2019 OC Press Club Award Finalists

Award winners for the 2019 annual contest for work produced during 2018.


Best Breaking News Story
First Place: Orange County Register staff, Thousand Oaks shooting
Comments: It’s clear the Orange County Register’s comprehensive coverage of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks was the result of a herculean effort by the OCR’s reporters, editors and other staffers. From police audio to survivor accounts to the heartbreaking stories of the victims, the newspaper brought understanding and compassion to readers alongside its thorough coverage of a rapidly evolving breaking news event. A real public service in the face of tragedy – well done.
Second Place: Spencer Custodio, Voice of OC, “Irvine, H.B. and Laguna Niguel to Sue County Over Homeless Shelters”
Third Place: Spencer Custodio, Nick Gerda, Voice of OC, DA Files Campaign Sign Theft Charges Against Former Fullerton Candidate”

Best Cannabis Coverage
First Place: Amy DePaul, Voice of OC
Comments: Excellent research, descriptive writing, interesting content!
Second Place: Brooke Edwards Staggs, Orange County Register
“Marijuana Stinks”
Third Place: Mark D. Crantz, Laguna Beach Independent
“Holy Smokes”

Best News Feature Story
First Place: Cindy Carcamo, LA Times, “In Mountain of Guatemala, searching for parents deported from U.S. without children”
Comments: Gripping and extremely well-written, this story provides a close-up look at the monumental task of tracking down parents from Central America who were deported without the young children from whom the U.S. government separated them at the border. A truly enterprising piece of reporting in which tremendous effort paid off with real insights.
Second Place: Keith Sharon, Orange County Register, “Death of a Unicorn”
Third Place: Susan Christian Goulding, Orange County Register, “This Man Proposed a Law Banning Assault Weapons in Huntington Beach, Then the City Sued Him”

Best Business Story
First Place: Jeff Collins, Orange County Register, “The new American dream: Leasing your house”
Comments: A fresh angle on the housing crisis and the rent control debate. Well researched, clear, with a breadth of perspectives.
Second Place: Jeff Collins, Orange County Register, “Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher says it’s OK not to sell homes to gays; loses support of Realtors”
Third Place: Nancy Luna, Nation’s Restaurant News, “Restaurants face shortage of teen labor”

Best Public Affairs Story
First Place: Erika Ritchie, Orange County Register, “This police officer was told to pay $40,000 to Department of Defense because of an 8-year payroll glitch”
Comments: A superb example of watchdog reporting. The story would have been outrageous based on the facts alone, but telling us how the debt was affecting the officers made it much more powerful.
Second Place: Nick Gerda, Voice of OC, “County Won’t Name Everyone Who Broke Campaign Money Laws”
Third Place: Hannah Fry, LA Times
“Some Californians are hiring private fire crews to save their homes. Regular firefighters aren’t happy about it”

Best Series
First Place: Martin Wiskol, Orange County Register, The Real Cougars of Orange County
Comments: Absolutely great journalism—tackles a complex issue with excellent supporting visuals, well-researched data, compelling copy and headline with a hook. Tells a complete story of a complicated and controversial topic, backed with facts and insight into what is being done to create solutions. A must-read.
Second Place: Teri Sforza, Tony Saavedra and Scott Schwebke, Orange County Register, Born on Drugs
Third Place: Hannah Fry, Daily Pilot, Losing Sunny

Best Sports Story

First Place: Mirin Fader, Bleacher Report, “Did One Hit Lead to a 13-Year-Old’s Suicide?”
Comments: This was far and away the best entry in the category. It’s a gripping, well-paced story.
Second Place: Greg Hardesty, Blue Door Magazine, “Chakra Canyon”
Third Place: David Jerome, Orange County Register, “This Fullerton Columnist Took in Five Local Baseball Games in One Day”

Best Feature Story
First Place: Gabriel San Román, OC Weekly, “Disneyland Resort Workers Are the True Magic-Makers, But a Survey Shows Many Toil in Poverty”
Comments: Eye-opening look at the people behind the Disney resort industry, and the struggles they face. Well-written, and showcases an array of workers and experiences. Great work.
Second Place: Keith Sharon, Orange County Register, “He Watched His Friends Die in Vietnam”
Third Place: Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, “Once-spindly tree flourishes at gravesite under a widow’s care”

Best Round-Up or Best Of
First Place: Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register, “Brad A. Johnson’s 75 Best Places to Eat, 2018″
Comments: Useful, well researched and detailed information, written in crisp, clear copy. Generates excitement about the local food possibilities!
Second Place: Cynthia Rebolledo, OC Weekly, “Viva Los Tacos”
Third Place: Christopher Trela, Newport Beach Independent, “Summer Fun: Free Your Inner Farmer and Foodie at OC Fair”

