SPJ/LA Sponsors A Panel Discussion: “Is Objectivity Over?”

Actor Sean Penn’s recent Rolling Stone magazine account of his interview with a Mexican “drug lord” unabashedly included Penn’s opinions about the so-called “war on drugs” and the role American consumers play in the success of such growers and traffickers.

Whether or not Penn was claiming to be a journalist, there was little doubt that what he was doing – gathering and presenting information about a newsworthy figure for the audience of a national magazine – was a form of journalism.

And not the traditional “objective” journalism called for by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, but an example of “advocacy” journalism, the practice of using a journalistic form to advance a point of view.

The article brought into focus a significant question facing professional journalists and their audiences today: Is objectivity over? Is it OK for print/online or broadcast reporters to expand their messages with commentary and unattributed opinion? Do the rules change when the topics are drug trafficking, domestic violence or political campaigns? Are readers intelligent enough to judge the content of such messages? Do opinions spoil the credibility of the reporters and their news organizations?

These are among the questions to be explored Thursday, March 3, 2016, at KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum, 474 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105, by a panel convened by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the 90-minute program will begin at 7 p.m. sharp in the auditorium that is part of the broadcast facilities of public radio station KPCC, 89.3 FM.

Panelists will be:
Pilar Marrero, senior political reporter, Impremedia
Robert Scheer, founder and editor of Truthdig
Karen Ocamb, news editor for Frontiers Magazine and FrontiersMedia.co
Marc Cooper, retired journalism professor for USC Annenberg School for Communications and a freelance writer and author.

The moderator will be:
Stephanie Bluestein, Ed.D., a veteran reporter and assistant professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge.

The event is free and open for all. Street and lot parking will be available. Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP by sending an e-mail message to: spjlosangeles@gmail.com

SPJ/LA Announces 2016 Officers

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has elected its 2016 officers.

Navid Nonahal, the chapter’s current president and a freelance journalist, began her third term on Jan. 1, 2016. Elizabeth Marcellino, county beat reporter for City News Service, will serve as vice president. BuzzFeed News homepage editor and reporter Christina Cocca will be secretary, while Richard Hendrickson, a journalism teacher at California State University, Northridge, John Carroll University in Cleveland and UCLA Extension, will serve as treasurer.

SPJ/LA Minutes, Board of Directors Retreat: Jan. 23, 2016

SPJ/LA Minutes, Board of Directors retreat

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, 10 a.m.

9430 Wish Ave., Northridge, CA

Joel Bellman, Stephanie Bluestein, Christina Cocca, Sarah Favot, Michael Fleeman, Dick Hendrickson, Elizabeth Marcellino, Frank Mottek, Navid Nonahal, John Schwada, Julia Seifer, Lori Streifler, Alice Walton, Jeff Wald, Roberta Wax, Natalie Windsor, David Zahniser.

I.               MINUTES. Windsor moves to approve the December 2015 board minutes, Bellman and Hendrickson second. Motion carried.


·      Nonahal welcomed the board’s newest member, Sarah Favot of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

·      Bellman made a motion for the approval of the board’s officers for 2016: president Navid Nonahal, vice president Elizabeth Marcellino, secretary Christina Cocca, treasurer Dick Hendrickson. Mottek seconded. The motion carried.

·      Hendrickson moved the 2016 slate of associate board members: Linda Bowen, Michael Fleeman, Khalil Garriott, Claudia Peschiutta, John Schwada, Julia Seifer, Lori Streifler, Natalie Windsor. Bellman seconded. Motion carried.III.           INTRODUCTIONS.
Board members introduced themselves, describing their professional backgrounds and their reasons for getting involved in SPJ/LA: building a sense of community with fellow journalists, support for the chapter’s work on ethics and First Amendment rights, enjoyment of the group’s activities, feeling a sense of obligation to the profession.


·      Committees.
Nonahal distributed the list of 2016 committee assignments for SPJ/LA board members.

·      Associate board members.

Nonahal explained the differences between board members and associate board members: Board members are elected by the membership for three-year terms. Associate board members are selected by the president for one-year terms. Board members can be asked to step down if they miss three or more meetings. That requirement is not imposed on associate board members. The votes of associate board members also become more important if there is not a quorum of board members.

Nonahal  also noted that she had reduced the number of associate board members for 2016, contacting those who have not been active to let them know.


Nonahal brought up the issue of declining membership in the SPJ/LA chapter. She asked whether it makes sense to eliminate the $20 chapter fee that is added to the $75 cost of national membership. Some chapters have done this and succeeded in improving membership.

