TUSTIN — Journalists from the Daily Pilot, Huntington Beach Independent and Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot won awards in the Orange County Press Club's 2012 Journalism Contest on Wednesday.
Mona Shadia's column, "Unveiled: A Muslim Girl in O.C.," which appears in all three papers, won third place in the David McQuay Award for best columnist.
Since her column debuted in December, critics and admirers have reacted strongly to her personal tales of being an Egyptian-born Muslim adjusting to life in Orange County.
"The topic of this column is fascinating, and Shadia does a fantastic job of mixing her personal experiences with the explanations about her culture and faith," one judge wrote.
In the best investigative story category, Daily Pilot reporter Mike Reicher won second place for "Henn votes on Lido, despite financial ties."
The story detailed a business relationship of Mike Henn, then mayor of Newport Beach, to a company in Lido Village, an underperforming commercial area that Henn flagged for revitalization. The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating his involvement as a possible conflict of interest.
Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen won third place in the best sports story category for his moving account of his relationship with Julie Allen, the former Corona del Mar High School distance runner who died in a 10-car crash last January.
In "Julie was a 'positive force,'" Virgen drew on his many connections to the local sports community and painted a rich picture of Allen, whose high school career he covered.
In the best photo category, Photo Editor Don Leach, who works for all three papers, won third place for his image of a girl posing as Alice in last summer's Pageant of the Masters rendition of "Alice in Wonderland." The photo ran in the Coastline Pilot under the headline "Make-believe world."
"What I like most about our winners this year is the diversity of work," said John Canalis, editor L.A. Times Community News South, which publishes the three newspapers. "We have Mona breaking new ground with her personal narratives, Mike doing important watchdog reporting, Steve telling the tale of an athlete whose life ended in tragedy, and Don making art from artwork."
The Press Club received 322 entries from 39 Orange County-based publications, covering work published in 2011.
OC Weekly won the most awards, with 16 prizes in a variety of categories, including sports and best columnist. The Voice of OC, an investigative news website, won first in the investigative category, and independent photographer Geoff Ragatz won first place for best photo.
This was the first year in recent memory that the Pilot and the other Times Community News South papers entered the Press Club awards.
The entries were judged by journalists from press clubs outside of the region.