The Truthdig table at the Los Angeles Press Club’s 59th Southern California Journalism Awards ceremony. (Truthdig)

Truthdig is committed to covering news, reporting on issues that are under-covered by mainstream media and providing provocative commentary. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Press Club honored Truthdig’s work at its 59th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards.

The news website earned three first-place prizes, three second-place awards and five third-place finishes. Judging was done by the Cleveland Press Club, Florida Press Club, Lone Star Press Club, Kansas Press Club, Milwaukee Press Club, New Orleans Press Club, Press Club of West Pennsylvania, Southeast Texas Press Club, Syracuse Press Club, The National Press Club and SPJ Florida.

The announcements were made at a gala dinner at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

“These are brave and unique pieces that involve original reporting and thinking,” Truthdig Publisher Zuade Kaufman said. ”They are indicative of the stellar journalism that Truthdig strives to bring to its readers every day. It is immensely rewarding to see our writers recognized by our peers around the country.”

First Place In the Political Column/Commentary — Election category, Sonali Kolhatkar took top honors for “We Need to Understand What Happened on Election Night, and Fast,” her reaction to Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Kolhatkar wrote:

The first thing that occurred to me when the reality of a Trump presidency became apparent was, “How am I going to explain this to my 9-year-old?” My son went to bed last night asking me who was going to win. I told him I wasn’t sure, but that it would probably be Hillary Clinton and that I would tell him when he woke the next morning. Earlier at his school that day, he had voted in a mock election in which two sides argued left-wing policies, such as free, universal health care and humane immigration laws, versus right-wing ones. The side of compassion and socio-economic justice won in a landslide—61 to 18 votes—in this hypothetical matchup that was intended to help students understand what democracy means. How was I going to tell him in the morning that the real world of grown-ups had decided to usher in the presidency of Donald Trump?

Judges’ comment: Kolhatkar’s sobering analysis of Trump’s election win framed by an explanation of it to her young child is an excellent piece of political commentary.

In the Investigative category, Amelia Pang won for “Who’s in the Kitchen at Chinese Restaurants?: An Investigative Report,” a two-part series about agencies that profit from exploiting the labor of undocumented immigrants.

Pang wrote:

Some Chinese restaurants hire undocumented Chinese and Latino workers, pay them well below minimum wage and make them work 12-hour shifts six days a week but offer free housing and food. These workers often are packed at night into roach-infested apartments and houses. Sometimes they are forced to sleep on cardboard in the basements of restaurants. They make $800 to $2,000 a month—regardless of how many hours they work.

Much of their pay goes to fees charged by traffickers and smugglers—known in Chinese as “snakeheads”—and to private employment agencies that charge clients for finding them a job. The smugglers, like the agencies, do not advertise. Snakeheads charge $60,000 to $80,000 to smuggle someone into the United States. They have networks of enforcers, which means that, if you do not pay, you or your family members in China will be subject, until the money is paid, to beatings or even death.

Restaurant jobs in big cities fill up fast. There are more immigrants looking for work in cities, where wealthier customers tip generously. Most employment agencies in the area where I applied specialize in sending immigrants to jobs in remote towns where Chinese restaurants are often short of staff. Once offered a job, an immigrant often has to be on a bus within hours and can soon find him- or herself halfway across the country.

Judges’ comment: In a gripping two-part narrative, reporter Amelia Pang goes undercover to reveal the secret underground exploitation of smuggled immigrants recruited to work in Chinese restaurants across the nation and live in appalling conditions.

Read Part 2 of Pang’s series here.

In the Editorial Cartoon category, Dwayne Booth, aka Mr. Fish, won for “Nothing to See Here,” a statement on Trump’s agenda as president.

A dystopian vision of Captain America. (Mr. Fish / Truthdig)

Judges’ comment: Dwayne [Booth], a.k.a. Mr. Fish, didn’t have to swim upstream to produce this statement. Judges feel this cartoon will eventually be part 1 of a sequence.

Second Place In the Obituary/In Appreciation—Others category, Steve Wasserman was recognized for “Reflections of Fidel.”

In the Activism Journalism category, Sonali Kolhatkar was recognized for “Racism Fueled Outrage Over Cincinnati Gorilla Killing.”

In the Entertainment Commentary category, Carrie Rickey was recognized for “To Make the Oscars More Diverse, Let’s Adopt Football’s Rooney Rule.”

Third Place In the Activist Journalism category, Bill Blum was recognized for “Talk of Impeaching Trump May Be Premature, but Its Time Will Come.”

In the Environmental Reporting category, Alexander Reed Kelly was recognized for “Truthdigger of the Week: Sir Robert Watson, British Climate Expert.”

In the Entertainment News category, Kasia Anderson was recognized for “Friends of Abe, Hollywood Conservatives’ Secret Society, Is Calling It Quits (Exclusive).”

In the Criticism on Books/Art/Architecture/Design category, Gabriel Thompson was recognized for “This Is an Uprising.”

In the Political Column/Commentary category, Natasha Hakimi Zapata, was recognized for “Free to Be a Fool’: Behind the Scenes at the British Parliament’s Debate on Banning Trump.”

—Posted by Eric Ortiz

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