Announcing our 2021 Window, Wall and Sunshine Awards

Every year, the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honors public officials, individuals and agencies who did the best (and the worst) job of ensuring that government is accessible and transparent. 

The Window Award goes to the person or public agency that prioritized transparency and made information accessible. Our Wall Award goes to the person or public agency that made it difficult for journalists to do their jobs by ignoring information requests or otherwise compromising the public’s right to know. And our Sunshine Award goes to a journalist or community member who went above and beyond to make the government more transparent and hold elected officials accountable.

Since we had to cancel last year’s event because of COVID-19, we’ll be honoring both the 2020 and 2021 awardees in a video you can watch here.

Window Award: Dave Rolland, City of San Diego

We’re pleased to give our 2021 Window Award to Dave Rolland, senior communications adviser to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. Rolland had a long career as a journalist before transitioning to government communications roles, first in the state Legislature, then the city of San Diego. While serving as the council communications director for City Council President Georgette Gómez, Rolland started The People’s Business, a blog explaining in plain language items of public interest on the council’s meeting agendas. These agendas can be complicated for the average person to understand, but Rolland made them accessible and provided important context for key issues.

Journalists also find Rolland easy to reach and quick to respond, even when he’s not the right person to answer our questions. His initiative is a great example of a public servant going the extra mile to show a true commitment to open government.

Wall Award: San Diego County

We recognize it’s been a difficult year for the county as it grappled with an unprecedented health crisis, and we commend county staff and elected officials for holding frequent press conferences to update the public on the pandemic. But certain actions have shown that the county still has work to do when it comes to transparency. County officials stopped responding to public records requests, telling journalists that things were “on hold” due to the public health emergency. Yet other counties and government agencies that faced similar challenges amid the pandemic still managed to honor the California Public Records Act.

Equally troubling were efforts by county officials to kill a KPBS story examining leaked data — data that the county had refused to turn over — on COVID-19 outbreak locations. County officials called the story “not responsible journalism.” As you’ll see below, we disagree.

Three years ago, San Diego County received our Wall Award for its lack of transparency surrounding the Hepatitis A crisis. Recently the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to establish a new transparency advisory committee. This is encouraging, and we hope it leads to real change. While we wait, we hope this year’s Wall Award will push the county in the right direction.

Sunshine Award: Claire Trageser, Katy Stegall, Amita Sharma and David Washburn of KPBS

Last December KPBS published a three-part series examining previously undisclosed data on COVID-19 outbreak locations. Claire Trageser was the project’s lead reporter with additional reporting by Katy Stegall and Amita Sharma. David Washburn was the series editor.

Multiple media organizations sued the county to try to get this data. The county argued that making the information public would hamper contact tracing efforts and discourage businesses from reporting COVID-19 outbreaks. The media organizations argued — and SD-SPJ agrees — that the public interest outweighs those concerns.

The KPBS reporting team showed courage in standing up to the county’s efforts to withhold this information from the public, and we are pleased to present them with this year’s Sunshine Award.

SD-SPJ Accepting 2021 Contest Entries



The 2021 SPJ San Diego Area Journalism Competition will recognize outstanding work by San Diego-area student and professional journalists published or broadcast during the calendar year 2020. Contest entries will be accepted Thursday April 1 through Monday, May 3. Those submitted by 9 p.m. PST on Monday, April 26, 2021, will get $5 off their entry fees in every category but our top and special awards. Student rates do not change.

This year’s Distinguished Coverage Award will honor stories about the COVID-19 pandemic or calls for racial equality in 2020 (participants must choose one topic or the other, not both.) Did your outlet cover it best? Each outlet should submit its best story, series, or show, along with a 500-word essay on why the coverage merits recognition. This award is open to all outlets and the fee to enter is $50.

We are also accepting applications for five $1,000 San Diego SPJ scholarships and one $1,000 Agnes Diggs scholarship from the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. We look forward to handing these scholarships out to eligible local journalism students.

This year, San Diego SPJ is proud to announce a new $1,000 scholarship award. 

