OC Press Club Gala Awards 2024 Winners list

Best Arts/Culture Story 

First Place: Paul Hodgins 

How Has the Pandemic Hangover Affected O.C.’s Arts Scene?Culture OC

Comments: The breadth of this article is great and it answers a question people will
be curious to read about. Good info, quotes, etc. Well done.

Second Place: Eric Marchese 

Stage Door Closes Its Doors, For Now,” Voice of OC 

Third Place: Paul Hodgins 

“Behaving Badly and Other Lamentable Public Trends: Is It Happening in OC Too?Culture OC 

Honorable Mention: Christopher Trela 

Maestro for a Day: My Conducting Debut with Pacific Symphony,” Newport Beach Independent 

Best Arts/Culture Review 

First Place: Timothy Mangan 

Alexander Shelley Vies for Pacific Symphony Conducting Job,” Culture OC

Comments: While many of us may be fatigued by horse-race coverage of
presidential campaigns, I”m fascinated by the way Mangan uses it to demystify the
esoteric process of hiring a new orchestral conductor. Mangan’s wide range of
insights bring the lay audience close to the action. Excellent example of criticism
and review used for a higher purpose.

Second Place: Eric Marchese 

SCR’s ‘Quixote Nuevo’ is an Enjoyable Feast Marred Only by Too Many Thematic Ingredients,” Culture OC

Third Place: Simone Goldstone 

NBFF Review: ‘Immediate Family’ Spotlights Studio Musicians,” Newport Beach Independent

Honorable Mention: Paul Hodgins 

Orange County Gets a Big Dose of Muti Magic,” Voice of OC

Best Music/Entertainment Story 

First Place: Andrew Turner 

’Musical Meltdown Moments’: Art of Music Experience at O.C. Fair prompts visceral reactions,” Daily Pilot

Comments: His excellent description and interviews place the reader in the middle
of the event. A fun spin on the usual county fair feature story.

Second Place: Sarah Mosqueda 

Santa Ana marks Chicano Heritage Month with a festival and new mural,” Daily Pilot

Third Place: David N. Young 

Oscar nominated actress returns to limelight in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” Event-NewsEnterprise

Best Music/Entertainment Review 

First Place: Timothy Mangan 

Kluxen’s Debut Impresses, Launching Pacific Symphony’s Conductor Tryouts,” Culture OC

Comments: A fun, easy read.

Second Place: Daniella Litvak 

La Havana Madrid @ South Coast Repertory at Mission San Juan Capistrano – Review,” The Orange Curtain Review

Third Place: Simone Goldstone 

‘Ain’t Too Proud’ at Segerstrom Center Tells the Musical Tale of the Temptations,” Newport Beach Independent

Best Food/Restaurant Story 

First Place: Yusra Farzan 

During Ramadan, OC restaurants offer buffets for patrons to break their fast,” Orange County Register

Comments: An atypical entry for this type of category, the writer sheds light on a
practice that may not be well-known to a wide audience.

Second Place: Anne Valdespino 

CBD Power Lunch at Knife Pleat,” Culture OC

Third Place: Anne Marie Panoringan 

Panoringan: Santa Ana’s Culinary Scene Is Trending,” Voice of OC

Best Food/Restaurant Review 

First Place: Brad A. Johnson 

Squid Game,” OLTRE

Comments: “It takes like fresh cried tears. Not the sad kind, but the happy ones.”
That’s just brilliant. Loved this review, really brought me there.

Second Place: Edwin Goei 

Birria, done that: the champion ingredient filling tacos in Santa Ana,” Daily Pilot

Third Place: Brad A. Johnson 

One Day in Bangkok, Two Worlds Apart,” OLTRE

Honorable Mention: Edwin Goei 

Where to hu tieu: Introducing a dish that might become your new favorite,“ Daily Pilot

Best Travel Story 

First Place: Christopher Trela 

California’s Central Coast Offers Wonderful Wines and Unique Experiences,” Newport Beach Independent

Comments: Delved into California’s Central Coast with depth, humor and what felt
like a really thorough understanding of what makes it special. Lots of reference
points and suggestions. If I was travelling there, this article would be an enormous
help. Well done.