Nonahal noted that local dues provided around $2,000 last year.

Zahniser said the chapter needs more information on the decrease. The board does not seem to be clear on whether this a one-time blip that resulted from SPJ national readjusting its membership numbers, or whether it’s part of a steady decline. He recommended a monthly update on membership numbers from the membership committee, similar to that provided by the treasurer. Zahniser also said membership is only important as it relates to other goals: For example, if the chapter has quality programs that draw a high turnout, how important is membership at that point?

Wax said the reason for charging local dues is that some of SPJ/LA’s programs cost the chapter money – the use of a room, snacks, etc. Mixers are great, of course, because there’s not a cost. But there’s also other expenditures, like web hosting, the PayPal account, which rely on dues.

Bellman said membership is a key part of having a strong, robust chapter.  The chapter has more influence if it has more members, and creates a momentum for its programs and advocacy. Bellman said the chapter should not simply be about people going out to hang out and drink.

Hendrickson questioned the wisdom of having local students pay additional SPJ/LA dues on top of the $35 national dues and the $10 campus dues that are charged to students.

Board members also discussed the tension between wanting to have events that are free to the public, versus those that cost money but can have a higher quality of food or programming. Cocca noted that last year’s ethics panel was made possible in part because NBC Los Angeles defrayed the cost of catering.

Schwada made a motion to establish a goal for 2016 membership, but others said the board doesn’t have enough information to diagnose the program or determine how realistic that goal should be. The motion was tabled.

Schwada made a motion to make it the board’s policy that students in the Los Angeles area should not be charged dues from SPJ/LA. If they are already paying national and campus dues, they should automatically become SPJ/LA members as well. Marcellino seconded. The motion carried unanimously.

Hedrickson issued the treasurer’s report, noting that the loss for the year in the Morgan Stanley account is $388. The report initiated another discussion of the nature of the investments made by the Morgan Stanley account. Wald moved the report and Cocca seconded. Motion carried.
VI.            LUNCH.

Lasagna, salad and a great number of desserts.


Board members proposed an array of panels, workshops and the annual banquet. Among the ideas were a video editing workshop, a panel on efforts to diversify newsrooms, programs on the 2016 presidential campaign and, later in the year, the process of fact-checking during an election campaign; and a Q&A on a series of stories about immigrant work visas that was nominated for a national magazine award.

The board’s proposals will be incorporated into the SPJ/LA calendar for 2016, which will be formalized by Nonahal for the next board meeting.

·      Banquet update. Discussed earlier, as part of the 2016 calendar preparation.

·      Nonahal reminded the board of the karaoke mixer, set for Wednesday, Jan. 27 at The Redwood.
IX.            NEXT BOARD MEETING. Monday, Feb. 8 at Louise’s Trattoria, 7 p.m.

X.              ADJOURNMENT.  Walton moved and Windsor seconded. Meeting was adjourned.



Meeting Minutes: Dec. 7, 2015

SPJ/LA Board Meeting Minutes

Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, 7 p.m.

Louise’s Trattoria

10645 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

Joel Bellman, Stephanie Bluestein, Dan Evans, Dick Hendrickson, Elizabeth Marcellino, Navid Nonahal, Richard Saxton, John Schwada, Lori Streifler, Robi Wax, Natalie Windsor, David Zahniser.

I.               MINUTES.

Windsor moved to approve the minutes. Bluestein seconded. Motion carried.

Nonahal reported that SPJ/LA chapter members have seriously declined in recent years, falling to around 179 from more than 200 a few years ago. That decrease became apparent after SPJ National updated its membership tracking system. Nonahal asked the board for feedback on the idea of eliminating the local membership dues. After an extended discussion, Nonahal said membership will be a topic of the January retreat.

Hendrickson presented the monthly treasurer’s report. He noted that  SPJ/LA did not break even on the holiday party this year, resulting in a loss of $184.01. Streifler pointed out that the party was held on a night when many journalists were assigned to the San Bernardino terror attacks.


a.     Awards – Marcellino concluded the unfinished business from last month – recognizing Don Barrett, publisher of LARadio.com, at this year’s SPJ awards dinner. The choice of Barrett was made in an online vote since the last meeting. Marcellino said the news release would be finished once Barrett’s bio is available.

b.     Banquet – No report.

c.      Courts – No report.

d.     Diversity – No report.

e.     Ethics – No report.

f.      FOI – No report.

g.     Generation J – No report.

h.     Membership – See above.

i.       Nominations – Board members discussed the ongoing search for candidates to seek positions on the board. Bellman said Sarah Favot, who covers county government for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, had agreed to throw her hat in the ring.

j.       Scholarships – No report.

