L.A. journalists call on UCLA to post censored video of treasury secretary’s campus appearance, seek public records behind decision to suppress recording

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists today called on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block to reverse a recent decision to not to post a video recording of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s campus appearance on February 26, 2018.

UCLA and the Treasury Department had a prior agreement to post the video of Mnuchin’s delivery of the annual Arnold C. Harberger Lecture at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, as was done with previous lectures, but Mnuchin later withdrew his prior consent after the program turned rowdy and several hecklers had to be removed.

The website for the public-radio program Marketplace, whose host Kai Ryssdal moderated the discussion with Mnuchin, subsequently posted an edited transcript and the full recorded audio.

In its letter to UCLA, SPJ/LA noted that the university is a public institution, hosting a public event involving a public official speaking on matters of public interest, and was under no legal obligation to comply with a federal government request to suppress the online publication of an official record of such an event.

A UCLA official told SPJ/LA that while there was no formal agreement with Mnuchin’s office, there was a clear understanding that the video would be posted on the sponsoring Burkle Center website after the event, as the Center customarily does with all public events. The official said this was the first time to her knowledge UCLA was asked not to post a video of an event after its conclusion.

Copies of the letter to Chancellor Block and the CPRA request are attached.

March 7, 2018

Society of Professional Journalists
Greater Los Angeles Chapter
210 W. Temple Street, 18th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Chancellor Gene Block
UCLA Office of the Chancellor
2147 Murphy Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095

Dear Chancellor Block,

As president of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, I am writing on behalf of my membership to express our concern over, and disagreement with, UCLA’s recent decision not to post a video recording of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s recent appearance on February 26, 2018 at UCLA for the Arnold C. Harberger Lecture at the UCLA International Institute, which was sponsored by the Burkle Center For International Relations.

Despite a clear prior understanding that UCLA was granted permission to post this video of a public appearance by a public official at a public institution on matters of public interest, Secretary Mnuchin withdrew his consent after the event, and to the best of our knowledge, UCLA readily acquiesced with little or no resistance.

Further, we were informed by a UCLA representative that there was no formal written agreement about posting the video, which means that Secretary Mnuchin had not been legally granted veto authority over the posting, nor would UCLA face any legal exposure for violating terms of a contractual agreement that did not exist.

SPJ/LA believes it sets a very bad precedent for a public university, which has expressly dedicated itself to the values of academic excellence and civic engagement, instead to permit government officials overly sensitive to appearances to constrain academic debate and deny public engagement by effectively censoring UCLA’s online publication of the record of a public event held on campus. UCLA’s decision seems particularly absurd in light of the fact that Marketplace, the public radio program hosted by Kai Ryssdal, who moderated Secretary Mnuchin’s discussion, has already posted the full audio recording on the program’s own website. How can UCLA do any less?

It is disheartening and inexplicable that UCLA would so readily submit to such an inappropriate action by a federal official. I respectfully ask that you reconsider and reverse UCLA’s decision and in the name of transparency and accountability publish online the video recording of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s appearance.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Stephanie Bluestein, President
Greater Los Angeles Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists

March 7, 2018

Society of Professional Journalists
Greater Los Angeles Chapter
210 W. Temple Street, 18th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Ms. Peggy Mcinerny
Director of Communications
UCLA International Institute
10270 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, California 90095-1487

RE: Public Records Act Request

Dear Ms. Mcinerny,

Pursuant to my rights under the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.), I ask to obtain a copy of the following, which I understand to be held by your agency:

Any and all written correspondence, digital and hard copy, between the members of representatives of the UCLA International Institute, the Burkle Center for International Relations, or any other relevant UCLA departments and member or representatives of the U.S. Treasury Department or any other federal agency, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin himself, regarding authorization and related decision-making concerning the on-line posting by UCLA of a video or any other recording of the public appearance and delivery of the Arnold C. Harberger Lecture by Secretary Mnuchin on the UCLA campus on Monday, February 26, 2018.

I am requesting such correspondence generated and received within the time-frame of March 1, 2017 and March 2, 2018.

I ask for a determination on this request within 10 days of your receipt of it, and an even prompter reply if you can make that determination without having to review the record[s] in question.

I would not ordinarily trouble you with this written request, but when I first made it informally, you directed me instead to file a formal request under the California Public Records Act.

If you determine that any or all or the information qualifies for an exemption from disclosure, I ask you to note whether, as is normally the case under the Act, the exemption is discretionary, and if so whether it is necessary in this case to exercise your discretion to withhold the information.