Second Place: Brad A. Johnson 

Review: Casona Los Cedros, Yucatán,” Brad A. Johnson, Food & Travel

Third Place: Edwin Goei 

12 glorious spots to take in the crisp 70-degree air on a Central Coast road trip,” Los Angeles Times

Honorable Mention: Brad A. Johnson 

Review: Lao Poet Hotel, Vientiane, Laos,” Brad A. Johnson, Food & Travel

Best Round-Up or Best Of 

First Place: Anne Valedespino 

Great Places for Cocktails in Orange County,” Culture OC

Comments: The writer brought the drinks to life with clear and crisp writing and
vivid details. The writing made me want to immediately try each cocktail and visit
each location.

Second Place: Christopher Trela 

Favorite Dining Experiences of 2023,” Newport Beach Independent

Third Place: Richard Chang, Kristina Garcia, Timothy Mangan, Eric Marchese, Anne Marie Panoringan & Kaitlin Wright 

What’s Coming Up in Arts & Culture for 2023?Voice of OC

Best Health/Wellness Story 

First Place: Hannah Fry 

A ‘failure to launch’: Why young people are having less sex,” Los Angeles Times 

Comments: Super interesting. The story draws the reader in immediately and keeps
them interested. Excellent work.

Second Place: Samantha Dunn 

Why it’s time to face up to your hearing loss,” Orange County Register

Third Place: Julie Leopo 

‘Becoming a Civilian Again,’ Veterans Use Equine Training to Combat Mental Stress,” Voice of OC

Honorable Mention: Richard Simon 

Laurie’s Final Dream: Higher Education for Wheelchair Occupants,” Newport Beach Independent

Best Business Story 

First Place: Jeff Collins 

Fannie’s secret ‘blacklist’ wreaks havoc for condo buyers and sellers,” Orange County Register 

Comments: Excellent feature writing that takes a broad-scope controversy and
zeroes in on the consequences for an average family working through multiple
major life milestones at once. These characters show why readers should care
about a spreadsheet created by a far-away financial group.

Second Place: Andre Mouchard 

Old age and new tech are about to become BFFs,” Orange County Register

Third Place: Jeff Collins 

Goodbye starter home: First-time buyers struggle with Southern California prices, lack of inventory,” Orange County Register

Best Illustration 

First Place: Deanna Lim 

The Crucible, Halloween Every Night 

Comments: Delightful style. Easily portrays the subject but gives it an even more
surreal feeling.

Second Place: Leslie Rodriguez 

Tim Burton, Halloween Every Night

Third Place: Deanna Lim 

The Amityville Horror, Halloween Every Night

Honorable Mention: Eiloh Virgo 

Malcolm McDowell, Halloween Every Night

Best Audience Engagement/Use of Social Media 

First Place: Edwin Goei 

Monster Munching OC: “The Parlor at Stafford Prime

Comments: The numbers make it easy to identify the leading entry in terms of

David McQuay Award for Best Columnist 

First Place: Teri Sforza 

Orange County Register

Comments: Terrific treatment of taking a serious, hard-news investigation and
giving it a column treatment by writing it as a conversation directly with the
governor. Clever and impactful.

Second Place: Norberto Santana Jr. 

Voice of OC

Third Place: David N. Young 


Best Arts/Culture Story or Review, Sponsored Content 

First Place: Richard Chang 

Rarely seen Lee Krasner paintings underscore Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum’s value to the community,” Cal State Long Beach 

Comments: Nice profile of a great American artist.

Second Place: Patrice Marsters 

Costa Mesa Students Create Special Artwork for Young Ukrainian Refugees,” Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Third Place: Greg Mellen 

Science lab and visit by artist make for an epic day at Marblehead,” CUSD Insider

Honorable Mention: Richard Chang 

More than Just a Phase: L.A. Gallery Helps UCI Art Students and Alumni,” UC Irvine

Best Feature Story, Sponsored Content 

First Place: Greg Mellen 

In her despair, school counselor is lifted up by her students,CUSD Insider 

Comments: Sweet story. Stands out among other stories in this category because of
the emotional content. Nicely done.

Second Place: Greg Mellen 

Sept. 11 attacks inspire officer to ‘make sure it never happens again,’” Behind the Badge

Third Place: Patrice Marsters 

High School Students Gain Real-World Experience Through Careers With Children Internship,” Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Honorable Mention: Richard Chang 

Formerly incarcerated women find a second chance through Project Rebound,” Cal State Long Beach

Best News Feature Story, Sponsored Content 

First Place: Richard Chang 

CSULB students aim to help alleviate housing crisis with sustainable tiny house, Cal State Long Beach

Comments: The tiny house topic was well-explored and super interesting.

