Journalist Justin Chapman, who writes for Pasadena Now, won the 1st place award in the Travel Reporting category at the 64th annual Los Angeles Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Awards on Saturday for his story about Slab City in Culture Honey Magazine, a Pasadena-based digital publication. More than 2,000 entries were submitted this year.
“Great descriptive writing, and the character of Jinxy Bonesaw really brings this quirky arts community to life,” the judges wrote about Chapman’s winning article, “Off-Season in Slab City, USA.” “It allows for readers to become more invested in traveling to this place themselves, which accomplishes the intended goals of a travelogue.”
Slab City is known as the “last free place in America,” a “decidedly anti-capitalist, nomadic art community in the desert near the Salton Sea where fringe members of society live rent free in makeshift camps,” Chapman wrote. It is located “on the site of an abandoned World War II-era Marine Corps artillery training base and barracks called Camp Dunlap, which was dismantled in the late 1950s. The state has essentially acted as an absentee landlord for decades, allowing drifters, squatters, loners, dropouts, fugitives, hippies, hobos, desert dwellers, gypsies, artists, freight-hoppers, nomads, drug addicts, and other fringe members of society to settle there and set up camp rent free, property tax free, and homeowner covenant free.”
Chapman also won two 3rd place awards in the TV/Public Affairs category for hosting the Pasadena news talk show “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman” on Pasadena Media, and in the Entertainment Features category for his story about Paradise Springs in LAist, “The Hedonistic History Of Paradise Springs, Where Early Hollywood Went Wild.”
“It was an honor to be recognized among so many excellent journalists who are doing the hard work to keep our communities informed,” Chapman said. “Congratulations to all the winners and finalists. Thank you for the work you do.”
Last year, Chapman came in 2nd place in the Hard News category and 3rd place in the Obituary/In Appreciation category for his article in Alta Journal about Mad Mike Hughes, the Flat Earther daredevil rocketeer who launched himself in a self-made, steam-powered rocket and crashed in the desert outside Barstow in February 2020. Chapman is currently writing a book about Hughes.
Chapman, who was born and raised in Altadena and Pasadena, has been an independent journalist since 2005. He has written hundreds of articles for two dozen print and digital publications, including KPCC/LAist, Alta Journal, Huffington Post, LA Weekly, Berkeley Political Review, and extensively for Pasadena Now and Pasadena Weekly. He is the Digital Content Writer & Editor at Michelson Philanthropies and previously served as the Communications Officer at the Pacific Council on International Policy.
“NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman,” which launched in April 2021 and airs on the third Friday of every month on the Arroyo Channel on cable and Pasadena Media’s streaming apps, is the only TV talk show that focuses exclusively on Pasadena news and politics. In March, the show came in 2nd place at the Alliance for Community Media West’s W.A.V.E. Awards (Western Access Video Excellence) in the News Programming (Community Producer) category and was a finalist in the News Programming (Professional) category.
Chapman also served as the editor-in-chief of USC’s Public Diplomacy Magazine and as a staff writer at the Daily Trojan. He received his master’s degree in public diplomacy from USC and his bachelor’s degree in mass communications/media studies from UC Berkeley. His book about his travels across Africa, Saturnalia: Traveling from Cape Town to Kampala in Search of an African Utopia, was published by Rare Bird Books in 2015.
He serves on Pasadena Media’s Citizens Advisory Committee and is a member of the LA Press Club. He previously served as president of the Pasadena-based nonprofit Men Educating Men About Health, as secretary of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association (and currently as a member of the WPRA Advisory Board), as secretary of the ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills chapter board, as a member of the United Nations Association Pasadena chapter’s Communications Committee, and as a commissioner on the city of Pasadena’s Northwest Commission. As a professional child actor, he performed in dozens of commercials, television shows, plays, and movies.