Daily Pilot staff wins 10 OC Press Club Awards

Current and former Daily Pilot staff members took home 10 Orange County Press Club Awards Monday evening.

The banquet at the Balboa Bay Resort honored work produced by print, electronic and broadcast media throughout the county in 2012.

Daily Pilot staff photographer Scott Smeltzer took home three awards, the most of anyone at the newspaper. He won first place in sports and profile photography and second place in news photography.

Daily Pilot Photo Editor Don Leach took first place for news photography.

And Kevin Chang, a staff photographer, won second and third places for sports photography — a category swept by the Daily Pilot's photo staff.

"Our photo team, which is made up of talented veteran photographers, can hold its own with anyone in the region," said John Canalis, editor of Times Community News, South. "Particularly in this age, where everyone considers themselves a photographer, there is no substitute for a professionally trained photo journalist. I am so grateful to have these guys on staff."

Former Daily Pilot staff writer Mona Shadia won first place for column writing for "Unveiled: A Muslim Girl in O.C.," a series of pieces about adjusting to American life after emigrating from Egypt to the United States. Shadia now writes for the Orange County Register.

"We took a lot of heat for running this column when it started," Canalis said, "but ultimately Mona was able to educate those of us who knew little about her faith and culture and create understanding about the challenges of practicing Islam in America. Her column took guts, and I am grateful to see that her peers recognized that."

Staff Writer Bradley Zint took second place in column writing for "Classically Trained," a series he used to write on classical music for the Daily Pilot. Zint now covers Costa Mesa City Hall.

Daily Pilot Features Editor Michael Miller won second place for feature writing for a piece on a model train that was swept away during the Japanese tsunami of 2011 and then later found on the shores of Huntington Beach. The story appeared both in the Daily Pilot and its sister paper, the Huntington Beach Independent, where Miller served as city editor at the time of publication.

Steve Virgen, who is sports editor of the Daily Pilot, took third place in magazine feature writing for a freelance piece he wrote for Southland Golf magazine.

The top award for the evening went to NBC-4 reporter Vikki Vargas, who won the 2013 Sky Dunlap Award for lifetime achievement and community involvement. Vargas, who grew up in Orange County, covers the region for Channel 4.

Other winners included the Orange County Register, OC Weekly, Patch and OC Family. A complete list can be viewed at http://orangecountypressclub.com/News_and_Events.html.

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