Best Arts/Culture Story
First Place: Gabriel San Román, OC Weekly, “What Happened to Downtown Santa Ana’s Cinco de Mayo Festival?”
Comments: A well-handled report about the loss of a popular local event in a clash between culture and commerce. Writing with a light touch helps carry the message about the financial reasons for the loss and the cultural relevance and history of Cinco de Mayo.
TIE for Second Place: Liz Goldner, Los Angeles Times, “‘First Glimpse’ peers into UC Irvine’s treasure trove of California art, the ‘largest collection of art that no one has ever seen'”
TIE for Second Place: Richard Chang, Voice of OC, “Ann Phong Turns Discarded Objects Into Art”
Third Place: Taylor Hamby, OC Weekly, “Paul Frank Is Still Orange County’s Friend”

Best Music/Entertainment Story
First Place: Taylor Hamby, OC Weekly, “A Longtime Employee of the Legendary Golden Bear Recalls the Huntington Beach Club’s Heyday”
Comments: Great opening. Nothing like telling a story. You are drawn into the story and want to know more. Long headline though (smile).
Second Place: Richard Chang, Daily Pilot, “Lido Theater in Newport Bech celebrates 80 years”
Third Place: David Jerome, Orange County Register, “Mr. Bucketlist: Still Making Queen Memories”

Best Food/Restaurant Story

First Place: Nancy Luna, Orange County Register, “One year later: Bruno Serato reflects as he prepares to reopen fire-damaged Anaheim White House”
Comments: Nicely done combination news-feature on this longtime restaurateur.
Second Place: Taylor Hamby, OC Weekly, “Orange County’s Tiki Bars of the Past and Present Help You to Forget About Your Boring Life”
Third Place: Cynthia Rebolledo, Remezcla, “Thanks to This Restaurant, Flour Tortillas Are Cool Again in Southern California”

Best Environmental News Story
First Place: Martin Wisckol , Orange County Register, “The Real Cougars of Orange County Pt. 2: Mountain lions’ survival might depend on wildlife crossing near Temecula”
Comments: This is a well-researched and really interesting read. Good job of balancing sides of the issue and putting it into a larger perspective of development vs. conservation needs.
Second Place: Erika Ritchie, Orange County Register , “Whale entanglements on the West Coast rise again in 2018, is this the new normal?”

Best Profile
First Place: Anh Do, LA Times, “Driven from an Anaheim tent city, a couple struggles with addiction and the realities of Orange County’s homeless”
Comments: Well-written. Compassionate and honest look at one couple’s struggles with homelessness.
Second Place: Theresa Walker, Orange County Register, “Judge David O. Carter and Attorney Brooke Weitzman Force Orange County to Address Homelessness”
Third Place: Deepa Bharath, Orange County Register, “Meet CHOC’s ‘Dancing Doc’ who livens up hospital rooms for kids who haven’t smiled in days”

Best Education Story
First Place: Deepa Bharath, Orange County Register, “Orange County school districts are resisting a California sex ed law passed more than two years ago”
Comments: The reporter did an excellent job communicating the impact of school districts ignoring a state law. People care about people not concepts and this story certainly drilled down the people on both sides of the story. The reporter gathered excellent quotes that conveyed the true pain felt by those impassioned by the issue.
Second Place: Daniel Langhorne, Daily Pilot, Nordic Star
Third Place: Emily Rasmussen, Orange County Register, “Fraternity Cuts Ties With CSULB Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigations”

Best Music/Entertainment Review
First Place: Paul Hodgins, Voice of OC, “South Coast Rep’s Season Opener Plays With a Classic and Gets Mixed Results”
Comments: Even though I have not seen this play, nor am I a fan of Jane Austin, Hodgins’ critique helped me understand the play and reasoning behind the critique he offers. Hodgins is obviously well versed in the subject and delivers an educated, fair review without being heavy handed or insensitive.
Second Place: Timothy Mangan, Voice of OC, “Living Composers Reign During Choral Arts Initiative Concert”
Third Place: Peter Lefevre, Voice of OC, “The Chorale Brings ‘The Creation’ to Segerstrom . . . Finally!”

