Spencer Custodio, Brandon Pho and Nick Gerda work together in the Voice of OC newsroom in October 2019. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Voice of OC’s small news team has proved that it is bringing Orange County some of the best journalism in the state.

It is unparalleled for a news agency of three full-time reporters to have won 18 awards in the California News Publishers Association awards contest.

Voice of OC won top award spots across the state for wildfire coverage, columns, infographics, writing and video journalism.

Impartial judges declared Voice of OC’s journalism as:

An important example of accountability journalism.” “Moving.” “Local news presented in a smart manner.” “A scrappy nonprofit website that punches well above its weight.” “Packed with useful information.” “It’s nice to see some coverage of actual solutions that are educating people and giving other jobs.” “(The story’s) video, maps and great photography helped illustrate the story and its importance.”

All this praise was offered to the Voice of OC team in the middle of a pandemic.

The year that proved how the presence or absence of essential, independent local news can — in significant circumstances — mean life or death for the public.

A year when journalism had been whittled down to its very bone in news deserts across the country – yes, even in Orange County.

A year when thousands of people across Orange County stepped up and became Voice of OC donors — propelling this nonprofit and nonpartisan news team into the future.

This is the third year in a row that the California News Publishers’ Association has included digital outlets such as Voice of OC. See our previous wins in 2020 and 2019.

And remember, this award-winning work at Voice of OC comes to you free-of-charge, with no advertising disrupting the experience. But that also means we rely on your support to sustain and expand our efforts — please become a donor today.

Voice of OC’s 2021 CA Journalism Awards:

WILDFIRES First Place for Wildfire Coverage, “Series: Ongoing Wildfire Risks in Orange County” by Nick Gerda, Hosam Elattar and Noah Biesiada. Judges: “This series did a good job of uncovering and illuminating city and county government issues faced during last year’s wildfires. Found it interesting.”

GRAPHICS First Place for Infographics, “Daily Coronavirus Tracker” by Sonya Quick.

COLUMNS Second Place for Columnist, “County of Orange Auctioned Off 100,000 Expired N95 Protective Masks” by Norberto Santana, Jr.

WRITING Second Place for Writing, “Renaming Historic Sites Continue to Ignite Debate in Orange County” by Richard Chang.

VIDEO Second Place for Video Journalism – News, “Annual High Tide Spurs Concerns About Future Safety of San Onofre Nuclear Waste Stock Near South OC” by Jose Hernandez.

GENERAL EXCELLENCE Third Place for General Excellence, Voice of OC. Judges: “This scrappy nonprofit punches well above its weight. It has done exemplary work covering the pandemic in Orange County, particularly its impact in disadvantaged communities even as elected officials were proclaiming “all is well.” The site is well designed and easy to navigate, and the uncluttered content templates load quickly.”

LOCAL GOVERNMENT Third Place for Coverage of Local Government, “Angel Stadium Sale’s Community Benefits Remain a Mystery, Final Price Tag Unknown” by Spencer Custodio.

LAND-USE Third Place for Land-Use Reporting, “Annual High Tide Spurs Concerns About Future Safety of San Onofre Nuclear Waste Stock Near South OC” by Brandon Pho. Judges: “Video, maps and great photography helped illustrate this story and its importance.”

RACIAL JUSTICE Third Place for Coverage of Protests and Racial Justice News or Feature Stories, “Santa Ana Unified School District Creates Ethnic Studies Requirement in Wake of George Floyd Protest” by Hosam Elattar. Judges: “This is a great story. It’s nice to see some coverage of actual solutions that are educating people and giving others jobs.”

DESIGN Third Place for Home Page Layout and Design, Voice of OC by Sonya Quick. Judges: “Local news presented in a smart manner.”

COVID-19 FALLOUT Fourth Place for Coverage of the fallout caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, “Latinos Confront a Day of the Dead Like No Other” by Norberto Santana, Jr. Judges: “Moving, well-written column.”

RACIAL JUSTICE – PHOTOGRAPHY Fifth Place for Coverage of Protests and Racial Justice – Photo, “In Wake of Raucous Protests, Santa Ana Residents Rally Around Clean Up” by Julie Leopo.Fifth Place for Coverage of Protests and Racial Justice News, “Infographic: Orange County Protests Against Police Violence” by Caitlin Bartusick, Brandon Pho and Sonya Quick.

COVID-19 HEALTH Fifth Place for Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic-Health Reporting, “Homeless Deaths Are Spiking in Orange County” by Nick Gerda. Judges: “Voice of OC uncovers an alarming spike in area homeless deaths, and in dogged pursuit of the “why” exposes a troubling lack of tracking and awareness among local officials. An important example of local accountability journalism.”

BREAKING NEWS Fifth Place for Breaking News, “Orange County Confirms First Case of Locally-Transmitted Coronavirus” by Norberto Santana, Jr.

2020 ELECTION Fifth Place for Local Coverage of Election 2020, “Santa Ana Officials Raise Questions Over Voter Access ‘Desert’ in City’s Crowded South End” by Brandon Pho.

YOUTH & EDUCATION Fifth Place for Coverage of Youth and Education, “OC Board of Education Emails Database and Stories” by Noah Biesiada, Hosam Elattar, Caitlin Bartusick and Sonya Quick.

WRITING Fifth Place for Writing, “Santana: Just One Vote Made the Difference in Brea’s Local School Board Race” by Norberto Santana, Jr.

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