The Society of Professional Journalists Los Angeles chapter honored Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana, Jr., as one of five distinguished journalists at its 42nd annual awards banquet.

Santana is one of just five journalists given the “Distinguished Journalist” honor which goes to regional journalists across all forms of media; Santana’s honor is as the digital media professional. SPJ/LA states journalists are honored who “demonstrate good news judgment, a strong sense of ethics and a passion for getting the story right” and who also have achieved a record of career accomplishments.

“I want to thank the Society of Professional Journalists, because without organizations like this our profession, which is under such attack, will wither,” Santana said during his acceptance speech. ” “When everybody else is running for the exits, the journalists run the other direction. And that takes a lot of strength. The key here is that journalists matter. What you write, the truth, it matters.”

Kelly Aviles of Californians Aware who is litigator for Voice of OC, was honored with SPJ/LA’s Freedom of Information award. This honor goes to a non-journalist who has helped to promote First Amendment issues. Previous winners have worked in legal, academic, government and nonprofit organizations.

“If you want to go have a good time, I tell ya it’s like I take popcorn to court, if you go and sit down and watch Kelly Aviles defend the first amendment. It is the kind of thing that just makes you proud to be an American and it makes you proud of the Constitution,” Santana said of Aviles’ work.

The Society of Professional Journalist is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization with a special focus on promoting ethical behavior and supporting the free practice of journalism. The Greater Los Angeles chapter is in its 84th year and its membership spans from the San Gabriel valley, across Los Angeles and down to Orange County.

SPJ/LA’s other distinguished journalist awardees this year included: Robin Abcarian, columnist at the Los Angeles Times; Kim Masters, editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter and host of KCRW’s The Business; Sharon McNary, reporter at KPCC; and Miriam Hernandez, general assignment reporter for ABC7 Eyewitness News. The organization also gave special recognition to Rob Eshman who was editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal before stepping down in September after 23 years at the Los Angeles paper.

SPJ/LA has given out the distinguished journalist awards annually since 1976. Tracy Wood was recognized as a distinguished journalist in 2000 when she worked at the Orange County Register; she is now civic editor of Voice of OC. Terry Francke, of the California First Amendment Coalition and consultant to Voice of OC, was given the Freedom of Information Award in 1992.

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