Vicente Calderón is SPJ San Diego’s 2022 Journalist of the Year

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is proud to announce our 2022 Journalist of the Year, Tijuana Press editor Vicente Calderón.

For many years, San Diego journalists whose beat includes the border have turned to Calderón for assistance navigating the complexities of the region. They’ve always found an enthusiastic guide, willing to go above and beyond to help his colleagues. Veteran border journalist Sandra Dibble described Calderón as a “journalistic institution.”

In addition to reporting on Tijuana for his online news site, Tijuana Press, Calderón has collaborated with San Diego journalists on important stories about the San Diego-Tijuana region. He’s currently working with Voice of San Diego’s MacKenzie Elmer on an ambitious series of stories exploring the environmental impacts of the Tijuana River.

“Vicente has been a bridge between San Diego and Tijuana’s journalism communities for so many years,” said Scott Lewis, Voice of San Diego’s editor and CEO.

“He has always been there for me and my staff when we need to make a connection or pull off a story with implications for both sides of the border,” Lewis said. “I cannot fathom how many fewer things we would know without him.”

Wendy Fry, who covers the border for the San Diego Union-Tribune, said Calderón “works tirelessly to cover so many key issues affecting both sides of the border.”

Fry noted that Calderón has continued his reporting despite the dangers faced by Mexican journalists.

“At a time when Tijuana journalists are grappling with the devastating loss of two of our colleagues, and the fear of violence becoming a consequence of their coverage, Calderón has been brave,” Fry said. “He’s a leader in responsibly and ethically pushing authorities for answers and justice. He also generously takes time out of running his own news site to mentor colleagues and help explain Mexico’s realities to San Diego journalists because he genuinely cares about the border region being covered accurately and responsibly.”

Dibble also pointed out that Calderón has persisted in his reporting despite the numerous challenges faced by Mexican journalists, including low pay, threats to their personal safety and pressure to back off certain stories.

“Despite all these challenges, he has persisted in a profession he loves deeply,” she said.

“Among his Tijuana colleagues, he has been unrelenting in his demands for accuracy and fairness, and unyielding in his calls for high ethical standards,” Dibble said. “In cases of abuses and attacks against journalists, Vicente has stood firm in his calls for justice.”

Dibble said she’s often turned to Calderón to get a deeper understanding of border region politics.

“I have witnessed his generosity with others as well — seen him help outsiders gain context, but also watched him show the way to new generation of Mexican journalists,” she said. “Vicente is independent, idealistic, courageous, generous — what more can one ask for in a journalist?”

Celebrate Calderón and our other award winners at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Liberty Station on Thursday, July 21, from 6:30 to 9:30. We’ll launch our ticket website and a list of award winners on July 6, so check back. 

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Congratulations to our scholarship winners!

Each year, the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists awards scholarships to local college students and recent graduates who show keen journalism chops. We’re always impressed and this year was no different. Higher ed is expensive, and we hope to make it a little more affordable for these future reporters. Below are our winners and a piece of work they’re particularly proud of. Celebrate them on July 21 at our annual awards reception at Stone Brewing in Point Loma.

Print Journalism Scholarships

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Jakob McWhinney, San Diego City College. Read Jakob’s story, “How a San Diego Church Became a Nexus of Anti-Vaccine, Anti-COVID Lockdown and Right-wing Political Organizing.

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Elaine Alfaro, Point Loma Nazarene University. Read Lainie’s opinion piece, “For young people like me, managing money is like a social media experience.”

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Niloufar Shahbandi, UC San Diego. Read Niloufar’s story, “Workers Protest Poor Working Conditions at HDH.”

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Multimedia Journalism Scholarships

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Maritza Camacho, San Diego State University. Listen to the first episode of Maritza’s NPR syndicated podcast, Chronic Catastrophe.

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Katy Stegall, San Diego State University. Check out Katy’s multimedia report, “San Diego County looks for solutions as fentanyl deaths continue to rise.”

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Bradley J. Fikes Scholarship (in honor of San Diego Union-Tribune science journalist Brad Fikes, who died in December 2019)

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Esteban Preciado, Southwestern College. Read Esteban’s compelling piece about communing with Bwindi Mountain Gorillas (flip through to page 17)

2022 San Diego SPJ Board Candidates

It’s time for San Diego SPJ’s annual board elections.

San Diego Pro Chapter members, check your inboxes for election information on Thursday, June 9.

Here are the candidates running for election.

