Reason Is a Finalist for 14 Southern California Journalism Awards

Nominated stories include journalism on messy nutrition research, pickleball, government theft, homelessness, and more.


The Los Angeles Press Club on Thursday announced the finalists for the 66th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards, recognizing the best work in print, online, and broadcast media published in 2023.

Reason, which is headquartered in L.A., is a finalist for 14 awards.

A sincere thanks to the judges who read and watched our submissions, as well as to the Reason readers, subscribers, and supporters, without whom we would not be able to produce impactful journalism.

Senior Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a finalist for best technology reporting across all media platforms—print, radio, podcast, TV, and online—for her November 2023 print piece, "Do Social Media Algorithms Polarize Us? Maybe Not," in which she challenged what has become the traditional wisdom around the root of online toxicity:

For years, politicians have been proposing new regulations based on simple technological "solutions" to issues that stem from much more complex phenomena. But making Meta change its algorithms or shifting what people see in their Twitter feeds can't overcome deeper issues in American politics—including parties animated more by hate and fear of the other side than ideas of their own. This new set of studies should serve as a reminder that expecting tech companies to somehow fix our dysfunctional political culture won't work.

Science Reporter Ronald Bailey is a finalist for best medical/health reporting in print or online for "Take Nutrition Studies With a Grain of Salt," also from the November 2023 issue, where he meticulously dissected why the epidemiology of food and drink is, well, "a mess":

This doesn't mean you can eat an entire pizza, a quart of ice cream, and six beers tonight without some negative health effects. (Sorry.) It means nutritional epidemiology is a very uncertain guide for how to live your life and it certainly isn't fit for setting public policy.

In short, take nutrition research with a grain of salt. And don't worry: Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) says "too much salt can kill you," the Daily Mail noted in 2021 that "it's not as bad for health as you think."

Managing Editor Jason Russell is a finalist in print/online sports commentary for his August/September 2023 cover story, "Get Your Politics Out of My Pickleball," which explored the emerging fault lines as the government gets involved in America's weirdest, fastest-growing sport:

Pickleball will always have haters—and if its growth continues, local governments will still face public pressure to build more courts. Some critics think the sport is a fad, but strong growth continues for the time being, even as the COVID-19 pandemic ends and other activities compete for time and attention. There's no need to force nonplayers to support it with their tax dollars, especially when entrepreneurs seem eager to provide courts. If pickleball does end up as an odd footnote in sporting history, ideally it won't be taxpayers who are on the hook for converting courts to new uses.

Reporter C.J. Ciaramella is a finalist in magazine investigative reporting for his October 2023 cover story, "'I Knew They Were Scumbags,'" a nauseating piece on federal prison guards who confessed to rape—and got away with it:

Berman's daughter, Carleane, was one of at least a dozen women who were abused by corrupt correctional officers at FCC Coleman, a federal prison complex in Florida. In December, a Senate investigation revealed that those correctional officers had admitted in sworn interviews with internal affairs investigators that they had repeatedly raped women under their control.

Yet thanks to a little known Supreme Court precedent and a culture of corrupt self-protection inside the prison system, none of those guards were ever prosecuted—precisely because of the manner in which they confessed.

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum is a finalist in magazine commentary for "Biden's 'Marijuana Reform' Leaves Prohibition Untouched," from the January 2023 issue, in which he disputed the notion that President Joe Biden has fundamentally changed America's response to cannabis:

By himself, Biden does not have the authority to resolve the untenable conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. But despite his avowed transformation from an anti-drug zealot into a criminal justice reformer, he has stubbornly opposed efforts to repeal federal pot prohibition.

That position is contrary to the preferences expressed by more than two-thirds of Americans, including four-fifths of Democrats and half of Republicans. The most Biden is willing to offer them is his rhetorical support for decriminalizing cannabis consumption—a policy that was on the cutting edge of marijuana reform in the 1970s.

Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward is a finalist for best magazine columnist for "Is Chaos the Natural State of Congress?" from the December 2023 issue, "Don't Just Hire 'Better Cops.' Punish the Bad Ones," from the April 2023 issue, and (a personal favorite) "Bodies Against the State," from the February 2023 issue:

Governments do unconscionable things every day; it is in their nature. But not all transgressions are equal. In the wake of the Iran team's silent anthem protest, an Iranian journalist asked U.S. men's soccer captain Tyler Adams how he could play for a country that discriminates against black people like him. What makes the U.S. different, he replied, is that "we're continuing to make progress every day."

The most perfect and enduring image of a person weaponizing his body against the state was taken after the brutal suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The unknown Chinese man standing in front of a tank didn't have to hold a sign for the entire world to know exactly what the problem was.

Reporter Christian Britschgi is a finalist for best long-form magazine feature on business/government for "The Town Without Zoning," from the August/September 2023 issue, in which he reported on the fight over whether Caroline, New York, should impose its first-ever zoning code:

Whatever the outcome, the zoning debate raging in Caroline is revealing. It shows how even in a small community without major enterprises or serious growth pressures, planners can't adequately capture and account for everything people might want to do with their land.

There's a gap between what zoners can do and what they imagine they can design. That knowledge problem hasn't stopped cities far larger and more complex than Caroline from trying to scientifically sort themselves with zoning. They've developed quite large and complex problems as a result.

Associate Editor Billy Binion (hi, it's me) is a finalist for best activism journalism online for the web feature "They Fell Behind on Their Property Taxes. So the Government Sold Their Homes—and Kept the Profits," which explored an underreported form of legalized larceny: governments across the U.S. seizing people's homes over modest tax debts, selling the properties, and keeping the surplus equity.

Geraldine Tyler is a 94-year-old woman spending the twilight of her life in retirement, as 94-year-olds typically do. But there isn't much that's typical about it.

Tyler has spent the last several years fighting the government from an assisted living facility after falling $2,300 behind on her property taxes. No one disputes that she owed a debt. What is in dispute is if the government acted constitutionally when, to collect that debt, it seized her home, sold it, and kept the profit.

If that sounds like robbery, it's because, in some sense, it is. But it's currently legal in at least 12 states across the country, so long as the government is doing the robbing.

Senior Producer Austin Bragg, Director of Special Projects Meredith Bragg, Producer John Carter, and freelancer extraordinaire Andrew Heaton are finalists for best humor/satire writing across all broadcast mediums—TV, film, radio, or podcast—for the hilarious "Everything is political: board games," which "exposes" how Republicans and Democrats interpret everyone's favorite games from their partisan perspectives. (Spoiler: Everyone's going to lose.)

The Bragg brothers are nominated again in that same category—best humor/satire writing—along with Remy for "Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor Swift Parody)," in which lawmakers find culprits for the recent uptick in thefts—the victims.

Deputy Managing Editor of Video and Podcasts Natalie Dowzicky and Video Editor Regan Taylor are finalists in best commentary/analysis of TV across all media platforms for "What really happened at Waco," which explored a Netflix documentary on how the seeds of political polarization that roil our culture today were planted at Waco.

Editor at Large Matt Welch, Producer Justin Zuckerman, Motion Graphic Designer Adani Samat, and freelancer Paul Detrick are finalists in best activism journalism across any broadcast media for "The monumental free speech case the media ignored," which made the case that the legal odyssey and criminal prosecutions associated with Backpage were a direct assault on the First Amendment—despite receiving scant national attention from journalists and free speech advocates.

Associate Editor Liz Wolfe, Senior Producer Zach Weissmueller, Video Editor Danielle Thompson, Video Art Director Isaac Reese, and Producer Justin Zuckerman are finalists in best solutions journalism in any broadcast media for "Why homelessness is worse in California than Texas," which investigated why homelessness is almost five times as bad in the Golden State—and what can be done about it.

Finally, Senior Producer Zach Weissmueller, Video Editor Danielle Thompson, Video Art Director Isaac Reese, and Audio Engineer Ian Keyser are finalists in best documentary short for "The Supreme Court case that could upend the Clean Water Act," which did a deep dive into a Supreme Court case concerning a small-town Idaho couple that challenged how the Environmental Protection Agency defines a "wetland"—and what that means for property rights.

Winners will be announced on Sunday, June 23 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Subscribe to Reason here, watch our video journalism here, and find our podcasts here.