Best Arts/Culture Review
First Place: Dave Barton, OC Weekly, “OCC’s ‘Jim DeFrance: A Retrospective’ Is a Graceful Ode to Life’s Release”
Comments: Descriptive and eloquent, Dave reels the reader in and is a captivating writer. Outstanding job!
Second Place: Richard Chang, LA Weekly, “The Broad’s Jasper Johns Exhibit Is a Must-See Survey”
Third Place: Dave Barton, OC Weekly, “Female Victimization and Childhood Trauma Inform a Muddled Show at Grand Central Art Center”

Best Food/Restaurant Review
First Place: Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register, “Journeyman’s Food & Drink”
Comments: Brad does a wonderful job of giving the reader a sense of place and you can tell he really does his homework on the background of the restaurants. This review engaged me from the first graph to the very end. He’s entertaining and someone I would follow consistently because of the smooth writing skills.
Second Place: Edwin Goei, OC Weekly, “Mr. Taco Nice in Anaheim Does Tacos and Pizzas and Taco Pizzas”
Third Place: Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register, “Oliver’s Osteria”

Best Travel Story
First Place: Anne Marie Panoringan, OC Weekly, “A Trip Through the Santa Ynez Backroads”
Comments: Finding treasure: Isn’t that what we all want from our travel writers? Panoringan’s guide through the Santa Ynez backroads is a map to buried treasure that just happens to be in the reader’s own backyard. Panoringan writes colorfully and clearly, slipping a full itinerary so smoothly into the story that it doesn’t bog down the prose or get in the way of her insider tips. Truly a travel story worth daydreaming about.
Second Place: Jessica Kwong, Orange County Register, “Is It Too Soon for Tourists to Return to Puerto Rico?”
Third Place: Patrice Marsters, OC Weekly
“Size Matters: Feel As Tall As a Giant, As Small As an Ant in Tucson”

Best Religion Story
First Place: Gabriel San Román, OC Weekly, “Karen Estremo’s the Dragon and the Rose Is the Hub for OC Pagans”
Comments: This was an engaging story. The author avoided the all too easy trap of stereotyping non-mainstream religion and its practitioners and gave us a compelling and meaningful look at these individuals’ lives. It was a well-constructed story and well edited. Very good job!
Second Place: Deepa Bharath, Orange County Register, “Her brothers were molested by a priest as kids. Now, she’s trying to reconcile with the Catholic Church”
Third Place: Susan Christian Goulding, Orange County Register, “For Christ Cathedral, Heat-Deflecting Quatrefoils Prove to be a Blessing”

David McQuay Award for Best Columnist
First Place: Norberto Santana Jr., Voice of OC
Comments: More than his ability to deliver well-written and well-thought out prose, the reporting Santana does is deep, targeted and human. The issues he tackles are not easy and he lets no one off the hook. It’s what columnists are supposed to do. And great columnists do over and over and over.
Second Place: Jonathan Lansner, The Orange County Register

Best News Story
First Place: Scott Schwebke with Beau Yarbrough, Orange County Register, “Victorville Prison Where Immigrant Detainees Held Built Atop Toxic Superfund Site“
Comments: Deeply reported story concerning public health, social justice and government transparency. Includes public document research as well as first-person anecdotal accounts of those affected now living in other parts of the country. An important story speaking for the disenfranchised.
Second Place: Priscella Vega and Julia Sclafani, Daily Pilot, “Arrests of white power leaders are a reminder of Huntington Beach’s painful past”
Third Place: Spencer Custodio, Voice of OC, “OC Sheriff’s Deputies Begin Evicting Hundreds of Homeless People from Santa Ana River Bank”

Best Investigative Story
First Place: Nick Gerda, Voice of OC, “Millions in ‘Dark Money’ Flowing to OC Congressional Races”
Comments: The reporter reviewed federal data to build this story — a story that would not have been told if not for his efforts. He then tracked the money to see how it could affect “high-stakes” elections. He also made national comparisons. Campaign finance stories are difficult. In this case, the reporter went to great lengths to collect data and put it into perspective for the reader. He made a story about a complicated money trail intriguing. The graphic was super helpful, too. The reporter, in expert fashion, put into perspective the national impact on a local election. Very well done and deserving of recognition.
Second Place: Gustavo Arellano, LA Taco, “Priest Accused of Abusing Boys in OC in the 80s Turns Up in Peru”

Best Beat Reporting
First Place: Cindy Carcamo, LA Times
Comments: Of all of the coverage of what’s going on at our southern border, your reporting more than anyone else’s made me feel like I was there. You write with such detail, with such keen observations. You humanized this issue and helped me connect with it in a new way. My heart ached when I read about the mother who stopped breastfeeding her infant in case they were separated. You being present and in the moment with people, and then reporting back what you saw and heard, was such valuable work.
Second Place: Deepa Bharath, Orange County Register
Third Place: Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot
Honorable Mention: Theresa Walker, Orange County Register

Marjorie Freeman Award for Best Humorous Story

First Place: Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register, “Worst thing I ate: A crime against barbecue in Irvine”
Comments: The clear winner in a very competitive category. So many great lines, but possibly the best was your afterthought that a pickle was a highlight of the meal.
Second Place: Kedric Francis, OC Family, “Fears of Being a Bad Dad”
Third Place: Anne Marie Panoringan, OC Weekly, “Del Frisco’s Grille’s Updated Brunch Is a John Hughes Movie”


