HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now won five first-place awards in a statewide Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii chapter contest Friday.
Reporter Keoki Kerr, photo journalist Darin Akita and video editor Mahealani Kahoano won first place in the television investigative reporting category for an investigation into serious assaults by mental patients on employees at the Hawaii State Hospital that also uncovered allegations of mismanagement, nepotism and favoritism. The stories sparked a state Labor Department workplace violence probe that resulted in six serious workplace safety violations, an investigation and months of hearings by the State Senate, and a revamping of safety and training procedures at the state's only public mental hospital.
A series of reports about problems in the state prisons system earned first-place recognition in two categories: television government reporting and all-media government reporting, which includes broadcast, print and digital media. Akita and Kerr were honored for a TV story called "Prison Guard Sick Days," which revealed the high numbers of corrections officers who call in sick on New Years Day, Super Bowl Sunday and during the Final Four basketball championships. Kerr's online stories about prison guards' frequent use of sick days, the high percentage of guards who take family medical leave, the difficulty in disciplining guards who abuse sick leave and the first written tests for guard applicants came in first in the all-media government category.
Kerr won first in the TV general news/enterprise reporting category for a story about a new five-floor, $19 million city parking garage that remained almost empty for more than ten months, even though there was a 200-person waiting list of city employees wanting to park nearby.
Photo journalist George Hurd, Kahoano and Kerr took first place in the television business reporting category for a report about changes on the island of Lanai one year after billionaire Larry Ellison bought nearly all of the former pineapple isle.
The SPJ contest for Hawaii media was judged this year by members of SPJ's Colorado chapter.