OVN publisher, reporter win California Journalism Awards

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The Ojai Valley News received two 2020 California Journalism Awards presented by the California News Publishers Association this week, including a first-place finish.
In the category for weeklies with under 4,300 circulation, OVN Publisher Laura Rearwin Ward won first place in the Editorial Comment category for the Nov. 20 editorial, “Want justice? Take the train.”
The editorial highlighted how the Los Angeles Superior Court denied reporters remote access to cover the water adjudication lawsuit proceedings during the height of the pandemic. 
Throughout the year, the OVN fought these restrictions, working with pro bono attorneys from UC Irvine to file an ex-parte motion on the OVN’s behalf, and lost. It also had letters of support from the First Amendment Coalition and from four heads at the ACLU, who also pushed the court on the OVN’s behalf.
The ruling was eventually overturned, due in part to the OVN editorial and response to it.
Ward said: “So much of my work as publisher is about advocacy. I really get excited about getting to the bottom of issues, exposing the truth and working toward constructive changes. We have such a good reporting staff at OVN. We're so lucky. A lot of getting what you want in the context of governmental agencies is about gaining the information, then understanding the process to make changes. Information is that key ingredient, and information can be a powerful tool. I get a charge out of seeing it work in our community. It feels like Team Ojai Valley.”
OVN reporter Austin Widger earned fifth place in the Columns category for his “Extra Point” sports column in the weekly under 11,000 circulation category.
His two winning columns were “Black lives bigger than basketball” and “Washington football forced to get it right.”
“Austin’s sports columns tackle the serious issue of racism and he does so with a clear voice and perspective,” the judges said about Widger’s column.
Widger commented on the accolade: “I want to thank the CNPA for this recognition. It is an honor to be recognized for my sports commentary among columns that addressed a broad spectrum of topics. I enjoy giving our readers national sports opinions in our local paper.”
The CNPA has been serving California newspapers since 1888 and is a celebration of the Fourth Estate. Members include major dailies such as the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, hometown weeklies such as the OVN, ethnic media, campus newspapers and allied members.
The Sacramento-based organization began holding a statewide Better Newspapers Contest in 1925. Aside from a three-year hiatus during World War II, the contest has continued ever since and is now known as the California Journalism Awards.
The CNPA received 1,927 print contest entries covering 2020. 
To read Ward’s winning editorial, visit To read Widger’s columns, visit and