The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has announced the winners of its annual awards, and we are proud to have several reporters from the Center for Investigative Reporting, California Watch and The Bay Citizen counted among the honorees.

The Bay Citizen’s Aaron Glantz won the Journalist of the Year award. His ongoing coverage of the numerous challenges veterans face upon returning home from war has garnered national attention and has triggered federal reforms to help veterans receive the care they need.

His coverage of the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially the VA in Oakland, has revealed massive backlogs of vets waiting on benefits to treat disabilities sustained while in the military. In his reporting, Glantz found that wait times are longest in urban areas. You can check the backlogs in our interactive map of the VA’s 58 regional offices (including the three in California).

In another story, Glantz reported on what happens to some of those who are denied medical coverage at the VA, such as William Hamilton, a 26-year-old veteran who stepped in front of a train after being denied health care at the VA hospital in Palo Alto.

Jennifer Gollan, The Bay Citizen’s local government reporter, also has been honored with the Public Service Award for her coverage of the poor oversight of California’s for-profit postsecondary schools. Her reporting found that the state Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education had not fulfilled many basic functions, including investigating complaints and rooting out diploma mills.

Additionally, CIR’s “Suspect America” won in the explanatory multimedia category. This animation by Arthur Jones, produced by Carrie Ching and reported by Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz of CIR, describes an intelligence-gathering program that compiles data on individuals whether or not they’ve committed crimes.

Ching and Ryan Gabrielson of the California Watch staff produced the winner of the feature storytelling category with “Manner of Death: Undetermined,” which exposed how a state developmental center failed to investigate a suspicious patient death.

California Watch’s Michael Montgomery also won in the investigative multimedia category for his “Republic of Cannabis” investigations, an in-depth look at the Golden State’s medical cannabis industry, those involved in the trade and how local governments are dealing with the drug and the patients who use it. California Watch produced this series in partnership with KQED.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2012 SPJ awards! You can read the full list of winners here.

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