New York Times Reporter Jennifer Medina to Give Keynote Address at SPJ/LA Banquet

Jennifer Medina.  Photo credit: Earl Wilson

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is thrilled to announce that Jennifer Medina, national political correspondent for The New York Times, will deliver the keynote address at this year’s Distinguished Journalists Awards Banquet.

The event will be held March 25 in downtown Los Angeles, honoring longtime regional journalists in print, broadcast and digital media.
Medina is currently covering the 2020 presidential campaign, with a focus on the West. Her reporting looks at how race, immigration and gender are shaping the nation’s politics and public discourse.

During her time in California, Medina has written about immigration raids in the Inland Empire, Disneyland employees living in their cars and the state’s chronic public education problems. She has covered breaking news extensively, including several mass shootings, and is often called upon to find humanity amid tragedy.

Medina joined The New York Times in 2002. She grew up in Riverside, graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in print journalism and political science. She speaks Spanish and Hebrew.

Proceeds from the banquet go toward scholarships for journalism students. The banquet has previously hosted such acclaimed journalists as Walter Cronkite, Andrea Mitchell, Ted Koppel, Linda Ellerbee and others.

This year’s Distinguished Journalist honorees are: Maria L. La Ganga, Metro reporter for The Los Angeles Times; Southern California News Group senior editor Tom Bray; retired KNX1070 reporter and anchor Diane Thompson; KTLA assignment manager Vance Scott; and Lynell George, journalist and essayist.

The Freedom of Information Award will go to David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.
The Distinguished Journalists Awards banquet will be held on Wednesday, March 25 at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. A no-host cocktail reception will begin at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the event are:

  • $100 for SPJ/LA members
  • $140 for non-members
  • $80 for students
  • Tables of 10 are available for $1,000 

Sponsorship opportunities are also available. The three levels of sponsorship are:

  • Platinum ($5,000): Acknowledgement in the banquet program, event signage, logo included on the website and in emails, one complimentary banquet table.
  • Gold ($2,500): Acknowledgement in the banquet program, logo included on the website and in emails, five complimentary banquet tickets.
  • Silver ($1,500): Acknowledgement in the banquet program, logo included on the website and in emails, two complimentary banquet tickets. 

You can also support SPJ/LA by purchasing an ad in the banquet program:

  • Back page program ad: $600
  • Full page ad: $350
  • Half-page ad: $250
  • Quarter-page ad: $150 

The Distinguished Journalists Award, created in 1976, honors journalists who have achieved a record of accomplishment over a number of years. The award recognizes journalists in television, radio, digital media, newspapers with a circulation of 90,000 or more, and newspapers with a circulation of less than 90,000.

The Freedom of Information Award goes to people – typically not journalists — who have championed freedom of the press and helped further the free flow of information.

For details on sponsorship or to make a reservation, please contact Sarah Favot at or 617-756-5643.

SPJ/LA Announces Newly Elected Board Members

LOS ANGELES – The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is proud to announce the election of four members to serve on the group’s 15-member board beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Three members were newly elected to the board:


  • Penny Arevalo, city editor of the San Gabriel Valley News Group (Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News).




  • Susan Jacobs, news media services specialist in the strategic communications department at Cal State Long Beach.





  • Nathan Solis, a reporter with the legal news wire Courthouse News Service covering Southern California politics, breaking news and legal proceedings.



A fourth member was re-elected:


  • Elizabeth Marcellino, a reporter covering county politics and criminal courts for City News Service and freelancer.



The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to promoting high standards of ethical behavior and encouraging the free practice of journalism. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. The Greater Los Angeles professional chapter was chartered 25 years later in 1934.

# # #

Meeting Minutes: November 4, 2019

SPJ/LA Board of Directors Meeting Agenda
Monday, Nov. 4, 2019
7 p.m.
Maria’s Italian Kitchen
10761 W Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Present: Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins, Stephanie Bluestein, Sarah Favot, Kathryn Mora, Richard Saxton, Nathan Solis, Lori Streifler, Roberta Wax, Julia Wick, Natalie Windsor, David Zahniser.

I. Approval of minutes from Oct. 7 meeting – Deferred

II. President’s report – Bluestein
Bluestein reported the Nonprofit Communications and Media Network mixer event was a dignified, meaningful farewell for their organization.
She thanked the board members who attended. The group is happy that we are stewards of its finances for scholarships. We have received the check from SPJ Foundation for the transfer of the finances. The board thanked Bluestein for her efforts to make this happen.