If you determine that some but not all of the information is exempt from disclosure and that you intend to withhold it, I ask that you redact it for the time being and make the rest available as requested.

In any event, please provide a signed notification citing the legal authorities on which you rely if you determine that any or all of the information is exempt and will not be disclosed.

If I can provide any clarification that will help expedite your attention to my request, please contact me at <bellman>. Because this information should be available electronically, you should not incur any duplication costs.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


Joel Bellman, Ethics Committee Chair and Board Member
Greater Los Angeles Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists

Registration Open for SPJ Region 11 Conference

Registration is now open for the SPJ Region 11 Conference on April 27 and 28, hosted by the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, at the Universal City Hilton.

The conference website, available at http://spjregion11conference.org, includes a full schedule and bios of all 34 panelists, workshop presenters and speakers.

The event will begin with a no-host reception on Friday evening, April 27. Linda Deutsch, retired AP courts reporter, will “hold court,” sharing war stories and telling tales from some of the biggest trials of the century including Charles Manson, the Menendez Brothers, O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson.

USC Professor Robert Hernandez will kick off the conference Saturday morning, April 28, giving his thoughts about recent trends in journalism and the changing news media.

Next up, will be many sessions conducted by top-notch local journalists from newspapers, radio and TV speaking about how to cover a variety of timely topics including immigration, disasters, homelessness, the LGBTQ+ community and sexual harassment.

Several other workshops, focusing on broadcast investigative journalism, writing ledes, data reporting and freelancing, will also be offered throughout the day.

Register before March 19 to receive the early bird registration rates of:

$95 early bird registration for SPJ members
$115 early bird registration for non-members
$75 early bird registration for students
After that date, registration prices will increase to:
$115 standard registration for SPJ members
$135 standard registration for non-members
$90 standard registration for students
Registration includes admission to both the opening night reception and the full day of panels and workshops on Saturday.

Admission to just the opening night reception is $50 for SPJ members and $60 for non-members.

In addition to the conference sessions, Emmy Award-winning journalist Stephen Galloway, executive features editor of The Hollywood Reporter, will speak at the Mark of Excellence Awards luncheon on Saturday, April 28.

The Mark of Excellence Awards luncheon is a separate ticket at $55 for students and $65 for non-students.

This conference is only in Los Angeles every six years, so mark your calendar to attend. It’s an amazing opportunity to network, learn and be inspired! For sponsorship possibilities and any questions, please email spjlosangeles@gmail.com.

Meeting Minutes: January 13, 2018

SPJ/LA Board of Directors Retreat Minutes
Saturday Jan. 13, 2018
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Northridge, CA

Present: Joel Bellman, Stephanie Bluestein, Linda Bowen, Tom Bray, Sarah Favot, Sandy Mazza, Kathryn Mora, Frank Mottek, Richard Saxton, Lori Streifler, Julia Wick, Natalie Windsor and David Zahniser

Bluestein called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

Approval of minutes from Dec. 4 board meeting
Windsor moved to approve the minutes. Bellman seconded. Bray, Wick, Mora abstained. Approved.

President’s report – Stephanie Bluestein
Bluestein reported about the Jan. 27 reading of All the President’s Men at LA City Hall by the cast of The West Wing. This is an event planned by national that we didn’t know about. SPJ interim executive director Tara Puckey said SPJ was partnering with another group, so they didn’t have complete control over ticketing. They offered us one ticket. Bluestein is unable to attend due to another commitment, so she is opening up the opportunity to other board members. Bluestein said she will communicate our concerns to national’s Communications Committee about the lack of communication, letting us know at the last minute and offering only one ticket.

Welcoming our new board members: Tom Bray, Sandy Mazza and Julia Wick
Bluestein introduced the new members and gave them a swag bag from last year’s Excellence in Journalism conference.
Mazza, a city reporter at the Daily Breeze, said she decided to run for a seat on the board to join the wider journalism community outside the daily grind of the newsroom and work on bigger picture issues.
Bray, a senior editor at Southern California News Group, said it is a good time in his career to join the board of SPJ because he is in LA County for his job rather than Riverside County.
Wick, former editor of LAist, said she joined SPJ because working in web journalism you’re often isolated from the journalism community. Now is a scary time in LA for journalists.

Slate of associate board members – Bluestein
Associate board members for 2018 will be Linda Bowen, Kathryn Mora, Lori Streifler and Natalie Windsor.