Second Place: Greg Mellen 

Efforts underway at Clarence Lobo Elementary to create playground for all, CUSD Insider

Third Place: Cathi Douglas 

Tustin Field Training Officer’s hunch proves correct – 78 times,Behind the Badge

Honorable Mention: Greg Mellen 

Baker to Vegas endurance run concludes with a flourish for rookie team,Behind the Badge

Best Feature Photo, Sponsored Content

First Place: Paul Rodriguez 

CUSD Insider

Comments: Beautifully captures joy.

Second Place: Paul Rodriguez

CUSD Insider

Third Place: Spencer Grant

Orange County Catholic

Honorable Mention: Paul Rodriguez

CUSD Insider

Best Video 

First Place: Vanessa Vela 

Viva La Vida 2023 — Dia De Los Muertos Festival,” Halloween Every Night 

Comments: A nice slice of life look at this festival.

Second Place: Mica Medina 

Maverick Theater’s King Kong 2023,” Halloween Every Night

Third Place: Mica Medina 

Plan 9 From Outer Space 2023,” Halloween Every Night

Best Use of Multimedia 

First Place: Jessica Peralta, Emily Reyes, George O’ Connor & Shawn Price

Creepmas Is Trending,” Halloween Every Night 

Comments: A total package with the written words, enbedded YouTube videos and
countless photos. The multimedia brings the package to life!

Second Place: Edwin Goei 

California’s Best Filipino Restaurant,” Monster Munching OC

Third Place: Jessica Peralta, Kitae (Thomas) Kim & Shawn Price

The Hotel Who? Returns for Spring with ‘A Love Story,’Halloween Every Night

Best Feature Story 

First Place: Erika Ritchie 

Camp Pendleton Marine deploys back home to Micronesia as a changed man,” Orange County Register 

Comments: Robust reporting, captivating storytelling, quality journalism.

Second Place: Julie Leopo 

Battling to Survive Santa Ana’s Street Car,” Voice of OC

Third Place: Richard Simon 

Newport Beach Police Department Dispatchers are Anonymous First Responders,” Newport Beach Independent

Honorable Mention: Breeana Greenberg 

Inclusive Innovator: Blind Entrepreneur Converts Menus to Braille, Improving Accessibility in Local Restaurants,” Dana Point Times

Best Long-Form Feature Story or Series

First Place: Brooke Staggs 

Why are women more concerned about climate change than men?Orange County Register

Comments: This piece began a compelling hook and then steadily built on the
premise, weaving in data and quotes that led effortlessly to the conclusion. *SO*
much great writing and analysis in here. Really well done.

Best Political Story 

First Place: Beau Yarbrough 

See what Orange County’s congressional delegation got done last term,” Orange County Register 

Comments: Useful, balanced presentation that informs voters of politicians’

Second Place: Hanna Kang 

What U.S. Senate candidate Katie Porter’s opposition to earmarks would mean if elected,” Orange County Register

Third Place: David N. Young 

Cypress Council votes in secret to potentially settle CVRA lawsuit,” Event-NewsEnterprise

Honorable Mention: Matt Szabo 

Huntington Beach’s 27-year-old declaration on human dignity could be in jeopardy,” Daily Pilot

Best Education Story 

First Place: Brooke Staggs & Roxana Kopetman 

Are Southern California students and teachers breathing clean air?Orange County Register

Comments: Excellent accountability reporting that gives public school patrons the
tools to ensure state and local leaders are following through on their effort to
improve air quality for kids. Deep reporting sheds light on the considerable public
resources spent on the initiative and holds officials to account for results.

Second Place: Gabriel San Roman 

Whose stories do we tell? Israeli-Palestinian tensions polarize an Orange County school district,” Los Angeles Times

Third Place: Noah Biesiada & Carrie Graham 

These Community College Retirees Say Bad District Leadership Put Their Healthcare in Peril,” Voice of OC

Best Sports Story 

First Place: Christopher Luu 

Madison Hammond Is Making Soccer History, InStyle

Comments: Well-written, pleasure to read.

