Awards & Honors

Voice of OC’s work has been recognized by regional and national journalism organizations. Here is a summary of all the awards, honors and recognitions for work done at Voice of OC.

Society of Professional Journalists


Distinguished Journalist – Norberto Santana, Jr.

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.

Freedom of Information Award – Kelly Aviles

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.

Orange County Business Journal


Orange County’s Most Influential Leaders – Norberto Santana, Jr.

Santana was particularly recognized for his successful lawsuit under the California Public Records Act against the County of Orange and his award by the OC Press Club as best columnist in 2017.



Online Journalist of the Year – Norberto Santana, Jr.

Journalists honored Santana for his column writing about the year long public records court battleagainst the County of Orange involving documents related to Supervisor Todd Spitzer and his citizens’ arrest of an evangelical preacher. Judges also highlighted Santana’s writing on homelessness across Orange County – on the need for immediate sheltering response and long term permanent supportive housing – as well as his work on the Voice of OC nonprofit model.

The judges commented, “This was an extremely competitive category … But Norberto Santana Jr.’s dogged reporting and the results it brought in the community put him at the top. His writing is topnotch and puts a human face on many of the social ills in the area. Excellent work!”

Government/Politics News Writing

2nd Place: “Sheriff May Change Policy That Led to Threatened Arrest of Reporter” by Nick Gerda

Minority/Immigration Reporting

3rd Place: “Westminster May Create “Mendez Historic Trail” to Honor Landmark School Desegregation Case” by Thy Vo

Best News Website Design

3rd Place – Sonya Quick

Political Commentary

Finalist: “Aly: Arrested for #RiverbedRescue” by Mohammed Aly

Finalist: “Perez: The SAPOA and Santa Ana’s House of Cards” by Claudia Perez

Two community Opinion writers, Mohammed Aly and Claudia Perez, also earned finalist nominations in the Political Commentary category.


1st Place: Best News Website

A panel of national judges applauded the website’s polished design, hard news and strong photography. “Clean yet newsy front page. Plentiful pictures but not so many or so large they distract from the articles. The author profile pages were useful; they contained not just the author’s various stories but multiple ways to contact and follow reporters.”

2nd Place: Soft News

Viet LGBT Struggle For Understanding” by Thy Vo


Best Online Personality Profile/Interview

First Place: “A Fighter Steps Out of the Ring” by David Washburn

Best Online Hard News Feature

Third Place: “A War Correspondent Turned Lifelong Corruption Fighter” by Tracy Wood

Third Place: “Struggles of Second Generation Reveal Long Shadow of War” By Thy Vo


2nd Place: Cause Journalism

The Paradox of Latino Health” by Amy DePaul, Nick Gerda, David Washburn and Caitlin Whelan



David McQuay Award for Best Columnist – 1st Place – Norberto Santana, Jr.

Publisher Norberto Santana, Jr., was awarded the David McQuay Award for Best Columnist. He was awarded for this series of columns on Orange County government:

Public Wins, Politicians Lose on Secrecy in OC

Santana: Phantom Government

Santana: Orange County Faces a Public Safety Leadership Crisis

OC Vets Cemetery in Irvine Stuck?

Best Political Columnist – 1st Place – Norberto Santana, Jr.

Publisher Norberto Santana, Jr., was awarded for these columns related to local government:

OC Contract Cities Rebuke County Supervisors Over Spiraling Sheriff Costs

Could a Housing Bond End Homelessness in Orange County?

OC Auditor Controller Leads CA Public Accountants Uprising

Something Smells at The Mesa Water District

Santana: Inaction Can Kill

Best Beat Reporting – 1st Place – Nick Gerda

Homeless in the OC

Homelessness and Poverty Keep Growing in Orange County, Studies Find

Sheriff to Step Up Patrols of Riverbed Homeless Camp, But Say They Will Not Clear It Out

County to Block Homeless Camping on Large Sections of Santa Ana Riverbed

Housing Shortage Sent Homeless at Transitional Shelter Back to Streets

Best Environmental News Story

First Place: To Desalinate or Not to Desalinate: UCI Debate Over Controversial Huntington Beach Plant by Amy DePaul

