By Miriam Raftery
October 28, 2020 (San Diego) – East County Magazine writers and photographers picked up seven awards in the San Diego Press Club’s 47th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards. ECM’s winning entries included coverage of the May 30-31 riot and protest in La Mesa, Cajon Valley Union School District’s educational challenges during COVID-19 and controversial spending on promotional videos, the railway museum’s centennial celebration in Campo, and a column addressing health issues in local communities.
“I’m proud of our team of hard-working journalists, who went above and beyond the call of duty to report during tumultuous times,” says ECM editor Miriam Raftery. “I also want to thank the Facebook Journalism Project grant, which supports local journalism and funded our reporting on most of this year’s winning entries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This year’s Press Club awards program drew more than 1,100 entries, making it one of the largest journalism competitions in the nation. Judges for the Press Club’s entries included members of 15 journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Alaska.
ECM's award-winners this year are editor Miriam Raftery, photojournalists Paul Kruze, Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson, Henri Migala, and Jake Rose, as well as columnists David Shorey and Paul Levikow.
In the online and daily newspapers division, “Night of Terror in La Mesa” won first place for breaking news. The winning entry by Paul Kruze, Rebecca Jefferis Williamson and Miriam Raftery also included photos by Jake Rose.
Raftery and Kruze won first place in the education category for “Cajon Valley School District spends over a half mllion dollars on promotional videos.”
Kruze also took third place in education for his article, “Cajon Valley Union School District’s bumpy road to a new school year during COVID-19 pandemic.”
Jefferis-Williamson and Raftery received an honorable mention in the history category for “Golden spike ceremony crowns railway’s centennial celebration in Campo.”
In the photography category, Henri Migala won second place for documenting the protest in La Mesa, including his own ordeal in “Photographer hit by pepper spray shares front-line experience covering protest in La Mesa.”
Jake Rose received an honorable mention for his photo essay, “Witness to Chaos,” covering the La Mesa riot including video of arsonists in action.
David Shorey and Paul Levikow also received an honorable mention for their column, “Advancing Healthy Communities” running exclusively on East County Magazine.
More than 500 awards in 130 categories and 10 divisions were announced. The online awards program streamed live from the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park on Facebook and Twitter.
“The San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards celebrates professionals whose research, writing, reporting and visual skills shed light on newsworthy topics that matter to us all,” said Albert Fulcher, 2020 Press Club president. “At a time when many Americans distrust the news media, I am proud of our organization’s 400 members and their commitment to truth and fairness with integrity, high standards and ethical reporting. I am also proud of our success at uniting journalism and public relations professionals, while providing career-enhancing programs and networking opportunities for our members.”
Best of Show awards include:
-- Maya Trabulsi, KPBS-TV, “A Portrait of People in Motion,” Best Television/Online Video Entry;
-- David Ross, Valley Roadrunner, “Miller Fire: A Catastrophe That Was Avoided,” Best Non-Daily Newspaper Entry;
-- Jared Whitlock, Wired Magazine, “Covid-19 Stalls Clinical Trials for Everything but Covid-19,” Best Magazine Entry;
-- Drew Duglan, Scripps Research, “PreSCRIPPSion Sound Podcast: Mice in Outer Space,” Best Radio/Podcast Entry;
-- Roxana Popescu, inewsource.org, “Pandemic takes a toll on San Diego County refugees, sheltering in place with abusive partners,” Best Online-Daily Newspaper Entry;
-- Andrew Dyer, Gary Robbins, Lauryn Schroeder, Kristen Taketa, Jeff McDonald, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Wildcard Category, 2019 theme was racial inequality;
-- Paul Sisson, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Body of Work award.
The Press Club presented three special career achievement awards. Recipients are: Linda Rosas Townson, publisher, San Diego Neighborhood Newspapers (SDNN), Jim Reiman Award for Excellence in Media Management; Alison St. John, retired reporter for KPBS, Harold Keen Award for Outstanding Contributions in Journalism; Maria Velasquez, former Director of Communication, San Diego City Attorney’s Office; and former Chief Communications Officer, Senior VP of Communication and Government Relations, San Diego Housing Commission, Andy Mace Award for Career Achievement in Public Relations.
Townson serves as publisher of SDNN, publisher of three local community weekly newspapers, including the Star-News in Chula Vista, East County Californian in El Cajon and Alpine Sun. Also, for the past decade, she has served as senior VP of community media overseeing business operations for 18 Southern California community newspapers published by Cypress, Calif.-based Community Media Corp., owned by brothers Daniel and Edward Verdugo.
St. John retired in January 2019, after working in news roles at KPBS since 1991. During her reporting career at KPBS, she worked in various roles, including as Morning Edition anchor, North County reporter, news editor and Midday co-host. She won awards from the San Diego Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press TV and Radio Association and California Golden Mike Awards. As an Oceanside resident, she also served as KPBS’ North County bureau chief. She covered such stories as nuclear waste issues at San Onofre, North County politics and homeless veterans. Currently, she continues to fill-in as host of KPBS shows “Roundtable” and “Midday Edition.”
Velasquez spent 27 years working in TV news, starting in 1974, producing public affairs programming and then reporting on-air for three local stations, KNSD-TV, KGTV and KFMB-TV, as well as anchoring and reporting in San Luis Obispo, Calif. and Phoenix. She was one of the San Diego market’s first Latina journalists, an Emmy award-winning producer and journalist who covered the Tijuana region. She also produced morning and magazine shows about San Diego’s diverse communities and the Latino culture. In 1984, she also was a founding board member of the California Chicano News Media Association, San Diego chapter. Then, in 2001, she began a 16-year stint working in spokesperson roles with the San Diego City Attorney’s Office (2001-2008) and the San Diego Housing Commission (2009-2017). She continues her public relations and community work through Maria Velasquez Communications.
Townson’s award is named after Jim Reiman, who served for many years as assistant news director at KGTV-TV/Channel 10. Reiman was considered an unsung hero of the profession, similar to many behind-the-scenes journalists who do not have a byline nor appear on camera. When Reinman retired, the Press Club created the award to honor enlightened media managers and the first recipient was KGTV assignment editor Jack Moorhead in 1997.
St. John’s award is named after Harold Keen, who anchored San Diego’s first television news broadcast in 1949 and was described by colleagues as the dean of San Diego journalists. Keen arrived in San Diego in 1936 as a reporter for The San Diego Sun. He later worked for the San Diego Union, San Diego Magazine and KFMB-TV/Channel 8. He passed away in 1981.
San Diego State University students Katy Stegal and Amber Salas each were presented with $2,500 scholarships as part of the Press Club event. Stegal and Salas both work for The Daily Aztec, the university’s student news organization.
For a complete list of winners, see http://sdpressclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020-San-Diego-Press-Club-FINAL-Winners-Announced.pdf.
Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.
You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.