SPJ/LA CALLS FOR THOROUGH, TRANSPARENT INVESTIGATION INTO SHERIFF’S JOSIE HUANG ARREST

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The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of SPJ sent the following letter on September 16, 2020 to Max Huntsman, Inspector General for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, expressing the Chapter’s concerns about the Department’s media policy, and objections about the Department’s conduct regarding the recent mistreatment and arrest of KPCC/Southern California Public Radio reporter Josie Huang.

The matter will also be taken up on September 17, 2020 at 9 a.m. during the virtual live meeting of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, under Item #2 of the Commission Agenda. The public is invited to register for and participate in the live-streamed meeting here: https://bit.ly/34ewI9I

Mr. Max Huntsman
L.A. County Office of Inspector General
312 S Hill St Fl 3
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1109

via email

Mr. Huntsman:

The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists strongly supports your decision to investigate the arrest of KPCC reporter Josie Huang by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Lynwood. As you may know, this organization already has denounced deputies’ decision to arrest a working journalist.

We would respectfully request that you make public the information your office gathers regarding her arrest – videos, eyewitness accounts, MDT transmissions, written reports, and any other documentation of deputies’ actions. It is also imperative that your office work to answer these questions:

  • Was Huang’s arrest justified?
  • Did deputies use excessive force during this incident?
  • Were deputies adequately informed that Huang was a journalist?
  • What is the LASD’s policy for dealing with journalists – on sidewalks, public streets and elsewhere?
  • Was the department’s policy followed in this case?
  • Did the department make statements about deputies’ treatment of Huang that were inaccurate? Did they make statements that were deliberately false?
  • Did Huang’s gender or ethnicity play any role in the way she was treated?
  • Is this an isolated incident or have there been other recent instances of the department detaining journalists or preventing them from doing their jobs?

The question before the county is not simply whether deputies interfered with the First Amendment rights of a working journalist. More broadly, we urge you to also investigate whether the department engages in a pattern or practice of concealing its actions or misrepresenting them to the public.

In this case, Huang was arrested while legitimately covering the arrest of a protester. In addition, our organization has received complaints about the department ignoring or denying public records requests. Your office also has reported being denied crucial access to records and personnel.

The department’s treatment of Huang threatens to have a chilling effect on journalists across the county. We cannot overstate the importance of a thorough investigation by your office.

Sincerely,

David Zahniser
President
Society of Professional Journalists
Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter

cc: Board of Supervisors
Los Angeles Press Club
Radio Television News Association

CONTACT: Joel Bellman, Advocacy Committee Chair, bellman.spjla@gmail.com
(424) 324-1815

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SPJ/LA DENOUNCES ARREST OF KPCC/LAist REPORTER

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KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang being detained while reporting by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel on September 12, 2020. ABC7 via Twitter user @TheChalkOutline

The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued the following statement today regarding the arrest of KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang on Saturday, September 12, 2020, as she was covering a protest in the City of Lynwood:

SPJ/LA joins the Los Angeles community in expressing its concern for two Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies who were critically injured in an ambush shooting outside the Compton Metro Blue Line transit station.

Whenever officers are injured in the line of duty, emotions and tensions understandably run high within law enforcement. But that cannot be allowed to compromise those officers’ obligation to engage in proper conduct while carrying out their duties.

We are deeply troubled by news reports and on-the-scene video that details what clearly seems to be inappropriate use of force to subdue and arrest KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang as she attempted to cover the arrest of a protester outside the Lynwood hospital where the wounded officers were being treated.

Huang is an experienced reporter who clearly identified herself as a member of the press, yet was knocked to the ground, handcuffed, arrested, and may be charged for allegedly interfering with law enforcement. News reporting is not a crime, and we strongly urge that any pending charges against the reporter be dropped immediately.

While specific details remain under investigation, the Sheriff’s arrest of a journalist as she was attempting to do her job merits the attention of the entire Los Angeles journalism community. SPJ/LA takes special note that this is at least the second time that a journalist of color from this news organization was mistreated and injured while reporting on civil protests.

