Television has the Emmys. The film industry has the Oscars. At the Deseret News, it's the MEP awards.

Staff writer Marianne Funk was given the most prestigious honor during the 18th annual Mark E. Petersen Deseret News Awards Banquet on Wednesday night. For consistently writing creative, crisp and comprehensive stories, Funk received the Excellence in Writing Award.Political Editor Bob Bernick Jr. and Washington Bureau Chief Lee Davidson each received the Deseret News Outstanding Performance Awards. Merit Awards were presented to seven staff members during the awards banquet, named after the late Elder Mark E. Petersen, of the Council of the Twelve of the LDS Church and a former Deseret News publisher, who "literally gave his life to the Deseret News," said the newspaper's publisher, Wm. James Mortimer.

Special merit recipients were artist Christie Jackson Meyer, veteran photographer O. Wallace Kasteler, copy chief W. Lee Hunt, staff writer Lisa Riley Roche, staff writer Joel Campbell, Today Section feature writer Susan Lyman and Church News writer John Hart.

Copy editor Susan Hermance was honored as Rookie of the Year and Beverly DeVoy, Ogden, received the Correspondent-of-the-Year Award.

Distinguished Service Awards were presented to three recent retirees of the newspaper: Dale J. Bain, former assistant managing editor, who was hired in 1948; Glen Silcox, former copy chief, who was hired in 1951; and J M. Heslop, former managing editor, Church News editor and chief photographer, who began his career at the News in 1948.

City Editor Richard D. Hall, staff writer Bruce Hills and accounting department staff member Mary Thompson were also honored for 15 years of service to the paper. Kasteler was also inducted into the distinguished service club for 40 years of service to the Deseret News.

Funk, a staff member since 1984, was praised for her exceptional gift for language and for her eloquent, graceful writing style. Such a style has brought a certain flair to even the potentially dry reporting of bankruptcy court, one of her beats.

"Even the most mundane and over-reported stories have a fresh twist when seen through Marnie's eyes," the audience was told.

The former education writer last year won first-place prizes in feature writing from the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and, with Davidson, for investigative reporting from the Associated Press.

Bernick and Davidson were honored for their contributions to the paper, which exceeded even the highest of expectations. The duo attended both national political conventions last summer and provided readers not only local angles, but overall coverage of the events.

During an exceptionally busy political year, Bernick continually brought readers the inside information on what was going on in the world of Utah politics and was almost always ahead of the competition.

Davidson has provided readers previously unseen angles on Utahns in Washington, D.C., and was honored as an "example of what an outstanding reporter should be." He also conducted major investigations on dam safety and Dugway Proving Ground, for which he has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Meyer has been at the News for five years and was honored for her ability to capture the flavor for a story with her sensitive and evocative illustrations. "Her extraordinary art work distinguishes the Deseret News from all other newspapers," noted one staffer in nominating her.

Kasteler, a three-time MEP award winner, was honored for both his fine photography and his ability to boost morale in the office. "He's always pleasant, no matter what assignment he's asked to do," a co-worker said.

In addition to his outstanding work as copy chief, Hunt was also honored for his achievements as a recruiter and a trainer. Several employees left the copy desk during the past year, but Hunt has been able to fill the vacancies using outstanding judgment.

Roche, who came to the newspaper 14 months ago, was described as a multi-faceted writer with amazing versatility and talent. An editor was once heard to wonder out loud if there was any way this staffer could be cloned. Her work on the tax initiatives was very thorough, yet interesting.

Campbell was described as "a nearly perfect example of a reporter who does more than plug away at covering his beat. He must have paid attention in journalism school the day the teacher said to look for the story beyond the story." Campbell came to the Deseret News in September 1987 and has beat the competition in several stories, including an excellent series on school bus safety.

A Deseret News veteran of three years, Lyman was described as a writer of sensitivity and wit whose stories are "literary treats." From her stories on the pain of single parents to the quiet poetry of a Huntsville woman who raises llamas, her writing is both unique and compelling.

Hart, now a two-time honoree, was unanimously chosen for the award for his years of steady service and his tremendous work ethic. "He is that rare creature - one who is 100 percent reliable and consistent in his quality of work," a fellow staffer said.

Described as a "lifesaver," Hermance has quickly excelled in her job as copy editor during her short employment with the paper. She has mastered the intricacies of headline writing and has the ability to make subtle, but effective changes that make stories more readable. "Where some editors go after reporters' prose with meat axes, Susan uses a scalpel to scrape away the unwanted fat," said one co-worker.

DeVoy has given the News a highly professional representation in Ogden for a year and a half. Her degree in police science has given her the background to effectively cover police and courts and keep readers informed of important news from Utah's fourth largest city.