Treasurer’s Report – Hendrickson
Bluestein reported on behalf of Hendrickson. Bluestein reported the Chapter’s beginning balance as of Dec. 1 was $30,381.13. After paying $805 for the holiday party and $925 for the elections and other transactions, the balance on the books as of Jan. 1 was $29,760.97. There is an outstanding check for $288 for SPJ dues, so the balance on our books as of Jan. 1 was $29,472.97. The Morgan Stanley account balance is $72,456.88, a gain of $84.64 from the previous month.

Bluestein noted that the fee charged by Big Pulse to conduct the online board elections was high and she reached out to the San Diego Chapter to see how much they pay and they gave us the name of their vendor who charged them approximately $100. She suggested not using Big Pulse next year.

Favot said that after Hendrickson consulted with our regional director Matt Hall, we learned that that it is not necessary to create a separate bank account for the Regional Conference, as we had discussed at December’s meeting.
Bellman moved to receive the January Treasurer’s Report. Windsor seconded. Approved.

Introductions – All Please provide a brief statement as to why you’re a part of SPJ
Bluestein thanked board members who have recently left the board due to relocation and/or work commitments: Christina Cocca, America Arias, Tammy Audi, Irene Moore, Julia Seifer and Claudia Peschiutta.
Each of the current board members gave a brief biography of their journalism career and said they continue to be part of SPJ/LA to stay connected to the wider journalism community outside of their job. Many members said they are part of SPJ to promote the core values if the First Amendment, Freedom of Information, access and transparency. Two of our board members have been recently laid off from journalism jobs.

SPJ/LA committees and general responsibilities of board members – Bluestein
2018 SPJ/LA committee assignments/responsibilities
Bluestein gave a briefing on the new committee assignments for the year. She distributed a list for board members to keep for their records. Regarding the Scholarships Committee, Bowen spoke about the struggle of getting students to apply for scholarships because any scholarship money goes against a student’s financial aid package. She suggested calling the Scholarships “awards” because students might be more willing to apply to those, or offering specific items, like Amazon gift cards. Saxton said the struggle to is to get students to apply. Bowen suggested a scholarship workshop tagging it on to a Journalism Day at a high school or college to encourage students to apply. Wax noted that some scholarships that are in people’s names and have specific criteria. Bluestein would like members of the Scholarship Committee to come back with ideas at the February meeting for changing the way we’ve done things. Mottek suggested reaching out to high schools that have a journalism focus. Bowen mentioned that Southern California Journalism Education Association has a writing contest for high school journalism students for journalism writing on Feb. 24. Bluestein will reach out to Audi, former Scholarship Committee chair, to request a memo about how the Scholarships Committee operates.

Associate board member responsibilities
Associate board members can vote when there are fewer than 15 board members present at a meeting. Bluestein encouraged associate board members to attend meetings as sometimes we do not have a quorum and therefore can’t vote on official business.

Update on Regional Conference – Favot and Bluestein
Bluestein distributed a copy of a flyer for the Regional Conference designed by Michael Wax for a $100 fee. The flyer will be distributed to potential sponsors as well as posted on social media to promote the conference. Bluestein also briefed the board on the proposed schedule for the conference at the Universal City Hilton. The conference will kick off with a Friday night reception headlined by former AP courts reporter Linda Deutsch. On Saturday morning, USC professor Robert Hernandez will start the day with a speech on the future of journalism. We will offer three panels/workshops to choose from for each of the three sessions throughout the day. The luncheon will be a separate ticket for the Mark of Excellence awards for student journalists. The day will end with a closing speech. We haven’t determined the cost of the conference because we need to secure sponsorships before we can calculate the price. Favot ran through the panelists who we have secured. Favot and Bluestein asked board members to come up with ideas for a closing speaker. Former board member Jeff Wald, in a phone conversation with Bluestein in December, suggested speakers for the luncheon. Board members also came up with ideas.

Lunch break (11:45 – 12:15)The board recessed for lunch at 12:08 p.m. Bluestein called the meeting to order at 12:52 p.m.

