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Johnston Wins L.A. Press Club Honor for Rafu Shimpo Column

Rafu columnist George Toshio Johnston with his Los Angeles Press Club award for commentary.

The Los Angeles Press Club gave its first-place award to George Toshio Johnston in the Commentary Diversity/Gender (Online) category at its 10th annual National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

The event took place Dec. 3 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Johnston’s winning column, titled “Horsing Around Pays Off for Scott Oshita, Todd Minobem” appeared in the March 9 Rafu Shimpo and at In it, Johnston gave the backstory to how Oshita and Minobe were members of a special effects team that won a science and technology Academy Award for inventing the animatronic horse puppet. (Read the original article at

George Toshio Johnston with fellow awardee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Oshita’s skills in computer-aided design were essential for constructing the internal mechanical skeleton of the animatronic horse puppet, which has been used in movies such as the 2010 “True Grit,” “The Revenant,” and the 2016 “The Magnificent Seven.”

The judges’ comments for Johnston’s entry read: “A beautiful and surprising story about an ordinary man and an extraordinary achievement, told with wittiness and full of eye-opening details.”

Johnston began contributing to The Rafu Shimpo in 1992 as a media columnist and wrote nearly 650 columns. He also had a stint as the newspaper’s director of business development and is now the senior editor of digital and social media for Pacific Citizen. Over his journalism career, he has worked for the Wave Newspapers, the Daily Journal Corp., The Pasadena Star-News, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register, The Hollywood Reporter and Investor’s Business Daily.

“I appreciate The Rafu Shimpo giving me the opportunity for 25 years to write about media-related issues and topics of interest to Japanese Americans, Asian Americans, Japanese from Japan and other Asians,” Johnston said. “Even in this age of social media and the internet, The Rafu Shimpo is a unique daily newspaper that provides news coverage and gives opportunities for community-based writers that would not otherwise exist.

“I hope that The Rafu can improve its financial situation in 2018. If that happens, I’d welcome the chance to return to writing ‘Into the Next Stage’ columns. I’d also like to thank the Los Angeles Press Club for not only honoring my efforts, but also recognizing The Rafu with this award.”

Other finalists in the category were Melissa Leon of the Daily Beast (second place), Rebecca Sun of The Hollywood Reporter (third place), Kristin Marguerite Doidge of GOOD Magazine and Dina Gilio-Whitaker of **LA Weekly.

Special awards presented during the journalism gala included the Storyteller Award to Joan Ganz and Lloyd Morrisett for the long-running educational TV show “Sesame Street”; the Luminary Award to Claudia Eller and Andrew Wallenstein, co-editors of entertainment trade Variety; the Legend Award to author and basketball luminary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who also won an award in the Columnist category for his contributions to The Hollywood Reporter; the Visionary Award to actress and animal rights advocate Tippi Hedren; and the Impact Award to New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who reported on accusations by several women of decades of sexual misconduct by now-disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

For a complete list of winners, visit

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