Coachella Valley Media Hall of Fame

Coachella Valley
Media Hall of Fame

Local news organizations play a critical role in creating community. Writers, reporters, editors, broadcasters, photographers, and videographers chronicle our collective experiences, shine a spotlight on unsung heroes, keep watch over government officials, expose wrongdoing and delight us with stories about everyday life. They educate, engage, entertain us, and help us make sense of the world around us.

To recognize the commitment of local media professionals, CVJF has created the Coachella Valley Media Hall of Fame.

Each year, three to five individuals will be inducted into the Hall of Fame to recognize their commitment to the profession and the impact of their work on the community. Journalists and other media leaders and professionals, including those working in public relations, marketing communications and related fields, will be considered for induction.

2024 Hall of Fame Inductees

The 2024 inductees are (click C to see bio):
Bruce Fessier, former Desert Sun entertainment editor, columnist and reporter

Bruce Fessier wrote a people and entertainment column, as well as news and feature stories for The Desert Sun and a host of other publications for 40 years, from 1979 to 2019. He continues to engage in various writing and speaking opportunities. 

His Desert Sun career was celebrated with a State of California Assembly resolution, a CV Music lifetime achievement in journalism award sponsored by the Coachella Valley Weekly newspaper, and an endowment in his name from the College of the Desert Foundation to support Desert Sun internships.

Fessier has covered every Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Stagecoach country music festival and Palm Springs International Film Festival since their inception. 

He has interviewed a range of celebrities, from Frank Sinatra to Sonny Bono. He was roasted by a panel including Bono and jazz artist Georgie Auld in 1987 to raise funds for the Desert Theatre League, which he co-founded with actor Steve Meek. He served on Bono’s founding committee in 1987 to establish the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and he co-founded the Jazz Celebrity Golf & JAMS Session in 1997 with his wife, Jane Fessier, and singer Frankie Randall.

He has received multiple journalism writing awards over the course of his career.

In addition to his extensive impact on the entertainment scene in the Coachella Valley, Fessier is deeply involved in Amy’s Purpose, a local nonprofit dedicated to pet safety and predator awareness. In 2022, he produced the benefit “Pet Love and Rock & Roll” to help Amy’s Purpose’s put more veterinary workers in the field in the Coachella Valley.

Karen Devine, anchor and investigative reporter at KESQ.

Karen Devine is celebrating more than 30 years as a broadcast Journalist in the Coachella Valley. She is the evening anchor and investigative reporter for KESQ News Channel 3, which encompasses the ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates.

Karen is a multi-award winner for her in-depth and investigative stories, including an Emmy Award for “Teens and Prescription Drug Abuse: The Epidemic.” Former U.S. Congresswoman Mary Bono shared with Karen the struggles she faced as a mother with her son’s addiction to opioids. The story included another valley family who had their son kidnapped and taken to a rehabilitation facility in Utah. The story aired and more families in the desert came forward with similar challenges.

Karen was able to connect the families and Congresswoman Bono started her non-profit, Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse or MAPDA.  Karen received the “Humanitarian Award” in 2023 for her work educating the public about the dangers of drugs which now includes Fentanyl.

She has won several regional Edward R. Morrow Awards and was recently recognized by the National Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences with the Silver Circle award for excellence in broadcast journalism.

Her sons are her pride and joy. Her eldest, Zach, has followed in her footsteps and is a news reporter for the Fox affiliate station in Sacramento. Her youngest, Tony, wants nothing to do with journalism and is determined to make millions in the world of finance!

Frank Jones, owner and publisher of Palm Springs Life.

Frank Jones has been in the media and marketing profession for the past 40 years. He is president and owner of Desert Publications, Inc., which publishes Palm Springs Life magazine. He is also the owner of the Jones Agency Advertising and Public Relations. He succeeded his father, Milton Jones, in running these successful businesses, which have been a force in the Coachella Valley for seven decades.

Palm Springs Life celebrates the Southern California desert lifestyle by offering sophisticated content to an affluent audience of residents and visitors. Palm Springs Life stands out as “California’s Prestige Magazine.”

Jones is the founding owner of Sunrise Media Outdoor Advertising; Fashion Week El Paseo, the largest fashion week on the West Coast; the Palm Desert Food + Wine Festival, one of the largest food festivals in California; and the Oasis Music Festival. A portion of proceeds from the musical festival were donated to the Save the Plaza Theatre renovation campaign.

