Costa Mesa firefighters look to remove a giant eucalyptus tree that fell on a car and killed the driver. The tree was planted in a median along Irvine Avenue near the 17th Street intersection. (DON LEACH, Daily Pilot / September 15, 2011)

Journalists from Times Community News (TCN) South, which publishes the Daily Pilot, Huntington Beach Independent and Coastline Pilot, are finalists for six statewide journalism awards.

Reporters, photographers, editors and graphic designers placed first or second in their various circulation categories in the 2011 Better Newspaper Contest by the California Newspaper Publishers Assn (CNPA). Rankings will be announced at the CNPA's May 5 conference in San Jose.

The three newspapers also received nine certificates of achievement.

"I am proud of our hardworking staff every day, but it's nice to see them recognized by their peers," said John Canalis, editor of TCN South. "Some very good newspaper work is done across the state, and I'm grateful to the judges for taking notice of our work."

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Daily Pilot

Daily Pilot Staff Writer Mike Reicher took first or second in education reporting for "School Flight," his in-depth series on why affluent families in Costa Mesa's Mesa Verde are abandoning the neighborhood's public schools. Reicher also received an honorable mention in the coverage of local government category for his piece "Lifeguards in hot water," about pension and compensation costs for Newport Beach guards.

Reicher and Pilot Staff Writer Joseph Serna received certificates of achievement in the local breaking news category for their reporting on a Costa Mesa city employee who committed suicide at City Hall, a moment that many considered a flash point in that city's ongoing governance debate.

Members of the Pilot news and design desk — Kelly Parker, Matt Murray, Hamlet Nalbandyan and Bradley Zint — are finalists for best page layout and design.

Daily Pilot TCN Photo Editor Don Leach received a certificate of achievement for "Death by tree," which depicted the aftermath of a tree falling on a motorist's car near the Costa Mesa-Newport border.

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Huntington Beach Independent

Leach, freelance photographer Steven Georges, and Huntington Beach Independent Staff Writer Mona Shadia and City Editor Michael Miller, are nominated in the local breaking news coverage for the Seal Beach shootings.

Parker, Murray, Nalbandyan and Zint are finalists for best page layout and design for their work on the Independent.

Independent sportswriter Mike Sciacca received a certificate of achievement for sports coverage.

The Independent staff also received a certificate of achievement for general excellence.

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Coastline Pilot

Leach placed first or second in news coverage for his work at the Coastline Pilot covering a rainstorm and flooding in Laguna Beach. He is also nominated in feature photography for an image he took at the Pageant of the Masters.

The design team of Parker, Murray, Zint and Nalbandyan also received a certificate of achievement for best page layout and design for their work on the Coastline Pilot.

Coastline sportswriter Sciacca received a certificate for his work in the sports coverage category. Features Editor Imran Vittachi received an honorable mention for arts and entertainment coverage.

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L.A. County

The TCN newspapers in Los Angeles County — the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun — received 16 CNPA nominations.

That's a record for TCN North, according to Editor Dan Evans.

dailypilot@latimes.com

Twitter: @TheDailyPilot