V.              OLD BUSINESS.
Nonahal said Mottek put together a great holiday party, which drew in nearly 25 people and was held at a new venue – Shanghai Grill. Board members praised the food and said the restaurant’s management seemed to be happy to have the group there.

VI.            NEW BUSINESS.
Nonahal said Claudia Peschiutta proposed the idea of a panel discussion on media coverage of the recent San Bernardino terror attacks. Nonahal sought feedback on whether such an event could be staged later in December.

Bellman said that was too tight a timeline given the holidays, and other board members echoed that view. Nonahal said such an event would be pursued in the new year.

VII.          NEXT BOARD MEETING. Roberta Wax residence, 9430 Wish Ave., Northridge. Date to be determined.


Windsor moved, Evans seconded. Motion carried.

Meeting Minutes: Nov. 9, 2015

SPJ/LA Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, 7 p.m.

Louise’s Trattoria, 10645 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90064

Bellman, Bluestein, Evans, Fleeman, Hendrickson, Marcellino, Mottek, Nonahal, Seifer, Streifler, Wald, Walton, Wax, Windsor, Zahniser.

I.               MINUTES

Zahniser said the minutes would be revised to move a committee report that was erroneously placed under the wrong heading. Wald then moved to approve the minutes, Windsor seconded. Motion carried.

No report.

Hendrickson reported that as of Nov. 1, the chapter’s balance is $29,964. For the same period, the Morgan Stanley account was $69,304.81. Evans moved to accept the report, with Windsor seconding. Motion carried.


a.     Awards – Marcellino walked board members through each of the candidates for SPJ/LA’s Distinguished Journalist Awards. Deliberations and the casting of ballots followed. The winners were:

Print – Under 90,000 circulation: Frank Suraci, Daily Breeze
Print – More than 90,000 circulation: Steve Loeper, Associated Press

Television: David Ono, ABC7

Radio: Frank P. Mottek, KNX

Digital: Adrian Glick-Kudler, Curbed LA

FOI: Attorney Theodore Boutrous

Nonahal thanked the committee for their work. The board also agreed to conduct an online discussion in the upcoming days on a possible special recognition award to a veteran journalist.

b.     Banquet – No Report.

c.      Courts – No report.

d.     Diversity – Nonahal reported that Adolfo Flores continues to work on assembling a panel for a diversity program. Although he had hoped to have one ready for a November event, it’s now looking more like January.

e.     Ethics – No report.

f.      FOI –Zahniser reported on the Digging Data and Spreadsheet Survival Workshop. The event, held Nov. 7 at the Cal State, L.A. campus, had about a dozen participants and both of the instructors, Doug Smith of the Los Angeles Times and Ron Campbell from the Center for Health Reporting, were excellent. Although there were eight or nine cancellations in the final 72 hours before the event, having a smaller group was actually more helpful in terms of the logistics – getting each person to download the instructional materials on their laptops, etc.

g.     Generation J – Bluestein reported that last month’s Generation J event at Cal State, Northridge had more than 250 participants, the majority of them students. This was also the first year that the Los Angeles Times was involved in the event.

h.     Membership – Hendrickson reported that he and Windsor met to go over the membership list for SPJ/LA, comparing it with records for SPJ national’s membership and found major discrepancies. Nonahal said the membership roster is important, since board elections are coming up, and all of the voting will be carried out online. The chapter will send out an email asking people to check to make sure their membership is up to date.

i.       Nominations – Bellman reported the committee is working on putting together the ballots for the upcoming board elections. The committee has identified a new candidate in Sarah Favot, county government reporter for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. Bellman promised to provide more details on board elections at SPJ/LA’s December board meeting.

j.       Scholarships – No report.

V.              OLD BUSINESS
Oct. 15 event recap – Fleeman reported that last month’s mixer, which featured a presentation on reaching millennial news consumers, went well.

Oct. 29 mixer recap – Walton said SPJ/LA’s combo mixer with the Los Angeles Press Club, which had the Halloween theme of scary stories from journalists, was a success. Claudia Peschiutta, who helped organize it, said she’d like to hold a similar event again next year.
VI.            NEW BUSINESS
Mottek reported that arrangements are 99% done for this year’s holiday party, which will be held Dec. 2 at the Shanghai Grill in Beverly Hills. Mottek said the restaurant is very down to earth and has a nice meeting room in the back. Work is underway on the press release for the event.

Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Louise’s Trattoria, 10645 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

VIII.          ADJOURNMENT – Bellman moved to adjourn, Marcellino seconded. Motion carried.