Brainstorm programming ideas –
SPJ/LA’s 2018 calendar
Bluestein went through the calendar. Feb. 22 is the first mixer of the new year. Considering all of the journalists in Los Angeles who’ve been laid off or could be laid off in the near future, Zahniser suggested having a panel of journalists who’ve been laid off and bounced back to careers in journalism and other fields: “Stories of Hope.” Zahniser asked for board members to email him suggestions for panelists. Zahniser will look into The Association downtown for the venue. If we can’t secure a location for a mixer, we will hold a panel. Zahniser sought ideas for an FOI event this year. Mottek mentioned he is organizing State of the News Business with RTNA and maybe SPJLA could collaborate with them. Bluestein said she plans to attend the Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore on Sept. 27-29. Zahniser suggested having an election-related event in October ahead of the November general election.  Bluestein wants to hold a Google News Lab event, likely on a Saturday at CSUN.

Other business: Insurance – Bluestein and Nonahal
Bluestein reported that she and Nonahal are still working on securing this insurance. They plan to bring a proposal to the February board meeting. Zahniser requested that Bluestein email information about the proposal in advance of the meeting so board members can be prepared.

Banquet update – Walton
Wax reported that we have three RSVPs so far for the March 1 banquet. Wax encouraged members to start getting people to RSVP by sharing on their professional and personal social media accounts. For those who can’t attend, they can buy a ticket for a student to attend or make a donation to the scholarship fund and/or SPJ/LA.

Holiday party
Mottek reported 40 people attended and yielded four new Chapter members. Mottek thanked the board for their support.

Board member replacement – Bluestein
Bluestein reported America Arias is leaving L.A. for a new position. Arais suggested a replacement, who Bluestein has contacted and is waiting for a response. The new board member would chair the Diversity Committee. The board will need to vote on her appointment at the February meeting.

Next board meeting: Feb. 5 at Louise’s, 7 p.m.

Favot moved to adjourn at 2:13 p.m. Windsor seconded. Approved.

Respectfully submitted, Sarah Favot

Statement on Southern California News Group Layoffs

For Immediate Release
Jan. 31, 2018

Stephanie Bluestein
SPJ/LA President

On behalf of the board of directors of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, I want to express my sadness, frustration and dismay at news of widespread layoffs of reporters, editors and photographers at newspapers under the Southern California News Group umbrella.

These 11 intensely local newspapers cover communities stretching from the San Fernando Valley to San Bernardino and Orange County. Even before these layoffs, their coverage had been reduced significantly. After this latest round of cuts, we fear they will be forced to scale back even further, eliminating much-needed coverage of their elected representatives and local government agencies.

Their role as watchdog is being stripped away.

What is happening at the Southern California News Group should be a cause for alarm for anyone who values our civic culture. People often complain about unresponsive, unaccountable local government and vanishing local news is a large part of why this is able to occur.

We urge the public to show their support for journalists by subscribing to their local newspaper, and push for the kind of newsgathering they want to see.

The Society of Professional Journalists maintains that an informed public is the foundation of democracy. This is what is at stake when we no longer have a robust staff of journalists and photographers reporting on our communities and cities.

Stephanie Bluestein
President, Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists

SPJ/LA members attend All The President’s Men reading at LA City Hall

From left to right: Matt Hall, Region 11 director; Lauren Bartlett, SPJ Director at Large; Linda Bowen; SPJ/LA associate board member; Leslie Simmons, past SPJ/LA chapter president; Alice Walton, SPJ/LA board member; Joel Bellman, SPJ/LA board member and Lori Streifler, SPJ/LA associate board member.

Members of SPJ/LA attended a celebrity reading of “All The President’s Men” Saturday at L.A. City Hall. The reading was organized by the Fountain Theatre and hosted by L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

Actors from the West Wing and Scandal television shows read from William Goldman’s screenplay of “All The President’s Men,” based on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein detailing their investigative reporting for The Washington Post uncovering the Watergate scandal.

The celebrity line-up included Bradley Whitford, Joshua Molina, Richard Schiff and Ed Begley, Jr. from West Wing and actors Jeff Perry and Joe Morton, of Scandal.

“This high-profile reading will be a statement asserting the First Amendment, advocating freedom of the press and honoring the tenacity of American journalism in a free society,” Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs said in a news release announcing the reading. “As the current administration is under investigation, the echo of Watergate rings loud and clear. Reporters from The New York Times and Washington Post have been heroes, warriors for our democracy, as they were forty-five years ago.”

SPJ and SPJ/LA were represented by Matt Hall, Region 11 director; Lauren Bartlett, SPJ Director at Large; Linda Bowen; SPJ/LA associate board member; Leslie Simmons, SPJ/LA past president; Alice Walton, SPJ/LA board member; Joel Bellman, SPJ/LA board member, Lori Streifler, SPJ/LA associate board member and others.