Best Investigative Story

Third Place: Hundreds of Dollars in ‘Gifts’ From Contractors to Supervisor Nelson Raise Legal Questions by Nick Gerda

Best News Story

Third Place: Airport Controversy Heats Up as Supervisors Award Contract to Low-Ranked Firm by Nick Gerda

Best News Photo

Third Place: Sheriffs patrolling homeless camp by Jeff Antenore


David McQuay Award for Best Columnist

Publisher Norberto Santana, Jr., was awarded the David McQuay Award for Best Columnist. He was awarded for this series of columns on homelessness:

Focus for Santa Ana Civic Center Should be People Not Buildings

County Supervisors Making Progress on Homelessness

Civic Center Homeless Camp Now Keeping People from Jury Duty

Labor Day Reminds Us Government is Fueled by People Not Politicians

Doing the Right Thing

Best Investigative Story

Third Place: “‘Behested Payments’ Add Another Layer of Money in Politics” by Tracy Wood

Best Public Affairs Story

Second Place: “O.C.’s Rise in Suicides Largest Among Major U.S. Counties” by Nick Gerda


Best News Story

First Place: “Supervisors Backed Off Criticism of Jail Phones After Contributions From Vendor” by Nick Gerda

Third Place: “Dog Attack on Pregnant Woman Raises More Questions About County Animal Control” by Nick Gerda

Best News Feature Story

Second Place: “Battered Lives: Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse Hard for Immigrant Families” by Amy DePaul

Third Place: “A Fighter Steps Out of the Ring” by David Washburn

Best News or Political Blog:

Voice of OC, Norberto Santana, Jr. for his series of columns on the county’s problems addressing the homeless situation at the Santa Ana Civic Center.

Best Public Affairs Story

First Place: “Fast Times at Rancho Santiago: District Officials Travel in Luxury on Taxpayer’s Dime” by Adam Elmahrek

Second Place: “Dick Jones’ Sweet Deal in Westminster” by Thy Vo

Third Place: “Santa Ana’s Ongoing Struggle with Domestic Violence” by Amy DePaul

Best Feature Story

Third Place: “Struggles of Second Generation Reveal Long Shadow of War” by Thy Vo

Best Slideshow

First Place: “Summer in the City: Innocence Lost and Found” by Julie Lopo

Second Place: “The Voices of Fourth Street” by Julie Leopo


Best Investigative Story

First Place: “Santa Ana Mayor’s Property Swap Raises Questions” by Adam Elmahrek

Second Place: “Campaign Filings Draw Scrutiny to Cypress Trucking Center” by Nick Gerda and PBS SoCal’s David Nazar

Best News Story

First Place: “OC Register Set to Be Anaheim’s Sponsorship Broker” by Adam Elmahrek and Nick Gerda

Second Place: “The Story Behind Councilwoman Kring’s Recent Flip-Flops” by Adam Elmahrek

Best Public Affairs Story

Third Place: “The Paradox of Latino Health” by Amy DePaul

Best Broadcast

First Place: Voice of OC/PBS SoCal report – “City Jobs for Family of Garden Grove Leaders” by Norberto Santana Jr.


Best Investigative Story

Regulators Say They Can’t Find Key Record on San Onofre Changes” by Nick Gerda

Best Public Affairs or Education Story or Series

3rd Place: “Housing Insecurity” story series by Amy DePaul and Marilyn Montano

Living Dangerously to Pay the Rent

‘Housing Insecurity’ Threatens Many OC Families

A Young Woman Tells Her Story of Housing Insecurity


Best Investigative Story

First Place: “Anaheim’s Green Deal Gone Bad” by Adam Elmahrek

Third Place: “Anaheim Outsources Work to City Building Official’s Firm” by Adam Elmahrek

Best Series

Third Place: “No Room To Run” by Tracy Wood and David Washburn

News Feature

Third Place: Tracy Wood


Best Investigative Story

First Place: “Questions Swirl Around Water District Director’s Expense Reports” by Tracy Wood and Adam Elmahrek

Second Place: “Dealing for DNA” by Tracy Wood

OC League of Conservation Voters


1st Place – Outstanding Env. Journalism

OC Community Organization for Responsible Development


1st Place – Community Leadership