The Salt Lake Tribune scores top honors in Society of Professional Journalists’ Utah contest

The Salt Lake Tribune’s reporting, editing and photography have been honored by the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Tribune received 16 first-place awards in the SPJ chapter’s annual contest at an awards banquet held Thursday night at the Gallivan Center. The Tribune also received eight second-place awards, nine third-place honors, and five honorable mentions.

Among the highlights for The Tribune:

• The Tribune was honored as Utah’s best news-oriented website.

• Political reporter Bryan Schott was named the state’s best newspaper reporter.

• Tribune photographer Trent Nelson was honored as Utah’s best news photographer.

Family members at a vigil at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City for Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. Hoover was killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. The photo was among those that earned Salt Lake Tribune photographer Trent Nelson the award for “best photographer” at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Utah Headliners chapter’s annual contest, whose results were announced June 16, 2022.

• The Tribune’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic received top honors. The Tribune’s staff received a first-place award for its continuing coverage of COVID-19, while The Tribune’s writers swept the podium in the COVID-19 investigative category — earning first-place, second-place, third-place and honorable-mention honors .

• In individual news beats, The Tribune’s reporters received first-place awards for coverage of education, environment, arts and entertainment, criminal justice, government and solutions journalism.

• The Tribune’s reporters also received first-place awards for continuing coverage (of rural homelessness) and general feature reporting (for coverage of the deaths of Paiute children at a state-run boarding school).

Among the special awards given out Thursday night, The Tribune received two of them.

One was the Josephine Zimmerman Pioneer in Journalism Award, given to the team of journalists from The Tribune — notably reporters Jessica Miller and Paighten Harkins, and former staffers Matt Canham and Sam Stecklow — and PBS’s documentary series “Frontline,” for the “Shots Fired project. The project combined investigative work, data journalism and “uniquely effective multi-platform storytelling” in building a database of police-involved shootings in Utah — a database that no law enforcement agency had compiled on their own.

The other was the Public Service Award given to the Utah Investigative Journalism Project, for its two-year reporting project “The Eviction Empire,” in partnership with The Tribune. Reporters who worked on the project reviewed thousands of documents, and interviewed nearly 150 sources — including more than 100 evicted Utahns to understand their experiences. The project created a website,, which consolidated renters’ resources and explained Utah’s housing laws in plain English.

Here are the awards received by The Tribune in this year’s annual contest. (For a full list of winners from all news outlets, including radio and television, go to the SPJ Utah chapter’s website,

News-oriented website

• First place: The Salt Lake Tribune staff.

Newspaper reporter

• First place: Bryan Schott.


• First place: Trent Nelson.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Edgar Gago, a man living on the streets of Provo, stood for a portrait on Sunday, May 16, 2021. The photo was among those that earned Salt Lake Tribune photographer Trent Nelson the award for ” best photographer” at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Utah Headliners chapter’s annual contest, whose results were announced June 16, 2022.

Arts and entertainment reporting

• First place: Sean P. Means, “Ballet alumni described body shaming, bias and intimidation. University of Utah faculty before continued reform.”

Business/consumer reporting

• Third place: Kolbie Peterson, “Enter the world of the Goodwill Outlet bins, where some Utahns are feeding the ultimate side hustle.”

Continuing coverage

• First place: Taylor Stevens, Bethany Rodgers, Trent Nelson, “Rural homelessness in Utah.”

• Honorable mention: Tony Semerad, “Wealth inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

COVID-19 continuing coverage

• First place: The Salt Lake Tribune staff.

COVID-19 investigative coverage

• First place: Bethany Rodgers, Taylor Stevens and Erin Alberty, “Utah leaders went rogue in early coronavirus response.”

• Second place: Erin Alberty, “Utahn’s missed out on millions in coronavirus relief.”

• Third place: Jessica Miller, shared with Nate Carlisle, FOX 13, “Here are the men who died from COVID-19 in Utah’s prisons.”

• Honorable mention: Erin Alberty, “Utah kids aren’t being notified of COVID-19 exposure until it’s almost too late to quarantine.”

Criminal justice reporting

• First place: Connor Sanders, “In shadow of Utah national parks, police juggle high call volumes.”

• Third place: Matthew D. LaPlante, “With Parler ban, Utah police and others may have lost a window into planned protests.”

Diversity and equity reporting

• Third place: Becky Jacobs, “How the other half eats.”

Education reporting

• First place: Courtney Tanner, “Earthquake dangers in Utah schools.”

• Third place: Courtney Tanner, “Grades start to improve in Salt Lake City, but don’t expect pre-pandemic scores.”

Environment reporting

• First place: Zak Podmore, Francisco Kjolseth, “As Lake Powell shrinks, the Colorado River is coming back to life.”

Feature page design

• Second place: Rudy Mesicek, The Mix cover, June 6, 2021.

• Third place: Rudy Mesicek: The Mix cover, Jan. 17, 2021.

General feature reporting

• First place: Courtney Tanner and Alastair Lee Bitsóí, “Bodies of Paiute children believed to be buried at site of former Utah indigenous boarding school.”

• Second place: Courtney Tanner, “’Mr. Lewis, your wife has woken up.’”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The city is not allowing unsheltered people to sleep in tents, so a woman covers herself with a blanket under an overpass, trying to stay out of the snow, on Tuesday, December 28, 2021. The photo earned Tribune photographer Rick Egan a first-place honor in the “general news photo” category at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Utah Headliners chapter’s annual contest, whose results were announced June 16, 2022.

General news photo

• First place: Rick Egan, “No Tents Allowed.”

• Third place: Trent Nelson, “Fallen Marine.”

General news reporting

• Second place: Leia Larsen, “$500K in federal coronavirus money used to build tubing hill in Utah’s Uintah County.”

• Honorable mention: Leia Larsen, “How a Habitat for Humanity building plan went awry.”

Government reporting

• First place: Leia Larsen, “Republican women say they experienced a toxic environment in the Salt Lake County GOP.”

• Second place: Matt Canham, “What is ‘the Utah way’?”

• Honorable mention: Bryan Schott, “A Utah group is going door to door looking for election fraud.”


• First place: Francisco Kjolseth and Zak Podmore, “Shrinking Lake Powell.”

personality profile

• Honorable mention: Peggy Fletcher Stack, “This ‘Jeopardy!’ king loves atlases, legos, long novels and trivia, but who is the real Ken Jennings?”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two wild horses from the Onaqui wild horse herd spar and fight, after the first day of the removal of wild horses from Utah’s Onaqui Mountains near Dugway, on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. The photo was part of a package that earned Salt Lake Tribune photographer Rick Egan a third-place honor for “photo essay” at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Utah Headliners chapter’s annual contest, whose results were announced June 16, 2022.

Photo essay

• Third place: Rick Egan, “Onaqui Horses.”


• Second place: David Noyce, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Christopher Samuels, “‘Mormon Land’: In wake of Capitol siege, a conversation with retired Senate leader Harry Reid.”

• Third place: Xoel Cardenas, Andy Larsen and Eric Walden, “How ‘Bout This Jazz, Ep. 11: Can the Utah Jazz backcourt step it up on defense?”

Solutions journalism

• First place: Luke Peterson, “How a Utah vertical farm combats climate change.”

• Second place: Saige Miller and Becky Jacobs, “Closing Utah’s wage gap.”

Spot news photo

• First place: Rick Egan, “Parley’s Fire.”

Use of news-oriented social media

• Second place: The Salt Lake Tribune staff, The Salt Lake Tribune on Twitter.

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