Photo of a crowd of people
Students gathered under the halo in the Annenberg Media Center pre-COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo by: Alan Mittelstaedt

Southern California Journalism Awards honor numerous USC Annenberg students and alumni

USC Annenberg students, alumni and adjunct professors earned more than 40 honors, including 18 first-place nods, at the 62nd Annual Southern California Journalism Awards. Held by the Los Angeles Press Club, this year’s event honoring work from 2019 was entirely virtual, with presenters George Pennacchio of ABC7 and Cher Calvin of KTLA announcing the winners via Vimeo.

In addition to earning numerous top-three finishes in the student-media categories, USC Annenberg Media, Ampersand magazine, JOVRNALISM, and the Beacon Project also were recognized in several of the professional-media categories.

“We couldn’t be prouder of our students for the impressive showing at these awards this year,” said Christina Bellantoni, professor of professional practice and director of USC Annenberg’s Media Center. “Ruby Yuan, then the newsroom’s executive editor, was adamant that we should apply in several professional media categories. I am thrilled with how many of our students did indeed impress the judges while competing with the best and most prominent news outlets in the second largest city in America.”

Among the winners, alumna Christina Pascucci (BA, journalism, Spanish international business, ’07) of KTLA was honored with one of the top awards — Television Journalist of the Year.

“I started feeling all these emotions because I’ve often felt these ‘I didn’t do well enough’ thoughts or ‘I fell short’ or ‘I’m not good enough.’” Pascucci wrote on Instagram after learning she had won the award. “Stop thinking these thoughts that don’t serve you! Stop being your biggest critic. What if you were your biggest CHAMPION!?”

The virtual ceremony also acknowledged the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club’s Foot in the Door Fellows, including USC Annenberg alumna Simrin Singh (BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’20) and Hawken Miller (BA, journalism, ’19). The fellowship pairs recent college graduates from underrepresented communities with professional journalist mentors to help them launch their careers.

USC Annenberg-affiliated winners are listed below, along with their collaborators on their respective projects. Congratulations to all!

Student Honorees

Professional Media Categories

Sports Photo

First Place: Ling Luo, USC Annenberg Media, “Women of Troy take Trojan invitational in convincing fashion.” Judges’ comment: Capturing two different emotions in a single photo demonstrates the ability of Luo to find the right moment and place.

Multimedia Package

Second Place: Alexandrea Bell, Jose Castillo and Justino Mora, JOVRNALISM, “Trashed: The Tijuana River Valley Pollution Crisis.”

Criticism of Theater/Performing Arts

Third Place: Cate Young, Ampersand, “Sell Buy Date Sells Sex Workers Down the River.”


Gender/LGBTQ Reporting

Second Place: Jesús Alvarado, USC Annenberg Radio News, “The World’s First-Ever LGBTQ Mariachi Band.”

Television/Film Broadcast

Regularly Scheduled Newscast

Second Place: Zoe Ginsberg, Nikki Walker and Yannie Hoang, USC Annenberg Media, “California in Flames.”

Human Interest Feature, Over 5 Minutes

Third Place: Zoe Ginsberg, Nikki Walker, Yannie Hoang, Chris Cheshire and Genevieve Glass, USC Annenberg Media, “USC Responds to the Dangers of Fentanyl.”


Breaking News

Second Place: Jon Reed, USC Annenberg Radio News, “Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Care Workers Go on Strike in Pasadena.”


Third Place: Sarah Ko, Christian Colmenares and Hunter Patterson, USC Annenberg Media, “The K.O. Round Ep. 6: USC Student Journalists.”

Talk/Public Affairs

Second Place: ZaZu Lippert, Aiyonna White, Isaiah Murtaugh and Yuki Liang, USC Annenberg Radio News, “From Where We Are: From the Ashes of the Woolsey Fire, Malibu’s True Colors Shine Through.”


News – Government/Politics

Second Place: Morgan Stephens, USC Annenberg Media, “Bernie Sanders Ascends from 2016 Underdog to 2020 Front-Runner.”

Gender/LGBTQ Reporting

First Place: Sasha Urban, “48 male patients sexually abused by USC campus doctor.” Judges’ comment: This story was deeply investigative and very well-researched. It highlighted abuse in the LGBT community rather than giving too much spotlight to lurid details.