Second Place: Andrew Turner 

Brayden Belden ‘on top of the world’ with Brooks Street surfing success, Daily Pilot

Third Place: Joseph Pimental 

After World Cup glory, the Philippines looks to recruit Filipino American volleyball players, Spectrum News

Honorable Mention: Yusra Farzan 

Irvine may get Southern California’s first cricket stadium as interest in sport grows“, Orange County Register

Best Profile 

First Place: Anne Valdespino 

Feliz Navidad! It’s Bilingual Santa’s Busiest Time of Year,” Culture OC 

Comments: I teared up several times reading this story. Touching and important.
Good quotes. Well done.

Second Place: Shawn Price 

I Hiked With Julian Sands. I’m Not Writing His Obituary,” Halloween Every Night

Third Place: Eric Marchese 

Jazz Legend Monty Alexander Brings His Swingin’ Musical Talents to the Barclay,” Culture OC

Honorable Mention: Christopher Luu 

Sherry Cola Is Not Your Model Minority,” InStyle

Best Public Affairs Story 

First Place: Brooke Staggs 

Hundreds of deserted oil and gas wells in Southern California could soon get plugged,” Orange County Register

Comments: Great lead, highly informative story. 

Second Place: Roxana Kopetman & Tony Saavedra 

Attorney Elliot Blair’s death in Baja raises troubling questions for American citizens abroad,” Orange County Register

Third Place: Hannah Fry 

Newport Beach battles a new breed of luxury party houses: fractional ownership,” Los Angeles Times

Honorable Mention: Andre Mouchard 

Social Security in danger in 2033? America’s aging population a significant factor,” Orange County Register

Best Public Health Story 

First Place: Destiny Torres 

CalOptima’s street medicine program seeing success in action,” Orange County Register

Comments: Fascinating subject. I especially liked the ‘grittiness’ of the quotes; they
helped bring the story to life and made it more impactful.

Second Place: Noah Biesiada, Vivienne Ayres & Sara Bass 

Homes Atop Former Tustin Air Base May Have Toxic Groundwater,” Voice of OC

Third Place: Brooke Staggs 

Big stink, little progress; Hinkley residents claim health risks from composter, Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: John Fredricks 

A Day in the Life: Southern California’s Fentanyl Crisis,” The Epoch Times

Best Environmental News Story 

First Place: Noah Biesiada 

Something’s In the Air: Irvine Residents’ Yearslong Battle For Breathable Air, Voice of OC 

Comments: Shows impact of persistent investigative journalism over time, with
good background history and data.

Second Place: Brooke Staggs 

Climate-friendlier flights are taking off from Southern California, Orange County Register

Third Place: Gabriel San Roman 

Amid crumbling cliffs, Orange County considers moving its famously scenic rail line inland“, Los Angeles Times

Honorable Mention: Sara Cardine 

O.C. Sanitation to demo tech that kills ‘forever chemicals,’ turning waste into water, clean energy“, Daily Pilot

Best News Feature Story 

First Place: Brandon Pho, Hosam Elattar 

Fear and Loathing at Anaheim City Hall: Working Under the Gun of Retribution, Voice of OC

Comments: Compelling writing, crisp story.

Second Place: Gabriel San Roman 

La Habra condo owners see a gaping chasm where their greenbelt used to be“, Los Angeles Times

Third Place: Erika Ritchie 

Marine veterans find new mission as firefighters helping people “having worst day”, Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Destiny Torres 

As people who fled Cook’s Corner return for their belongings memories of mass shooting are fresh“, Orange County Register

Best Beat Reporting 

First Place: Brooke Staggs 

Climate and Environment Coverage, Orange County

Comments: Brooke Staggs uses an innovative approach to produce well-written,
localized stories on a topic of supreme importance and global scale. Her work
should be emulated by other local news outlets attempting to cover such a broad

Second Place: Jeff Collins 

Housing and Real Estate, Orange County Register

Third Place: Hannah Fry 

Orange County News & Enterprise, Los Angeles Times

Honorable Mention: Scott Schwebke 

VA Loma Linda Coverage, Redlands Daily Facts

Best Feature Photo 

First Place: Mark Rightmire 

Orange County Register

Comments: Striking, depth, clarity.

Second Place: Mitch Ridder

Laguna Beach Independent

Third Place: Jeff Gritchen

Orange County Register

Best Portrait 

First Place: Mark Rightmire 

Orange County Register

Comments: The colors explode off the screen, the composition is perfect. Super
fun picture.

