Journalism Awards & Prizes

The 4th of July, Fireworks….and a Prize for WitnessLA

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

We wish you a joy-filled 4th of July as we honor that remarkable day in the summer of 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress.

Hostilities had been going on for some time between Britain and America by the time the Declaration was approved, yet the document gave the conflict a higher purpose, according to Stanford historian and scholar of early republican America Jonathan Gienapp.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed……”

Yet, despite its approval in 1776,  it took at least another decade before this elegant piece of writing became a significant part of American civic life.  And far longer, of course before our laws made the choice to truly include everyone—a process that is still ongoing.

A Prize for WitnessLA

And while we’re celebrating in general, we thought you might want to know that, this past Sunday night, WitnessLA was thrilled to leave the LA Press Club’s 61st Southern California Journalism Awards carrying a bright and shiny 1st Prize award for the best personality profile in an online publication!

Here’s what the judges had to say about our winning story.

The Writer was full of unexpected turns and a gripping narrative that starts with a tale of a Thanksgiving email to an editor. From there we meet a protagonist, who as a teenager had shot a man outside a bar. How did this happen? What became of the gifted student-turned-shooter? This story is a sequel to one told years earlier by an English teacher who lost a favorite student to prison. Among its unexpected gifts: a famed activist who helped change the narrative.”

May your 4th of July weekend be a glorious one! And to help with the celebration, here is the voice of Odetta Holmes, known to the world as Odetta. singing American the Beautiful, accompanied by the great and already greatly missed, Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.—also known as Dr. John, the Night Tripper.



  • Editor’s note:

    Hi, “um,” Sorry, that wasn’t terribly clear. The prize was for a personality profile written for an online publication, as opposed to a print publication, or radio, or TV.


  • C: I’m glad you cleared that up! For a moment I thought an online personality was something like crypto-currency only online!!! LOL

  • I’m sorry, Celeste. It’s an old, tired story that’s been portrayed time and again in writings and as a plot device in movies (google “white savior movies”) that garnered this prize.

    A disadvantaged kid growing up without proper parents, lured into a gang life (as though that’s inevitable), which ultimately forces him to some violent climax (trying to kill a guy).

    Enter the white savior, who sees in our fallen hero, a redeeming talent or quality (his questionable writing ability) and sees in it a reason for redemption (think “Dead Man Walking”).

    An inept defense attorney and biased criminal justice system that railroads our hero into an unjust prison sentence. End of story.

    But WAIT, a (white) Hollywood personality hears of our hero’s amazing (for a violent gang member) writing ability and decides to be his champion. Eventually the Governor gets involved and commutes the unjust sentence.

    There’s a weird fascination and attraction those on the left have with criminals. Maybe it’s because they always pull for the underdog, maybe it just makes them feel good, maybe they actually feel they’re helping society in some small way and proving to themselves that no one is beyond saving. What’s disappointing is their seeming revulsion and disdain for those who follow the rules, who work hard and who risk their lives to keep everyone safe.

    Celeste, consider doing a story on Tara O’Sullivan or Jerry Ortiz or Nelson Yamamoto. Who they were, the struggles they had, how they prevailed and DIDN’T commit crimes….how they were killed (after Nelson was shot, one of the rounds severing his femoral artery, he joked with deputies trying to help him that he probably wouldn’t run in Baker to Vegas that year) and who they left behind.

    But see if you can do it without going into a sentimental background story of their murderers.

  • Hey Apostle – How about YOU doing a story or a memorialized tribute to fallen officers.

    You sound like an antagonizing child attempting to bait someone into your know-it-all responses. Grow up!

  • Great comment apostle. I got the feeling the author of this fanciful tale was more calculating and self serving than your typical true believer. As for the audience lapping this stuff up, they take this narrative on faith, it is more like a religion than anything else.

  • Retirement is creeping up on me, “Another Cop.” I just might do that….a story on a fallen officer, that is.

    I’ll never grow up, though.

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