Crime Reporting

First Place: Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan, USC Annenberg Media, Fourth and last defendant sentenced to life in prison in beating death of USC student.” Judges’ comment: A concise recounting of the tragic killing of a Chinese USC student and the punishment of the perpetrators, reminding us of how we must be aware of the violence and criminality plaguing our college campuses. And how we must make institutions of education safe for all.

Best Use of Social Media to Enhance and/or Cover a Story

First Place: JOVRNALISM Staff, JOVRNALISM, “Trashed: The Tijuana River Valley Pollution Crisis.”

Student Media Categories

Best College News Website

Second Place: USC Annenberg Media

Best News Photo

Third Place: Ling Luo, USC Annenberg Media, “USC Upsets No. 10 Utah as Fink Makes 2019 Debut.”

Best News Writing – Print or Online, Sports/Arts

First Place: Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan and Ashley Zhang, USC Annenberg Media, “Indicted USC Administrator’s Side Business.” Judges’ comment: Deep and damning investigation of how Donna Heinel, implicated in “Varsity Blues” admissions scandal, was running a self-enriching private consulting operation “under the noses of USC’s leadership.”

Best News Writing – Print or Online, Campus Issues

First Place: Austin Peay, USC Annenberg Media, “‘Like the Kremlin:’ USC’s Broken Promises of Transparency.” Judges’ comment: Austin Peay’s article is a great example of the importance of holding officials accountable by going back through the record of their promises. There were a lot of well-done projects from USC in this competition. The Trojans have a lot of local news to cover.

Second Place: Simrin Singh, Claire Heddles, Haeri Kim, Charlotte Pruett and Keer Wu, USC Annenberg Media, “USC’s Trojan Transfer Plan.”

Third Place: Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan, USC Annenberg Media, “Fourth and Last Defendant Sentenced to Life in Prison in Beating Death of USC Student.”

Best News Writing – Print or Online, Off-Campus Issues

First Place: Austin Peay and Sam Kmack, USC Annenberg Media,Why Students At LA’s Richest Public Schools Are Far More Likely To Get Extra Time On The SAT.” Judges’ comment: Austin Peay and Sam Kmack dug into data to expose how students with wealthy backgrounds use alleged disabilities to their advantage. Well done.

Best Feature Writing – Print or Online, Sports/Arts

Third Place: Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan and Ashley Zhang, USC Annenberg Media, “Indicted USC Administrator’s Side Business.”

Best Feature Writing – Print or Online, Campus Feature

First Place: Steven Vargas, USC Annenberg Media, “Falling Down the Voguing Hole.” Judges’ comment: Steven Vargas paints a picture of ballroom’s present in Los Angeles as well as its formative past in New York in this feature. His scene-setting skills put the reader in a store shopping for a sequin-filled ball outfit as well as at a ball. He does all this while discussing appropriation and who gets to represent a subculture once it goes mainstream.

Best Feature Writing – Print or Online, Sociopolitical Feature

Second Place: Victoria Alejandro, Ampersand, “Sorry, No Hablo Español.”

Best Personality Profile, Campus Personalities — Any platform

Second Place: Nate MacKay, USC Annenberg Media, “Marshall Student Makes Music About His Experience in Conversion Therapy.”

Third Place: Kim Quitzon, Dímelo, USC Annenberg Media, “USC Student Inspires Latinas to Help Each Other and Create Community.”

Best Personality Profile, Public Personalities — Any platform

Third Place: Clarissa Kerner, Ampersand, “Simpson’s Art.”

Best TV Reporting

First Place: Chace Beech, USC Annenberg Media, “Students and Parents Weigh in on the Saugus High School Shooting.” Judges’ comment: This is a well-put-together breaking-news on scene story with excellent sound bites. Reporter was able to tell the story with urgency concern and bring the viewer to the scene of yet another school shooting and the shock and panic the victims were experiencing. Well written.

Second Place:  Zoe Ginsberg, Nikki Walker and Yannie Hoang, USC Annenberg Media, “California in Flames.”