This action by the Sheriff’s Department demands attention both for what appears to be an excessive use of force, and as a serious threat to the First Amendment, which protects the press, free speech, and the right to protest.

We support the decision by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Inspector General to conduct an investigation into this incident. We also request that the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission take up this matter at the earliest opportunity, and we further request that the Board of Supervisors, which also oversees the Sheriff’s Department and authorizes its budget, invite Sheriff Alex Villanueva to appear before the Board as soon as possible to answer questions about this incident.

CONTACT: Joel Bellman, SPJ/LA (424) 324-1815

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Save the Date: SPJ/LA’s First Virtual Mixer Wednesday, September 23

The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists invites you to a different kind of mixer, from the comfort of your own space!

With work from home reaching the six-month mark, it’s time to hang out with fellow journalists and share some of your experiences during this unwanted, uninvited, incredibly rude pandemic!

The socializing begins at 6 p.m. on Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

BYOB!!!

WHAT:
SPJ/LA’s First Virtual Mixer

WHEN:
Wednesday, September 23
6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

WHERE:
Zoom

COST:
Free of charge.

PARKING:
Park yourself in front of your computer and you’re set to go!

RSVP:
Please RSVP at spjlosangeles@gmail.com. You will receive a Zoom invitation link by September 21.

CONTACT:
Navid Nonahal, SPJ/LA Membership Chair
navidnonahalspjla@gmail.com

Audio: Listen to our Panel with Journalists Discussing Protests and Police Abuse

SPJ/LA held a panel discussion via Zoom on July 2 with four journalists to discuss “Protests and Police Abuse in 2020: Reporting from the front lines.”

The panelists were freelance journalists Lexis-Olivier Ray, Faith Petrie and Samanta Helou Hernandez and Los Angeles Times Houston Bureau Chief Molly Hennessy-Fiske. It was moderated by KPCC/LAist public safety reporter Frank Stoltze.

The reporters discussed covering the recent protests in Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Here is the link to the audio recording of the panel.

 

SPJ/LA awards $9,500 in scholarships to Southern California student journalists

The Society of Professional Journalists Greater Los Angeles Chapter congratulates this year’s SPJ/LA scholarship recipients for their outstanding published and/or broadcast work in their pursuit of journalism careers.

  • Madalyn Amato, editor-in-chief of the Daily Forty-Niner at California State University Long Beach, has received the Richard D. Hendrickson Memorial Scholarship, awarded to an enrolled college student pursuing a career in the field of text/print journalism.
  • Devin Herenda, a reporter for MyBurbank.com from Pasadena City College, who is transferring to California State University Northridge’s journalism program, has been awarded the Nonprofit Communications and Media Network’s Lisa A. Davidson Memorial Scholarship, supported by contributions to the Ruth Collander Endowment Fund. This scholarship is given to a student who is currently enrolled in college or has been accepted to college in Los Angeles County, Orange County or Ventura County and will be pursuing a career in journalism.
  • Nathan Hyun, an aspiring multimedia journalist at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, is the recipient of the Ken Inouye Memorial Scholarship, awarded to a college journalist of color, which is aimed at increasing ethnic diversity in newsrooms. Hyun is Korean American.
  • Lauren LaBruna, a news and sports anchor from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has been awarded the Helen Johnson Memorial Scholarship, provided to college students pursuing broadcast journalism.
  • Siqi “Karen” Wang, a USC beat editor and investigative journalist from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has received the Carl Greenberg Memorial Scholarship, awarded to a college student pursuing investigative or political reporting.
  • Logan Bik, editor-in-chief and photographer at The Sundial at California State University Northridge, has received the Bill Farr Memorial Scholarship, which is given to high school seniors or college students who demonstrate a strong intent to pursue a career in journalism.

Each of these honorees showed excellence in their work. SPJ/LA also thanks everyone who took the time to submit applications for these awards.

For more information, contact Sarah Favot, sarah.favot@gmail.com, 213-761-8825.