Staff Report

The Santa Ynez Valley Star won three statewide awards, including first place for online breaking news coverage and first place for writing, and was a finalist for five others this year in California’s most prestigious journalism contest.

The California News Publishers Association awarded the Santa Ynez Valley Star first place for its online breaking news coverage of the Whittier Fire, and another first place for writing in its print edition.

In the California News Publishers Association’s annual contest, which evaluated work published in 2017, the Star’s coverage of the Whittier Fire in July was first in online breaking news coverage. Individuals singled out were writer Raiza Giorgi, photographer and videographer Daniel Dreifuss, writer and web editor Tori Martinez, and copy editor Dave Bemis.

The first prize for writing went to Giorgi for a feature story about the local debut of a Hollywood film, “Only the Brave,” in October and its depiction of valley native Sean Meisner and other Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the line of duty.

The Star also took second place for sports feature photo for an image by Lauren Maeve Photography in coverage of the Ranch Rope Series in February.

“We are so thrilled to receive these top honors from our colleagues. We are always working to make sure our stories are the finest and that they tell the story behind the story,” said Giorgi, the newspaper’s owner, editor publisher.

“The idea that newspapers are dying simply isn’t true,” she added. “People will always want to read about the people, organizations and businesses in their communities. Seeing their children’s or their neighbors’ pictures in the paper will always be important for readers.”

From among more than 1,000 entries, the Star was a finalist in five other categories as well: public service journalism, feature story, photojournalism, sports feature story, and enterprise news story or series.

All contest entries are judged against entries in the same categories from other newspapers of similar size.

The Star took second place for sports feature photo in its coverage of the Ranch Rope Series.

Giorgi started the Star in February 2016 as a monthly publication and moved it to twice-monthly in 2017. She bought the monthly Santa Barbara Family and Life Magazine at the end of 2016 and has grown that publication as well in the Santa Barbara area.

For 130 years, the California News Publishers Association (CNPA) has protected the interests of newspapers throughout the state, from the smallest weekly to the largest metropolitan daily. CNPA operates from offices in Sacramento and is governed by a board of directors drawn from its more than 500 daily, weekly and campus newspaper members.

This year’s California Journalism Awards was formerly known as the CNPA’s Better Newspapers Contest.

Last year, based on work in its first year of existence, the Star won the “Best of the Best for Advertising Excellence,” first place for best tabloid-size front page, and second place for classified display advertising.

Other local publications that took home awards this year were the Santa Maria Times, Santa Maria Sun, New Times, Santa Barbara News-Press and Santa Barbara Independent.

A detailed list of awards is posted at