2016 Gavel Award Winners
PRINT, MAJOR METRO: MICHAEL HALL
Michael Hall of Texas Monthly wins with “The Outcast,” an in-depth portrait of a sex offender who denies committing the crime for which he was convicted. The story weaves past and present to paint a vivid picture of a man, his alleged crime, and what it means to rebuild a life under Texas sex offender laws.
Hall graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979. Before joining Texas Monthly in 1997, he was an associate editor of Third Coast Magazine and the managing editor of the Austin Chronicle. He has written for Trouser Press, the New York Times, Men’s Journal, and the Austin American-Statesman. Hall won a Texas Gavel Award in 2003 for his story about capital punishment, “Death Isn’t Fair,” which was also nominated for a National Magazine Award.
PRINT, NON-METRO: JESSICA PRIEST
Jessica Priest of the Victoria Advocate wins for “Detention Attention,” a series that evolved from the Victoria County judge and district attorney’s efforts to examine the efficacy of a regional juvenile detention center. In following the story, Priest seized the opportunity to educate readers on the topics of juvenile crime, Texas’s open records law, and civil asset forfeiture funds and procedures.
This is the second Texas Gavel Awards win in a row for Priest, who is the Victoria Advocate’s courts reporter. She won in 2015 for “Is Probation Enough Punishment?” Priest probes public documents to illuminate happenings in South Texas’s historic courtrooms. She has won nine Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awards and two national awards with Local Media Association for her work at the Victoria Advocate since 2012.
BROADCAST, MAJOR METRO: ROBERT ARNOLD, JOHN BARONE, JON HILL, SCOTT SHERMAN
KPRC’s Robert Arnold, John Barone, Jon Hill, and Scott Sherman win for “No Scrutiny, No Accountability,” the final two stories of an 18-month investigation into how police departments at private universities in Texas were not subject to Texas open records laws. The investigative team found that private university police departments were not required to provide the public with information about incidents on or off campus, officers’ actions, or even basic department policies. Lawmakers subsequently filed and passed Senate Bill 308, declaring campus police departments of private institutions governmental bodies and thus subject to public information laws of the state.
Robert Arnold is an Emmy award-winning investigative journalist who joined the KPRC 2 Investigates team in July 2000. He has been named "Best Reporter" in Texas five times—twice by the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters, once by the Headliners Foundation of Texas, and twice by the Houston Press Club. Arnold graduated from the University of Houston and began his career as a radio reporter before joining KPRC. His work covers a range of issues from exposing government waste and corruption to the impact border violence has on Houston. This work has prompted changes in the law and policy both locally and nationally.
John Barone marks his 33rd year as a photojournalist with KPRC in Houston in 2016. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1976. Barone served a short stint shooting TV commercials followed by positions at TV stations in Albuquerque and Wichita, Kansas, before landing at KPRC. He is married with two children.
Jon Hill has worked at KPRC for 13 years, serving the past 10 as an investigative photojournalist. From 1991-2002, Hill worked for KRIV-TV in Houston as a general news photographer and investigative photographer.
Scott Sherman, special projects editor at KPRC, is a decorated television news veteran with more than a decade of experience. He’s worked for TV stations from Norfolk, Virginia to Salt Lake City, Utah and has won a prestigious Peabody award, a national Emmy, along with various other regional awards. Sherman is married and has four children.
BROADCAST, NON-METRO: JULIA JENAÉ AND CODY LILLICH
Julia Jenaé and Cody Lillich of KLTV in Tyler win with “Failure to Support,” an investigation into a case in which an employer was accused of intercepting thousands of child-support dollars from a father’s paycheck. The investigation illuminates a problem where unscrupulous employers could withhold pay from an employee’s check without forwarding the money to the state, leaving it up to the employee to ferret out potential wrongdoing.
Julia Jenaé is an investigative reporter for KLTV. She's originally from Atlanta, where she practiced as a civil litigation attorney in Georgia before following her passion for journalism, which brought her to Texas. In May 2015, her reporting on the devastating tornado in Van was part of the KLTV evening newscast that received a Lone Star Emmy for Best Evening Newscast.
Cody Lillich is an investigative producer and reporter for KLTV. He has worked in Texas television stations from Amarillo to Bryan/College Station and his hometown of Tyler for more than 10 years. He now focuses on researching and producing stories for the award-winning KLTV 7 Investigates Team.
ONLINE ONLY: MARK CURRIDEN
Mark Curriden of The Texas Lawbook wins for “The Smartest Person in the Room,” an in-depth profile on Stacey Doré, general counsel for Energy Future Holdings, and behind-the-scenes look at the EFH bankruptcy proceedings and restructuring plan.
Curriden is a lawyer and journalist for The Texas Lawbook, The Dallas Morning News, and the ABA Journal. He is the author of the best-selling book Contempt of Court: A Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism. The book received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and numerous other honors. He also is a frequent lecturer at bar associations, law firm retreats, judicial conferences, and other events.