Second Place: Mindy Schauer

Orange County Register

Third Place: Paul Bersebach

Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Jeff Gritchen

Best News Photo 

First Place: John Fredricks 

The Epoch Times 

Comments: Great composition that leads your eye from the man in the foreground
to the people running away in the background.

Second Place: Mindy Schauer 

Orange County Register

Third Place: Paul Bersebach 

Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Paul Rodriguez 

Orange County Register

Best Sports Photo 

First Place: Keith Birmingham 

Orange County Register 

Comments: What a great moment to capture. Sharp, good composition, fantastic
tension with the football looking like it’s balanced on his hand.

Second Place: Paul Rodriguez

Orange County Register

Third Place: Mark Rightmire 

Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Keith Birmingham 

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Best Photo Essay or Slideshow 

First Place: Mark Rightmire 

Orange County Register 

Comments: So funny and so interesting. The dogs faces said it all. Wonderful

Second Place: Mark Rightmire 

Orange County Register

Third Place: Jeff Gritchen 

Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Erika Taylor 

 Voice of OC

Best Breaking News Story 

First Place: Orange County Register Staff 

At least 9 shot at biker bar in Orange County’s Trabuco Canyon; 4 confirmed dead,” Orange County Register 

Comments: The depth and quickness of the reporting stood out among all entries.
The staff at Orange County Register showed wny local journalism is important to
communities in a time of horific mass shootings. The local press owned the story.

Second Place: Staff of the Los Angeles Times 

Ex-cop was gunning for estranged wife, then shot randomly, killing 3 and wounding 6 at O.C. bar , Los Angeles Times

Third Place: Orange County Register Staff 

Fire destroys massive, historic north hangar at shuttered Tustin airfield, Orange County Register

Best Investigative Story or Series 

First Place: Nick Gerda 

Orange County Supervisors: Tracking Taxpayer Money, LAist

Comments: Love and needed the excellent summary. Glad you are monitoring
funds in Orange County because the county definitely isn’t. Great job which
should bring about important change and consequences to the wrong doers.

Second Place: Noah Biesiada, Hosam Elattar 

Anaheim’s Ticket to Ride, Voice of OC

Third Place: Scott Schwebke, Joe Nelson 

Southern California law enforcement agencies still stuck in a staffing crisis, Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Scott Schwebke 

Harbor-UCLA placed on probation as sexual misconduct allegations swirl over orthopedics chief, Daily Breeze

Best Religion Story 

First Place: Brooke Staggs 

Christians and climate change: Southern California churches preach very different messages,” Orange County Register

Comments: Well-balanced and developed article that sought understanding from all
sides. Kudos!

Second Place: Yusra Farzan 

Muslim women-run markets help families prepare for Ramadan in Orange County,” Orange County Register

Third Place: Hosam Elattar & Erika Taylor 

OC Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah – a Festival of Lights,” Voice of OC

Best News Story 

First Place: Meghann Cuniff 

2 Trials, 2 Fates: Inside the Dana Point Harbor Murder Case, Dana Point Times

Comments: It’s not easy to make legalese understandable to the masses. Meghann

Second Place: Noah Biesiada 

Orange County’s 911 Dispatchers Are Chronically Overworked; Can They Handle the Next Disaster?“, Voice of OC

Third Place: Scott Schwebke 

Suspect confesses in jailhouse interview to killing bicycling doctor in Dana Point , Orange County Register

Honorable Mention: Yusra Farzan 

OC Turkish and Syrian communities left heartbroken by deadly earthquake, Orange County Register

The Real O.C. Award 

First Place: Gabriel San Roman 

He’s the first Black council member of a former Orange County ‘sundown town,’” Los Angeles Times

Comments: This is an extremely well-written story and a good read. The reporter
did a great job of incorporating the historical context in the community with what
an achievement it was for Rodney “Blair” Stewart to become the first, Black
council member. The quotes were excellent, and the reporter did a great job of
reporting his story. A good use of sources and statistical information.

Second Place: Hosam Elattar 

The Happiest Place on Earth is Surrounded by Some of Orange County’s Poorest,” Voice of OC

Third Place: Anne Valdespino 

CBD Power Lunch at Knife Pleat,” Culture OC

Journalist of the Year

Teri Sforza 

Comments: Great blend of old-fashioned newsroom legwork, detail, and balanced
advocacy that doesn’t just inform but also pushes for change.

Sky Dunlap Award

Susan Christian Goulding

Posted in Awards.