Best Radio or Podcast Reporting

Second Place: Isaiah Murtaugh, USC Annenberg Radio News, “Warrior Bards: Military Vets Rework Ancient Greek Dramas.”

Third Place: Victoria Alejandro, Ampersand, “We’re All the Cowboy If We Want to Be.”

Alumni and Adjunct Faculty Honorees

Journalist of the Year

Television Journalist

First Place: Christina Pascucci (BA, journalism, Spanish international business, ’07), KTLA. Judges’ comment: Whether reporting from Antarctica, a military training base, or the streets of L.A. at night, Christina Pascucci gives the viewers a “you are there” feeling. Compelling, outstanding TV reporting.

All Media Platforms

Medical/Health Reporting

Third Place: Eric Pape (adjunct professor), Capital & Main, “Scared to Death: Immigrants in Need of Health Care Face Perilous Choices.”

Environmental Reporting, Broadcast

First Place: Christina Pascucci, Armando Moncayo and Andre Cox, KTLA 5 News, “Journey to the End of the Earth.” Judges’ comment: The KTLA 5 News crew told a compelling, beautiful story about their sometimes challenging voyage to Antarctica.

Multimedia Package

First Place: Andrea Roberson (adjunct professor), Kyle Kim, Maloy Moore and Christie D’ZurillaLos Angeles Times, “Hollywood primary.” Judges’ comment: Excellent way to showcase a lot of data in an interesting new way.

Third Place: Randall Roberts and Priya Krishnakumar (adjunct professor), Los Angeles Times, “50 Songs for a New L.A.”



First Place: Priya KrishnakumarLos Angeles Times, “We mapped every wine country fire. They’re larger and more destructive than ever.” Judges’ comment: The mesmerizing graphics of wine country fires are informative and well-done in this award-winning entry by Krishnakumar.

Animation/Moving Graphic

Second Place: Kyle Kim, Andrea Roberson, Ryan Murphy and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times, “A 3-D Guide to Fireproofing Your House.”

Newspapers (Circulation over 50,000)


First Place: Thomas Curwen, Katie Falkenberg, Al Seib, Priya Krishnakumar and Sean GreeneLos Angeles Times, “A historic oil platform off Santa Barbara turns into a rusty ghost ship.” Judges’ comment: The descriptive language in the beginning really draws the reader in. The topic is thoroughly researched and accompanied by great art and a good headline.

Newspapers (Circulation under 50,000)


Third Place: Christina Campdonico (MA, specialized journalism (the arts), ’15), The Argonaut, “Badass Chicks.”

Television/Film Broadcast

News Feature, Under 5 Minutes

Second Place: Christina Pascucci, Dave Lopez and Nick Simpson, KTLA 5 News, “The Mojave Desert Battlefield.”

Entertainment Personality Profile/Interview

Second Place: Audrey Yap (MA, specialized journalism, ’15), Tucker Morrison and Greg Georgianna, Variety, “‘Watchmen’ Star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Talks Playing Doctor Manhattan and ‘Matrix 4’ Role.”



First Place: Susan Valot (MA, specialized journalism, ’15), NPR’s Only A Game, “#VegasStrong: How Shooting Survivor Nick Robone Healed with the Help of Hockey.” Judges’ comment: Valot found a fascinating sports story about a shooting victim that she tells very well.

Use of Sound

First Place: Susan Valot, NPR’s “Only A Game,” “#VegasStrong: How Shooting Survivor Nick Robone Healed with the Help of Hockey.” Judges’ comment: Valot, who also won the best sports news or feature for this excellent story, is lauded for the use of sound in this shooting survivor’s story.


Hard News Feature

First Place: Lauren Lee White (MPD, public diplomacy, ’15), WitnessLA, “#MeToo Behind Bars: Sexual Misconduct at the L.A. County Women’s Jail.” Judges’ comment: In a disturbing feature about a serious issue, White illuminates a difficult situation for inmates.

Minority/Immigration Reporting

First Place: Shaya Tayefe Mohajer (alumna, Annenberg Media Center Fellowship), Columbia Journalism Review, “Unearthing the Black newspaper that sold the California dream to freed slaves.” Judges’ comment: There’s no better way to learn about history than through a newspaper. Fantastic story.