Best Music/Entertainment Story or Review
First Place: Daniella Litvak, The Orange Curtain Revue, “Shrew! At South Coast Repertory”
Comments: Daniella’s review was the only entry in this category that seriously critiqued how a production succeeded and could have improved. It was a fair opinion, giving plenty of context for a twist on one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.
Second Place: Jessica Peralta, Halloween Every Night, “The 17th Door Is More Traumatic Than Ever – In a Good Way”

Best News Feature Story
First Place: Bradley Zint, Behind the Badge, “DUI death in La Habra underscores importance of safe driving”
Comments: This powerful, poignant story really stood out amongst the pack because it married both the importance of the police work described and the personal story of a victim of DUI. The article was very well done from start to finish, with many emotional moments and depth. Some details, like the family members coming across the crash scene, gave me chills – a testament to how well written and paced the article was.
Second Place: Elysse James, Behind the Badge, “Anaheim Police use unconventional methods to clean up problem houses”
Third Place: Greg Hardesty, Behind the Badge, “Mental Health Day is a daily reality for members of Anaheim PD’s PERT”

Best Arts/Culture Story or Review
First Place: James Reed, Blue Door Magazine, “Singer Superlative”
Comments: Beautiful, crisp, descriptive writing really takes the reader to this property using all five senses. A captivating read up until the end.
Second Place: Erin Huffstutter, I Heart Costa Mesa, “Gabrielle’s Gift of Play”
Third Place: Shawn Price, Halloween Every Night, “‘Frankenstein’ Turns 200”

Best Feature Story
First Place: Erin Huffstutter, I Heart Costa Mesa, “Metal Fab & Etch A Sketch”
Comments: A really interesting, well-written story about an influential, creative family. Tackles some complex issues of neighborhood changes while profiling talented people. Only suggestion is to cut to the meat of the story a little more quickly with a lede focused more on the subjects of the article.
Second Place: Greg Hardesty, Behind the Badge, “An OCSD patrol deputy’s day can go from routine to horror in a flash, as he can attest”
Third Place: Bradley Zint, I Heart Costa Mesa, “Jumping Sheep”

Best News Story
First Place: Greg Hardesty, Behind the Badge, “APD targets illegal pot dispensaries, but they keep popping up like mushrooms”
Comments: This story stood out for the unique glimpse it offered readers inside a law enforcement investigation, complete with challenges, photographs and interviews with both police officers and people affected by the enforcement action. Really fascinating article.
Second Place: Greg Hardesty, Behind the Badge, “Armed neighbors detain attempted murder suspect in backyard until OCSD arrives”
Third Place: Jessica Peralta, Behind the Badge, “Westminster PD Narcan instructor first to administer life-saving nasal spray in the field”

Best Food/Restaurant Story or Review

First Place: Erin Huffstutter, I Heart Costa Mesa, “The Next Chapter for Church’s”
Comments: Erin was able to convey a story about an establishment that is uniquely Costa Mesa, but relatable and identifiable to readers everywhere. Dick Church’s epitomizes the mixing of the “two Costa Mesas,” the blending of the old and the new. A great read.
Second Place: Elysse James, Behind the Badge, “Chow Time: ‘Slammin’ Salmon’ tacos at Anaheim Fire & Rescue Station 7”
Third Place: Bradley Zint, I Heart Costa Mesa, “Go for the Green”


Best Blog
First Place: Jackie Moe, Backstage SoCal
Comments: An interesting and useful blog on this musical topic

Best News Broadcast or Video
First Place: Rick Reiff and Scott Hays, “Sheriff’s Battles,” Inside OC With Rick Reiff

Best Feature Broadcast or Video
First Place: Rebecca D’Auria, “Close Calls,” Behind the Badge
Second Place: Rick Reiff and Scott Hays, “Who Are the Homeless?,” Inside OC With Rick Reiff
Third Place: Shawn Price, “Eat, Drink And Celebrate Tim Burton Movies At Beetle House L.A.,” Halloween Every Night

Best Use of Multimedia

First Place: Jessica Peralta, “OCSD hosts annual helicopter training exercise for K9s,” Behind the Badge
Comments: Great use of video and high-resolution pictures. I also appreciate law enforcement becoming their own storytellers and a positive voice in the community. Plus the highlighted box on the site with their Twitter feed was terrific. Way to stay relevant with clever tweets on current topics and TV shows while not forgetting your mission.
Second Place: Norberto Santana Jr. and Susan Valot, “On OC: OC Kids on Immigration,” Voice of OC
Third Place: Erin Huffstutter, I Heart Costa Mesa

Posted in Awards.