Jill Castellano
I have enjoyed my two years on the board of San Diego SPJ so far, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to accomplish important tasks while facing the COVID-19 pandemic. One of my proudest accomplishments was leading the diversity survey that measured the demographic background of editorial staff at newsrooms across San Diego. I learned a lot in the course of designing the survey and collecting the data, and I hope to use that to help improve upon the survey in the future and conduct it again to measure trends over time. I hope members choose to re-elect me to a second term.

Kelly Davis
Kelly Davis is a freelance investigative reporter who writes about incarceration and vulnerable populations. For the last several years, her work has focused on the high rate of deaths in San Diego County jails, prompting a state audit and proposed law to address deficiencies in jail medical and mental health care. Her stories have appeared in The Guardian, The Intercept, The Crime Report, Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The Imprint and The Appeal and have been honored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

Cody Dulaney
I’m running to serve the board of the San Diego SPJ because I want to support and elevate impactful journalism in a community I have grown to love. I’m originally from Florida and moved around the South before landing here in San Diego nearly three years ago, and for the first time, I feel like I found a home. I want to do everything I can to make San Diego a better place to live, and that starts with a strong Fourth Estate that holds government officials and the systems they run to account. In my time with inewsource, my award-winning investigative reporting has revealed mismanagement and neglect in COVID-19 hotel shelters run by San Diego County. As an SPJ board member, I would passionately advocate for more government transparency in the region, and push elected leaders and their communication teams to serve as a conduit rather than a barrier to matters of public concern.

Jakob McWhinney
I’m running to serve on the SPJ board to help people from diverse backgrounds find their voice in an industry that’s long suffered from homogeneity. My path to journalism was not the standard one. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit I was laid off and went from playing in bands to reporting – first at San Diego City College’s City Times, then as Voice of San Diego’s intern. Later this month I’ll start as Voice’s new education reporter.
At its best, journalism strengthens communities and gives individuals opportunities to be heard. But those who would most benefit from it are frequently not being reached or included in the conversation. Our backgrounds give us unique perspectives, and I believe journalism would be better off if a wider range of people were encouraged to pursue a career in the field. SPJ is in a unique position to help accomplish this.

Bella Ross
Before landing my current role as a community engagement specialist for The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, I worked in six other San Diego newsrooms as a freelancer, intern and employee. Navigating the local media environment early in my career taught me a lot about different newsroom cultures and how young professionals experience transitioning into the industry, particularly in the digital era. I want to be on the SPJ San Diego board because I believe my experiences as an early-career journalist who was deeply involved in student media and has worked in various newsroom capacities – from a writer, to editor to social media specialist and more – puts me in an ideal position to support other young professionals and understand their needs. I’m also passionate about government accountability and making information accessible and want to play a bigger role in advocating for transparency in the city I love.

Kristy Totten
My name is Kristy Totten and I’m an award-winning journalist with experience in print and broadcast. I’m an opinion editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune where I host the San Diego News Fix podcast and serve on the editorial board.
​I was appointed to the San Diego SPJ board in 2021, and I’m running for a second term to continue my work in mentorship and diversity. We recently launched a semester-long program to connect college students and recent graduates with experienced media professionals. As co-chair of mentorship, I look forward to refining and expanding the program to improve opportunities for young journalists. I’m also a member of SD-SPJ’s diversity committee, which surveyed news outlets about staff diversity and is now planning speakers series and workshops to improve diversity in local newsrooms.
I’m passionate about these projects and building community among journalists, and I’d be honored to serve another term.

Steve Walsh
I’m the military and veterans reporter at KPBS. I’ve been in San Diego for nearly 7 years and I’d like to give something back to our journalistic community.
At times it feels like journalism itself is in jeopardy. Our jobs are often precarious. Our role is being called into question. At the same time, we are finally becoming more diverse and the profession is at least open to new ideas.
I hope we can work together, including across the border, to promote a more open, transparent and safe environment for all journalists.
I’ve been in public media for over a decade. I was part of a project of Chicago Public Radio to promote new media and to diversify the audience. Before that, I was a print reporter in Gary, Indiana. I’d really like to help out.

Who Should be San Diego’s Journalist of the Year?

Every year, the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honors a local journalist whose work had a major impact in our San Diego community. We’re now accepting nominations for the 2022 journalist of the year. We ask that the nomination focuses on a journalist’s coverage of a particular story or topic in 2021.

Recent awardees include the Union-Tribune’s Paul Sisson, KPBS’s Claire Trageser and author and columnist Jean Guerrero.

To nominate someone, click here. The winner will be announced along with our other awards in June and celebrated at our awards reception in July. More details on the ceremony to come!