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Times Community News wins 16 O.C. Press Club awards

Racing pigs jump over a hurdle during an All-Alaskan Racing Pigs race at the Orange County Fair in 2021.
Racing pigs jump over a hurdle during an All-Alaskan Racing Pigs race at the Orange County Fair in 2021. Daily Pilot reporter Lilly Nguyen’s story on the porcine spectacle earned third place in the feature category at the 2021 Orange County Press Club Awards.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Times Community News staffers and contributors racked up 16 Orange County Press Club honors at the institution’s 2022 awards gala Thursday night, where attendees also paid tribute to TCN copy editor Dennis Brosterhous, who passed away in mid-April.

Daily Pilot reporters Andrew Turner, Matt Szabo and Lilly Nguyen earned a total of six awards.

Turner’s three prizes included a first-place nod in the arts and culture category for his July 2021 coverage of the volunteers who make Laguna Beach’s annual Pageant of the Masters living art show possible each year by replicating artistic masterpieces.

He also earned a second-place win for music and entertainment for shedding light on the artistry behind the tribute bands who honor living legends each year at the Orange County Fair.

“A newsroom is a family, and I am proud to work alongside the fine people at the Daily Pilot and TimesOC,” Turner said. “These honors for our staff bring into sharp focus the people that have helped us in our careers, including our late friend and colleague Dennis Brosterhous, who always steered us in the right direction as a copy editor.”

Area residents participate in a "Let Them Play" rally at Edison High School.
Area residents participate in a “Let Them Play” rally at Edison High School. Daily Pilot reporters Andrew Turner and Matt Szabo won a third-place breaking news award Thursday for their coverage of the event.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Turner teamed up with fellow Pilot reporter Matt Szabo in January 2021 to cover a series of “Let Them Play” rallies organized by parents and athletics fans urging local school districts to sanction the resumption of after-school sports teams and competitions. For their efforts, the Press Club awarded them a third-place award in breaking news.

Szabo was recognized at Thursday’s ceremony with a third-place win for a May 2021 profile on Huntington Beach’s Maureen Farsadi, a retired nurse with a personal mission to keep the city’s Golden View Park clean and safe for kids and families.

Szabo said Friday he was honored to be recognized by the O.C. Press Club.

“As a veteran of the Daily Pilot, I’m also proud that we won multiple awards,” he said. “It is a pleasure to work alongside such talented journalists every day and serve the communities we serve, even with recent challenges related to the industry and the pandemic.”

Nguyen won first place in the pandemic feature story category for her May 2021 coverage of a group of bilingual “promotoras” at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach who connected lower-income families with socioeconomic and health-related services.

Nguyen also earned third place in the feature category for her story on the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs at the 2021 Orange County Fair.

“I’m honored to have received not one but two awards from our local press club here in Orange County,” Nguyen said. “I think we do a lot of great and important work here at the Pilot, so I’m glad to hear that our peers agree — we’ll have to keep up the good work for next year!”

Daily Pilot managing editor Carol Cormaci said Friday the paper’s newsroom, “forced by the pandemic to be virtual in nature, not the buzzing, hyperactive newspaper offices depicted in film,” is a very special one.

“The Daily Pilot and TimesOC team has managed, yet again, to prove that nothing, not even sources who clam up or seemingly vaporize into thin air, can prevent these writers from digging deep to discover sometimes uncomfortable truths, finding the uncommon beauty in the most ordinary of events and crafting stories worth our readers’ time,” Cormaci said.

“My congratulations to all. It is my honor to work with this crew.”

Manic Hispanic band members pose in Fullerton in September 2021.
Manic Hispanic band members pose in Fullerton in September 2021. TimesOC reporter Gabriel San Román earned a first-place award from the O.C. Press Club Thursday in the music and entertainment category.
(Raul Roa )

Longtime Daily Pilot columnist Patrice Apodaca earned first place in the best columnist category, named after the late David McQuay, an honor that was also bestowed upon her last year.

The work of TCN publication TimesOC was also credited at Thursday’s gala, thanks to four awards earned by reporter Gabriel San Román.

San Román nabbed a first-place award in the music and entertainment category for his September 2021 story on O.C. band Manic Hispanic and how members returned to their roots after the passing of two founding members to create the new album “Back in Brown.”

He also received two second-place prizes — in best environmental news for coverage of how unionized workers at a Santa Ana factory became “citizen scientists” collecting data that confirmed workers concerns about air pollution at the site and for his November 2021 profile on OC Weekly founding publisher and conservative firebrand Will Swaim.

San Román’s fourth Press Club award was a third-place nod in the public affairs category for his December 2021 coverage of how the city of Anaheim partnered with the Orange County Health Care Agency in a battle against pop-up taqueros and other unpermitted food stands.

“The Orange County Press Club is a vital institution for local journalism. It’s always nice to be recognized for our efforts in the annual awards gala that they host,” he said Friday. “I’m proud to be one of many reporters from Times Community News and the Los Angeles Times to be honored this year.”

TimesOC contributor Meghann Cuniff took the top award for best pandemic news story (“Defending trial ban, federal judge says O.C. state courts aren’t tracking coronavirus infections”), third place in the best news story category for her piece about a judge dismissing criminal trials due to a lack of juries during the pandemic, and another third place honor for her investigative piece about an informant who faces life in prison.

Writer Edwin Goei won two awards for his food coverage in TimesOC, including a first-place for best round-up story for “Eight meals for $8 (or less) in Orange County” and another top prize in the best food/restaurant review for a combined review of three area ghost kitchens.

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