After receiving several nominations, the L.A. Weekly staff brought home a total of seven awards, including four first place awards and Journalist of the Year, during the 64th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards on Saturday, June 25.

LA Weekly news reporter Isai Rocha took home the second-highest award of the evening with “Journalist of the Year” in the under 50,000 circulation category. The judges commented that Rocha “delivered the goods” in his reporting on several key issues, including homelessness in Los Angeles.

“Whether exploring issues of diversity, pandemic inequities, or homelessness, Rocha delivers the goods by putting into sharp relief situations and issues many – including city officials and politicians – would rather ignore or keep in the dark. His work is commendable and deserving of recognition by both the public and his peers.”

In addition to being named Journalist of the Year, Rocha also received first place for “Hard News Story” for reporting on a stabbing during an anti-vaccination rally near Los Angeles City Hall last summer. The judges added that Rocha did an “excellent job” reporting and getting quotes from both sides of the violence.

“Well-written and covered all the bases for a breaking news story. Excellent job of gathering facts but also getting the quotes from protagonists that told the story in human terms and dramatized the polarization driving some people to violence over a public health issue,” the judges commented.

Also nominated for the Journalist of the Year category was fellow L.A. Weekly culture and entertainment editor Lina Lecaro. In 2021, Lecaro earned a first place finish in the “Feature Profile” category, for a piece on legendary filmmaker Spike Lee’s life, films and current social issues. Lecaro also finished second in the “Journalist of the Year” category for print publications under 50,000 in circulation.

This year, Lecaro claimed third place for her feature on Licorice Pizza and an additional third-place recognition for her feature on actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Another third place win for LA Weekly staff saw Arts Editor Shana Nys Dambrot recognized for her piece titled “Tiffany Alfonesca at the Mistake Room,” published at Artillery Mag. 

Music editor Brett Callwood also helped anchor more first-place achievements for the alt-weekly. This year, Callwood was recognized as the top online columnist, with the judges emphasizing the thoughtful and expertly written approach of Callwood’s work with his “Basslines and Protest Signs” column for idobi Radio.

Callwood also took home first place for his LA Weekly feature titled, “Can Our Stages Be Saved,” in the “Entertainment News or Feature” category.

Focusing on the music industry during and post-pandemic, Callwood investigated the struggle of thousands of venue workers, bartenders and other professionals affected by the stoppage – and seemingly slow start of the return to the stage.

For this, the judges recognized the fact that this group had been marginalized, and potentially “overlooked.”

“This story was a great illustration of a group of people who have struggled through the pandemic – and continue to struggle, even as the pandemic is seemingly ending,” according to the judges. “While the author believes the mentioning of this topic is considered frivolous to discuss, the entertainment industry employs thousands of people and often they (like restaurants, bars, others) were overlooked.”

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