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By Norb Garrett, owner and publisher of Picket Fence Media

In life, relationships, business and sports, we’re often reminded that you find out the most about yourself and others during the darkest times rather than the brightest.

That sentiment couldn’t be more appropriate when describing our entire team here at Picket Fence Media and our staffs at the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch and how they stepped up in 2020 in the face of significant challenges.

At the outset of the pandemic and the first lockdown in March 2020, I made a commitment to our entire staff that we’d do everything we could to ensure no one lost their job as a result of the pandemic.

As a team, we understood the challenge ahead, as well as our responsibilities to our communities who depend on us for original, local news reporting. Things would be different, as we’d each be working from home, isolated, but never alone.

Everyone on the team took on added responsibilities, as reporters were deemed essential workers, vital to keeping the flow of information out to the public. Our reporters risked the unknown, venturing out to report the news wearing whatever protection the latest CDC and state guidelines mandated.

The summer of racial and social unrest, coupled with a contentious Presidential election in the fall, added to the COVID-19 challenges, meaning 2020 would indeed be unprecedented in its complexity.

Unsurprising, our team responded in a big way, coordinating with our communities while launching daily COVID updates, new daily e-newsletters and expanding our social media and digital efforts. We didn’t cancel a single print edition despite having to find a new printer after ours of 14 years succumbed to the economic pressures caused by the pandemic.

Fittingly, our team has been rewarded for their efforts with a record 10 California Journalism Awards from the California News Publishers Association (CNPA):

FIRST PLACE (1)

Front Page Layout & Design—Print

Dana Point Times—Lillian Boyd, Chelsie Rex

SECOND PLACE (4)

Sports Feature Story—Print

The Capistrano Dispatch—Zach Cavanagh, “Fighting the Fire: Battling Rare Neuropathy, San Juan Hills’ Efstathiou Coaches with New Perspective

Coverage of Protests and Racial Justice Photo—Print

Dana Point Times—Lillian Boyd, “Wheels of Justice”

Dana Point Times City Editor Lillian Boyd took home a second-place state journalism award from the California News Publishers Association for her photo of a demonstrator at one of the Black Lives Matter rallies in Dana Point last summer.

Coverage of Youth and Education—Print

Dana Point Times—Lillian Boyd, Shawn Raymundo, “Funding Education Facilities: Voters in San Clemente, Dana Point to Decide on Bond Measures for Schools

Coverage of Protests and Racial Justice News or Feature—Digital

San Clemente Times—Shawn Raymundo, “Surfers Paddle Out for Floyd; Calls to Defund Police Met with Opposing Voices from Local Officials”

THIRD PLACE (1)

General Excellence—Digital

San Clemente Times—Shawn Raymundo, San Clemente Times Staff

FOURTH PLACE (1)

Local Coverage of Election 2020—Print

Dana Point Times—Lillian Boyd, “PAC Spends Thousands to Oppose Local Candidate, Both Newkirk and Frost Denounce Tactics

FIFTH PLACE (3)

Inside Page Layout & Design—Print (Combined all circulations)

San Clemente Times—Chelsie Rex, Fred Swegles, “Let’s Visit the Nixon Library that Got Away from San Clemente

Informational Graphic—Print

The Capistrano Dispatch—Chelsie Rex, Zach Cavanagh, San Juan Capistrano COVID Cases

Breaking News—Digital

Dana Point Times—Lillian Boyd, Zach Cavanagh, “Crews Use Crane Barge to Lift Iconic Tall Ship ‘Pilgrim’

I’m incredibly proud of how this team came together at a time of crisis and excelled. Please join me in congratulating our terrific journalists, while all of us here at Picket Fence Media offer our thanks again to you, our readers, Insiders, advertising partners and communities of San Clemente, Dana Point, Capistrano Beach, San Juan Capistrano and Rancho Mission Viejo for your continued support through this challenging year.

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