Jones was producer, writer, and director of the Emmy Award-winning environmental documentary, Voices of Santa Rosa & San Jacinto National Monument, released in 2008.

Jones was born and raised in Palm Springs and is a graduate of the University of San Diego.

Milton Jones, owner and publisher of Palm Springs Life (posthumous).

Milton Jones arrived in the Coachella Valley in 1957 when he opened Center Pharmacy in Cathedral City, before quickly realizing his passion was in publishing and communications.

He launched the Taylor/Jones Agency, the predecessor of today’s Jones Agency Advertising and Relations, in 1959 after initially selling radio advertising. The parent company, Desert Publications Inc., produces more than 20 publications annually, including Palm Springs Life. Jones purchased the magazine in 1965 and Palm Springs Life became the centerpiece of an emerging empire.

During the 1960s, Palm Springs Life promoted the Desert Classic golf tournament, using Bob Hope on its cover 34 times. Frank Sinatra covers publicized his celebrity golf tournament on 13 covers, and Dinah Shore smiled from more than 20 covers, showcasing her popular LPGA Mission Hills tournament.

Jones was a past president of the now-defunct Desert Press Club; former vice chairman of the Board of Palm Springs Savings Bank; member of the Committee of Twenty-Five and O’Donnell Golf Club; founding member of Palm Springs Economic Development Corporation; founding member of Indian Wells Desert Town Hall; and founding board member and secretary of Canyon National Bank in Palm Springs. He was the first recipient of the Dolores Hope Perpetual Guardian Angel Award from St. Theresa School in 2011.

Jones was married to his wife, Rita, for more than 50 years. He died in 2014 at the age of 84.

Honorees are selected by The CVJF board of directors, but the public is encouraged to suggest individuals for future consideration. Just send an email to nominating a worthy individual.

2024 Journalism Awards

In addition to the Hall of Fame inductees, the 2024 Journalism Awards were announced at the Hall of Fame event. Here are the winners:

Rising Star Award

This award honors a journalist under age 30 (or with less than 5 years in the industry) who has worked for a valley media organization for at least a year and produced notable journalism in 2023 that indicates they will be a strong contributor to telling the valley’s story in the years to come.

Runner-up: Kendall Balchan of the Palm Springs Post. Balchan was prolific in 2023, writing more than 300 articles or posts on a wide range of topics, from long-term AIDS survivors to intricate negotiations over the future of Desert Regional Medical Center. One of her nominators called Kendall’s work “informative and entertaining,” adding: “I especially enjoy journalism that covers the happier stories. Kendall’s enthusiastic approach brightens my inbox each day.”

Winner: Andy Abeyta of the The Desert Sun. From photographs of sports action to wildfires, portraits to drone photography and videography, Abeyta is extremely versatile. Yet amid this versatility is a consistency — drawing out emotion and humanity from even the toughest subjects.  


Journalist of the Year Award

This award honors a professional who has demonstrated excellence and high ethical standards in their coverage of issues in the Coachella Valley with journalism that had a significant impact on our community in the past year. 

Runner-up: Christopher Damien of The Desert Sun. Damien is recognized for reporting on a particularly difficult subject — deaths in our county jails. In 2022, Damien uncovered a record number of jail deaths in the county and the sheriff’s department’s illegal failure to report some of them in a timely way. In 2023, that work’s impact spread, as the California attorney general launched a civil-rights probe of the sheriff’s department. Damine chronicled the human toll by speaking to the victims’ families. In some cases, they had never been told their relatives were hospitalized until it was too late. He also reported on the drug problems fueling some of the deaths, including fentanyl being smuggled into jail.

Winner: Rich Tarpening of Gulf California Broadcasting. When we think of journalism, we often think about reporters or photographers, in-the-field correspondents or news anchors. But behind the scenes are many dedicated editors and managers whose work every day makes the news happen. Tarpening is the Assignment Manager for Gulf California Broadcasting. He manages the daily newsroom operations and helps plan for short- and long-term news stories for KESQ, KDFX, CBS Local 2 and Telemundo 15. Rich oversees the News Channel 3’s I-Team, helping to plan and organize investigative reports. In 2023, those reports included probes into fentanyl deaths, malware attacks on College of the Desert that cost the school over $1 million, the dismissal of more than 1,700 cases in Riverside County courts, and school safety issues. 

Each of the journalism award winners received a cash prize underwritten by the California News Publishers Association.