,000 home looks like in different parts of the state, the influence of foreign investors and housing costs for refugees.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM (radio/audio): Eli Wirtschafter, Andrew Stelzer, James Rowlands and Gabe Grabin of KALW for “Curb Wars,” a series of stories about parking, public parklets and the high demand and competition for curb access in San Francisco.

FEATURES JOURNALISM (print/online large division): Ellen Huet of Bloomberg Businessweek for “The Dark Side of OneTaste.”

FEATURES JOURNALISM (print/online small division): Raheem F. Hosseini of Sacramento News & Review for “His brother‘s keeper.”

FEATURES (radio/audio): Anouthinh Pangthong, Greg Eskridge, Kelton O’Connor, Luke Colondres and Miguel Sifuentes of San Quentin Radio and KALW for a series of audio features on losing your language, rebuilding family relationships, autism, team building and the cycle of incarceration in one family.

FEATURES AND LONGFORM STORYTELLING (TV/video): Dena Takruri, Shadi Rahimi, Melissa Aparicio and Youssif Salah of AJ+ for “Why Oakland Wants Ex-Convicts To Grow Weed.”
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (print/online large division): Thomas Peele and Harriet Blair Rowan of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for “Burned Out,” their shocking report on the failure of fire inspectors across the Bay Area to perform state-required inspections of schools and apartment buildings.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (print/online small division): Jennifer Wadsworth of Metro Silicon Valley for reporting on the Santa Clara County sheriffs’ hate speech texting scandal, including a demotion, an ouster, a statement from other officers who said they would leave, campaign compromises, a lost endorsement and ultimately a resignation.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (radio/audio): Sukey Lewis, Marisa Lagos and Lisa Pickoff-White of KQED for “‘My World Was Burning’: The North Bay Fires and What Went Wrong.”
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (TV/video): Vicky Nguyen, Kevin Nious, Jeremy Carroll and Mark Villarreal of KNTV NBC Bay Area for “Drivers Under Siege.”

LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online large division): Julia Prodis Sulek and LiPo Ching of the Mercury News/East Bay Times for “Hanging: The Mysterious Case of the Boy in the Barn.”


LONGFORM STORYTELLING (print/online small division): Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside for “One day, one night: The fuse that lit the Battles of Berkeley.”


LONGFORM STORYTELLING (radio/audio): Angela Johnston, Marissa Ortega-Welch and Lisa Morehouse of KALW for “Persistent Poison: Lead’s toxic legacy in the



  • Congrats Kym!!!!! Well deserved!!

  • Congratulations on some well earned praise and recognition.

  • I love to see your efforts praised. You do an incredible job.
    Brava, Kym!!

  • Congratulations Kym and Staff. This is a well deserved honor. Thanks for the work you do.

  • Woohoo! Congratulations, Kym! You are so dedicated and seemingly tireless (I know you do get exhausted but you just keep at it) and certainly deserve this award!

  • Congratulations! Well done.

  • Well done Kym! Truly deserved. You’re now the place most of us go to for our local news. And your reporting is always fair, well researched and honest. Thank you!

  • Right on kym you totly deserve this award and more congratulations woman you rock or you go girl

  • You have so earned this, Kym. Bravo!

  • Well deserved, Kym. Congratulations!

  • Congratulations to you. Enjoy your news spots

  • You earned it. Congratulations.

  • Waaaay overdue!!!
    Excellent work! And Congratulations Very much well deserved. Myself having just moved back this year after being gone since ’96, i can honestly say RHBB is the best “New Thing” ive found (and here i was all those years relying on the times substandard like a sucker). You and the crack News Team you have assembled are without question the absolute Best source for real local, Grassroots, boots on the ground and toes in the sand Humboldt and North Coast news, information and ideas and there isn’t a close second. Ill attribute it to the law of attraction but even your comment section is far more informative, insightful and interesting than your competitors which shows your readership to be an obviously educated, well spoken, engaging, interesting, opinionated yet open-minded historically informed/accurate, locally plugged in and always hilarious group that really care about where they live. In other words, we mirror you.
    Great job Kym, youre one hell of a journalist..

  • Well congratulations, and that award is well deserved!

  • there it is….so proud of you..your diligence..and your true deduction to this community ..thanks for being our own

  • Cause you are the best! And care!

  • Good on ya Kym.

  • Congratulations!! RHBB is a great source of news and views. I am impressed and have become a daily visitor.

  • This is the best news source for the North Coast!

  • Congratulations, Kym! You should be proud of all of the hard and smart work you continue to do, and I’m so glad that it has been noticed, professionally, as well. Very happy for you!

  • So deserved! I am beyond proud! 💜

  • You ARE the best Kym…. thanks so much for all the dedication and hardwork and sacrifice on your part that makes the Redheaded Blackbelt so great! You have a very large and appreciative choir singing your praises.