The Bradley J. Fikes Scholarship honors the late reporter’s exemplary career, who wrote for the Daily Transcript, North County Times, and San Diego Union-Tribune. In recognition of Bradley’s contributions to science and technology journalism, preference will be given to applicants interested in these areas of reporting and can explain so on their application.

Winners of the awards and scholarships will be announced this summer during either a virtual or in-person event, depending on the pandemic restrictions.

Submit your entries using the BetterBNC Media Awards Platform. To register or enter the contest online now, open a new browser window or tab to Keep this window open to refer to as you submit your awards.

If you have entered other contests on this platform before, either for last year’s SD-SPJ competition or for the SD Press Club awards, you are already in the system, and you just have to ask to enter the 2021 SPJ awards contest.

Below are directions for preparing and submitting entries. If you have questions, please contact Terry Williams at 619-743-3669 or

All contest entries must be submitted online (except for entries in the College Media Best Newspaper category, which must be mailed and postmarked by the contest deadline to SPJ to P.O. Box 880482, San Diego, CA 92168-0482). All entries must be entered by or on behalf of the individuals who produced the work and must identify those individuals.

Best of luck to all of our applicants!

How to Enter

Contest Guidelines and Categories 2021

Scholarship Details

FAQs 2021

ICYMI: Watch Our First Media Literacy Event

On March 15, the San Diego Library held the first in a series of four panel discussions focused on media literacy. The event was organized by the SPJ San Diego, the San Diego Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists San Diego-Tijuana Chapter and the Online News Association San Diego Chapter. The panel featured Chris Megerian (Los Angeles Times), Kate Morrissey (San Diego Union-Tribune), Jean Guerrero (author of Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda), Ishmael Estrada (NBC7 San Diego) and Alex Presha (ABC News) who joined moderator Matt Hall (San Diego Union-Tribune) to discuss: “Where Do We Go from Here? Life After the Trump White House.”

Topics ranged from vetting sources to the importance of newsroom diversity to how journalists can earn and maintain public trust. It was an impressive kick-off for a fascinating series of discussions. The next panel, “How Watchdog Journalism Shapes Your Life,” is scheduled for May 20, so mark your calendars.

You can watch our first media literacy panel of the year here.

EVENT: Where Do We Go from Here? Life After the Trump White House

Two months into the Biden administration, journalists look back at the Trump era, how he changed the media landscape and what’s next for journalism.

Date: Monday, March 15, 2021, 6 p.m.
Event Registration:
Moderator: Matt Hall, editorial page editor, San Diego Union-Tribune; president, Society of Professional Journalists 
Ishmael Estrada, managing editor, NBC 7 San Diego  Prior to joining NBC 7, Ismael Estrada covered stories around the world as a producer for Anderson Cooper 360 and an investigative producer at WMAQ Chicago. He is a two-time Peabody Award winner.
Kate Morrisey, reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune  Kate Morrisey has covered a wide range of immigration topics for the Union-Tribune, including asylum, H-1B visas, visa queues, immigration court and immigration detention. She has a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. 
Alex Presha, reporter, ABC News Alex Presha works for ABC News’ Washington Bureau as a multi-platform reporter. Prior to joining ABC News, he worked at  NBC 7 San Diego as the station’s political reporter and host of its political affairs program, “Politically Speaking.” Alex has also held producing roles at MSNBC, NowThis News, WNBC and the Grio.
Jean Guerrero, investigative journalist and author
Jean Guerrero is the author of Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda, published in 2020 by HarperCollins. Her first book, Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir, won a PEN Literary Award. She is an Emmy-winning border reporter, contributing to NPR and the PBS NewsHour.
Chris Megerian, reporter, Los Angeles Times Chris Megerian covers the White House for the Los Angeles Times. Prior to that, he worked at the Times Sacramento bureau where he reported on Gov. Jerry Brown and climate change policy. 

Event Organizers: San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists San Diego-Tijuana Chapter, Online News Association San Diego Chapter and San Diego Public Library