India-West business reporter Giovanni Albanese, Jr. received an excellence in journalism award June 3 evening from Ethnic Media Services for his coverage of the 2020 Glass Fire, which decimated many Indian American-owned businesses in Northern California.

Albanese won in the Climate Change category of the competition, clinching this publication’s 51st award for excellence in journalism, and his first award.

India-West freelance reporter Nina Mohan was a finalist in the Economic Crisis category of the competition, which explored the pandemic’s impact to society. Mohan wrote about Indian American hoteliers who used their hotels and motels to shelter California’s homeless population amid the pandemic.

Ethnic Media Services, an umbrella organization for several hundred ethnic media outlets across the nation, received more than 235 entries in English and in-language broadcast, digital, and print journalism. Thirty reporters were selected as award recipients: each category had one English-medium winner and one in-language winner. The categories included coverage of the Census, Climate Change, Covid and the Pandemic, Racial Justice, the Economic Crisis, and Election coverage.

California Governor Gavin Newsom kicked off the event, speaking about the importance of the ethnic press, especially in the time of Covid, as misinformation abounds through social media channels.

“Ethnic media has increasingly become the indispensable bridge for communicating with the diverse populations within our state. Tonight, I'm excited to open this awards program to celebrate all of your incredible work,” said the governor.

“You have worked against enormous odds to make sure our communities were informed about historic news events of the year: from Covid-19, the tragic murder of George Floyd and the movement for racial justice, the Nov. 3 presidential election, the Jan. 6 attack on the nation's capital and California's vaccine rollout. You are key to sustaining an inclusive communications infrastructure which knits our communities together when so many forces threaten to drive us apart,” said Newsom.

“Thank you to all the journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and publishers who work long hours without recognition every day. You are committed to telling stories and covering underreported stories that we would otherwise never hear,” said Regina Brown Wilson, executive director of California Black Media, which co-sponsored the event.

Albanese’s winning entry — which can be read here: https://bit.ly/3gfqYRx — focused on the 2020 Glass Fire’s devastation to Indian American-owned wineries in Northern California’s picturesque wine country. Judges noted his novel angle and thorough reporting.

“It was an honor to be selected among the award winners as part of the California Ethnic Media Awards,” said Albanese, who has worked at India-West since 2015. “It validates both my efforts to pursue important stories, but also our editing team, who make sure that only the best version of a story is published.”

“The story touched on uncomfortable topics, where people were affected — both personally and professionally — by the wildfires in California. While it is great to be awarded for my work, the honor comes on a melancholy note, with so much damage caused,” said Albanese.

Mohan’s entry — which can be read here: https://bit.ly/3iClLpN — focused on hotel and motel owners around the country who opened their doors to shelter the vulnerable homeless population, even as they themselves faced economic devastation. The story also focused on California’s Project Roomkey, in which the state paid the hospitality industry to house unsheltered people, and a similar program in Oregon.

Judges commended Mohan’s extensive research.

“The pandemic was especially devastating to the hospitality industry, and it was inspiring to see so many hotel and motel owners be able to turn their distress into an opportunity to help our homeless population. I do hope the industry, especially the hotel and motel owners, are able to recover from the financial devastation of COVID,” Mohan told India-West.

“It was such an honor to be considered among so many incredible journalists. I learn so much through ethnic media — stories you don't see in mainstream news — and I'm grateful to India-West for the opportunity to be a part of that,” she said.

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