  • kudos for a job very well done miss kym

  • Awesome

  • Congratulations Kym. Now the rest of the world will know what the north coast has known all along. You are the best!

    You do an amazing job with very little resources. I hope you will go to the dinner and rub elbows with the other award winners. The people that you will meet there will be a world class experience.

    Be sure to tell them that you won Southern Humboldt’s most prestigious award: The “Citizen of the Year”. I would speculate that few others can claim that.

    • I was just telling Mom tonight that I’m very very proud of the SPJ award but, getting the Citizen of the Year award means even more. I love that the folks I love so much care about me.

  • Your news has been invaluable to me. Very well deserved!

  • Congratulations, Kym! Well deserved!!!

  • Very proud of you.

  • Congratulations! Thanks for being our eyes and ears. Your work is much appreciated by the community you serve.

  • It’s all been said. The only news I read…..

  • You are a hero who deserves recognition, a pat on the back, and weeks-long vacation UNPLUGGED! You are loved (and your praises are sung) by us hyperlocals, who get to see (and benefit from) the hours you devote to so much more community well-being than this blog alone. Hyperhugs!

    • You are just trying to keep me handling the door at the Harvest Ball! But you don’t have to sweeten me up. I had a blast.

      • You don’t need any sweetening: volunteering a ten hour shift and organizing a dozen people for your local school seems to be your idea of fun! But you do so much more behind the scenes to help others that I’m in awe you have the energy for full time journalism as well. xoxo.

  • Congratulations Kym!!

  • Congratulations Kym. Your amazing

  • Superb job Kym & Crew! Nothing goes better with that morning cup of coffee than the RHBB news! You have also probably kept me out of jail a few times by letting me vent on some of my own personal problems!!! It’s time for all your readers and fans to step up and pay their membership dues! When you become a *Star*, there are no more free concerts!

    Hard work does pay off, and you are proof of this! Thank you! You are definitely a Treat!!!

  • Yet another congratulation, Kym. You’ve done such a great job and service of finding and delivering the news to our community and keeping it real.

    And I dare say… RHBB is better than any other site. That’s my opinion and it’s one I’ve heard it from so many others. Well done.

  • Congratulations, Kym! I really respect all that you do, and the endless hours you put into it.
    I also appreciate your keeping it clean, and hitting that elusive balance between censoring/micromanaging and allowing it to turn into a free-for-all defined by the lowest of commenters.
    In other words, you keep the tone up without having to squash us down.
    You rock!

  • Good for you, Kym! We would not get much accurate news without you so please keep up the good fight.

  • Truly the blogger goddess! Very much deserved!

  • This is easily the most useful and helpful website in the region. It also exhibits a degree of civility that seems to be in short supply these days.

  • you are a light. love you.

  • Congrats! You rock! I’m always telling my non-Humboldt friends to check out your site to see what it’s really like here in our crazy wonderful home. You do a great job covering the serious stuff, but I really love that you make such an effort to include good news too.

  • So well-deserved! Congratulations Kym. You keep us informed and are always there promoting safety. We need you and your crew . Thank you for giving so much time to our communities.

  • Congratulations! Pretty cool!

  • You did a good job on the fires,too

  • As Mohammad Ali used to say, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And Kym, you do it in spades. Congratulations on both your honors.

  • May I add my congratulations, which are very well deserved ad earned, to the paeans of praise being heaped upon you this day. It’s the big payday – the unexpected bonus – the lottery win for doing what you love and doing it very, very well and consistently over a long period of time.
    You richly deserved Citizen of the Year Award as well.
    As my morning news every day and go to source for anything local as it happens, I am really happy for you this day.
    Enjoy the awards dinner too, I hope they pay mileage…;-)


  • I’m very proud of you Kym.

  • Chiming in with my congrats! I can’t add anymore to what has already been said except you have my thanks and great appreciation for the great work you do. Thank you and excellent job!

  • Congratulations Kym!

  • Well now – let’s just add another message of congratulations and appreciation to your growing collection! Thank you for all your hard work and for putting up with all us cranky crackpot commenters.

  • Now yer a sung hero! High time.

  • Well deserved, Kym! Besides your excellent performance as a journalist, you are a great role model!
    While living in the hills, way off the grid, managing a family, and building your blog site from scratch, you have found a way to support your community in a heretofore undeveloped method. You have, of course, long supported your community, and especially the kids who live in the the area closer to your home. Your presence of kindness, fairness, and occasionally disagreeing without being disagreeable are but a few marks of the fine person you are. You are blessed in many ways, and you share those blessings with us. Thank you!

  • Long over due. You deserve this award for all you do for our community.

  • Walter Chronicite

    Huzzah and keep it rolling! Hands down the best source of news for the triangle; when using search engines your website is always at the top and usually pretty lonely. I keep seeing you linked other random places too, but that could have something to do with my areas of interest on the internet. Fya!

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