Mario Koran of Voice of San Diego.

By Rick Griffin

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a watchdog organization that promotes accountable, cost-effective and efficient government, has announced its nominees for Media Watchdog awards that recognize news media journalistic efforts that expose misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Nominees include: Ashly McGlone, Voice of San Diego, for “Several Years and $1 Billion Later, San Diego Schools Are Actually in Worse Shape,” a story on the impact of a pair of voter-approved construction bonds on facilities in the San Diego Unified School District; Lauryn Schroeder, San Diego Union-Tribune for “How One Firefighter Made $210K in OT,” a story that detailed city of San Diego overtime expenses.

Two nominations also were announced for a special investigation award into public officials’ accountability. They included: Mario Koran, Voice of San Diego, for a series of articles on Marne Foster, who resigned as a San Diego Unified School District trustee after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Political Reform Act by accepting an excessive donation from a single donor; J.W. August and Wendy Fry, NBC 7 San Diego, and Joshua Stewart, San Diego Union-Tribune, for stories about county Supervisor Dave Roberts landing in hot water after a series of staff resignations.

The taxpayers association’s  media watchdog awards, as well as honors for the best and worst in government spending and governance, called the Golden Watchdog and Golden Fleece awards, respectively, will be presented at a dinner on June 16.

SPJ San Diego Names 2016 Journalist of the Year

San Diego’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists  has named Mario Koran, Voice of San Diego, as its 2016 Journalist of the Year.

Koran, who covers education, broke the story about former San Diego Unified School District board president Marne Foster.

Koran reported that Foster held a questionable private fundraiser for her son attended by district officials and vendors, which was followed up with a series of revelations about how Foster had used her authority in office to punish employees who clashed with her son.

In one instance, a counselor at the school Foster’s son attended told Koran she was disciplined for writing a less-than-flattering college evaluation letter for the teenager. Another time, the boy’s father told Koran that Foster pressured him to sign his name on a false claim against the school district related to that evaluation letter rather than attached her own name to the $250,000 demand.

This February, Foster resigned and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. The prosecutor from the District Attorney’s Office, as well as Foster’s defense attorney, acknowledged that Koran’s work helped open the door to the plea agreement and resignation.

VOSD said Koran regularly produces stories and columns that pull back the curtain on controversial school district decisions and the often complex, jargon-filled world of education. SPJ said, “Koran’s clear, approachable writing style has helped many parents better understand big decisions that affect their children, and given them the tools and knowledge to speak up.”

SPJ will recognize Koran and other winners of writing awards at a dinner on Thursday, July 21, at the Kona Kai Resort & Spa on Shelter Island. Cost to attend is $55 per person. For more information and to RSVP, visit

PRSA Will Host Summer Social at Petco Park

The Public Relations Society of America’s San Diego-Imperial Counties chapter will host its annual summer social and media mixer starting at5 p.m., Thursday, June 16 at Petco Park.

PRSA’s “Grand Slam Summer Social” will include networking, appetizers, two complimentary drink tickets for select beers and wine, raffle ticket and silent auction, which will support scholarships for college PR students, as well as a seat to the San Diego Padres-Washington Nationals game. Silent auction items, valued at more than $4,000, include golf, gift baskets and gift certificates for dinners, entertainment and professional services.

Prices start at $70 for members, $75 for non-members and $50 for students. Admission to the PRSA event includes a ticket to the baseball game. For more information, visit

Bianka Rubio of Oster and Associates.

Oster and Associates Adds Account Management Specialist

Branding agency Oster and Associates has added Bianka Rubio as a public relations and account management specialist. She previously worked as director of communications on a project with the County of San Diego’s Department of Health & Human Services.

During the past 10 years, she also has worked with the American Council on Exercise and U.S. Navy. She also has received professional developmental training taught by international PR firms Ogilvy & Mather and Qorvis MSLGROUP.

A native of Tucson, Rubio graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 2001 and a master’s degree is in business administration with a marketing and communications emphasis in 2006.

Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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