Houston Press staff writer Michael Berryhill was named "Print Journalist of the Year" in the Press Club of Houston's 1997 Excellence in Journalism competition.
It was the second year in a row that a Press writer received the Press Club's top reporting award for newspapers with circulations of more than 100,000. Last year's winner was Steve McVicker, who finished second to Berryhill in this year's competition.
Entrants were asked to submit three of their stories published in 1996. Berryhill's entry consisted of "Ritalin on Trial," his January 1996 story disclosing the extensive use of the controversial drug in area schools; "Bitter Lesson," his May 1996 story exposing the bureaucratic bungling that resulted in a respected Fort Bend County teacher being falsely accused of making racist comments; and "Malpractice," his September 1996 dissection of Attorney General Dan Morales's grandstanding lawsuit against a group of local surgical assistants.
Berryhill, 51, has worked at the Press since November 1994 and has won a variety of awards for reporting on education, the environment and other topics.
Finishing third for "Print Journalist of the Year" was Randall Patterson, making it a clean sweep for the Press in that competition.
Patterson also won first-place awards in two other competitions for newspapers with circulations of more than 100,000. His December 1996 story, "The New Jesus," a look at the Christmas mega-pageant staged by First Baptist Church, was named best feature story, while his May 1996 story "Fourth and Long," about a team of aging semi-pro football players who still entertained dreams of glory in the NFL, was named best sports story.
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Press editor Jim Simmon won a first-place award in the commentary/criticism category for "Man Overboard," his October 1996 column on the trial of state Representative Sylvester Turner's libel lawsuit against Channel 13 and reporter Wayne Dolcefino.
In the investigative reporting competition, the Press's Bob Burtman won second place for "The Fire Next Time," his April 1996 story revealing safety problems at Exxon's Baytown refinery. Burtman also took third place for "It's a Gimme," his January 1996 story exposing the planned giveaways of two city of Houston golf courses to a politically connected private operator. Jim Morris and Kevin Moran of the Houston Chronicle won first place for their series "Lost at Sea."
Burtman's "The Fire This Time" previously won top honors for investigative reporting in the Press Club of Dallas's 1996 Katie Awards, and was also a finalist in this year's Investigative Reporters and Editors contest.
Patterson's "The New Jesus" was a finalist for the Nixon Newspapers National Journalism Writing Award, as was "In the Child's Best Interest," a January 1996 story by former Press staff writer Bonnie Gangelhoff. The Nixon award honors excellence in writing and reporting.