Staff writers and photographers for the PCC Courier, a student-run media organization, took home 19 awards this past weekend at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC) 2016 state conference. Students had the opportunity to compete, network and attend workshops.

PCC was joined by 45 other community colleges in the three-day event that took place at the Marriot conference center in Burbank.

Amongst the 19 awards, the PCC Courier staff also received the coveted Pacesetter award for all-round newsroom excellence. This was the first time in history that the PCC Courier won the award.

According to the JACC website, the Pacesetter award serves to “honor the top four schools in mail-in and on-the-spot competition at the annual convention.”

John Orona, managing editor of the PCC Courier, and Monique LeBleu, features editor, took home first-place awards for on-the-spot news writing and social media reporting, respectively.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Orona said. “It can not be overstated.”

The Courier’s opinion editor, Amber Lipsey, joined LeBleu’s first place win with a third place victory in social media reporting.

The PCC Courier staff swept up numerous other awards including third place copyediting by Orona and an honorable mention in the critical review competition by Hannah Gonzales, who also earned herself an honorable mention in the mail-in editorial publication contest.

Katja Liebing and Samantha Molina joined Lipsey on team features where they wrote and shot photos of  social hangouts for veterans in the Burbank area.

Their investigation and storytelling won them an honorable mention in the Team Feature competition.

“This was my first time competing in something that wasn’t just solely on paper,” Molina said. “It was a more hands-on processes.”

The team feature segment involved students venturing out into old downtown Burbank to profile a business or important landmark. The PCC Courier team chose to profile a local gun shop and an army-surplus store owned and run by veterans.

“My father was a Vietnam veteran,” Lipsey stated. “There was a very familiar vibe in the way that [the shop owners] spoke to me and the stories that they told me. It definitely touched me and made me feel a little emotional.”

Liebing went on to clench a fourth place win for the mail-in feature photo competition.

Kristen Luna, the Courier’s editor-in-chief, walked away with a third place award in feature writing. Luna and Keely Damara, a former writer for the PCC Courier, won a first place victory in the sought after magazine general excellence category.

Luna and Damara were also joined by former editor-in-chief Philip McCormick to seize the top prize in enterprise news story, for their coverage of Mark Rocha, the former superintendent-president of PCC, who received a generous retirement deal.

However, the convention was not all games and competition. Hundreds of attending journalism students also took away important lessons regarding careers and strategies for getting the scoop and the perfect photo.

Workshops and special presentations by published writers included learning about the ethics in writing, how to capture a live event with modern technology and how one scores their first job in a paying newsroom.

Taylor Gonzales, assistant lifestyle editor, attended the seminar on “The Art of the Review” presented by Jeff Favre of Pierce College.

“He held everyone’s attention,” Gonzales said. “There was a lot of good information and he gave everyone his email and said to shoot him a message if any of [the attendees] needed (a?) critique.”

Gonzales found Favre’s candor most refreshing.

“Even a professional, like Favre, said he emails stories to his dad to read them over,” Gonzales said

The entire Courier staff was humbled and honored to achieve these accolades, especially Courier advisor Nathan McIntire.

“I am very proud of the Courier,” McIntire said. “It makes me feel very good about the direction of the program.”

Having been advisor for three years, McIntire is confident in the Courier.

“It makes me feel very good about the direction of the program,” he said. “The most important thing is that it gets the students excited. If colleges ever come calling we can say that we were one of the best in the state and that we need to keep a very vigorous student media here on campus.”

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