III. Treasurer’s report – Marcellino
Wick moved to receive the Treasurer’s Report. Blaize-Hopkins seconded. Approved

IV. Standing/Ad Hoc Committees –
a. Awards –Streifler and Wick
Streifler reminded the board we are seeking nominations for our Distinguished Journalists Awards Banquet.
b. Banquet – Wax
Wax reported we booked the Omni for Wed. March 25, 2020 for the banquet. There was a discussion about a potential guest speaker.
c. Courts – Marcellino – No report
d. Diversity – Lewis – No report
e. Ethics – Bellman – No report
f. FOI – Zahniser – No report
g. Generation J – Blaize-Hopkins – No report
h. Membership – Nonahal – No report
i. Nominations – Bray Bluestein reported we are planning to hold the elections in mid to late December.
j. Scholarships – Saxton – no report

V. Old Business
The ethics of mass shooting coverage panel on Oct. 22 – Bellman
Bluestein reported about 20-25 people attended the event at the L.A. Press Club. It was an in-depth discussion with engaging speakers and an attentive audience. The event was recorded and posted on our website.

VI. New Business
Holiday party on Dec. 11 at El Floridita – Mottek
Bluestein reported that we have booked El Floridita, the same venue where we held the party last year. There was a discussion about ticket prices.
Zahniser moved that we charge $20 for members and $25 for non-members at the holiday party and opt not to have a band this year. Blaize-Hopkins seconded. Approved

VII. Adjournment
Zahniser moved to adjourn at 8:25 p.m. Wax seconded. Approved.

Next meeting:
Monday, Dec. 2 at Maria’s Italian Kitchen

Meeting Minutes: October 7, 2019

SPJ/LA Board of Directors Meeting Agenda
Monday, Oct. 7, 2019
7 p.m.
Maria’s Italian Kitchen
10761 W Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Present: Joel Bellman, Tom Bray, Stephanie Bluestein, Sarah Favot, Jason Lewis, Kathryn Mora, Roberta Wax, Natalie Windsor

Call to order at 7:16 p.m. By Bluestein

I. Approval of minutes from Sept. 9 meeting- Windsor moved, Wax seconded. Motion passes.

II. President’s report – Bluestein –
-Judge ruled in favor of the Palisades News. The business owner could not prove malice in the news coverage.
-Joel Bellman will be on a special national task force to look at special sponsors for the national organization.
-Oct. 16 reception set for non-profit organization that is dissolving and giving our chapter its assets for scholarships. Reception is at CBS Studios in Studio City.

III.Treasurer’s report – Marcellino- Bellman moved to receive the Treasurer’s Report. Windsor seconded. Motion passes.

IV. Standing/Ad Hoc Committees –
a. Awards – Streifler and Wick – Bluestein read report asking board members to solicit nominations. Contact people in your network.
b. Banquet – Walton – no report
c. Courts – Marcellino –no report
d. Diversity – Lewis –no report
e. Ethics – Bellman Panel discussion set for Tuesday, Oct 22, 7 p.m. at L.A. Press Club on whether the name of mass shooters should be used in news coverage.
f. FOI – Zahniser –no report
i. Generation J – Blaize-Hopkins –no report
g. Membership – Nonahal –no report
h. Nominations – Bray There are four open seats on the board. Voting is in December.
i. Scholarships – Saxton

V. Old Business
a. SPJ/LA investments – Marcellino Different options are available for our chapter to consider. We can decide at a future meeting.
b. Robert Hernandez talk on Sept. 26– Blaize-Hopkins More than 50 people attended. Robert was great as always, and even stayed until 10:30 p.m. to talk to folks one-on-one (Report delivered by Bluestein).
c. The ethics of mass shooting coverage panel on Oct. 22 – Bellman (see above)
d. Discussion about SPJ resolutions – Bluestein As next EIJ rolls around, we should discuss if there are issues that our chapter feels strongly about. If so, then we need to draft a resolution and pass it around to other chapters in advance of EIJ.

VI. New Business
a. CSUN High School Journalism Day planned for Oct 19 at CSUN. In the past our chapter contributed $500. Last year we contributed $750. Funding is mostly for food expenses. Motion made by Windsor to match last year’s donation. Seconded by Favot. Motion passes.

VII. Adjournment 7:57 p.m.

Next meeting:
Monday, Nov. 4 at Maria’s

SPJ/LA Names Distinguished Journalists Honorees for 2019

The Greater Los Angeles Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will honor five local journalists and a First Amendment activist at its 44th annual Distinguished Journalists Awards Banquet on March 25, 2020, in downtown L.A.

The honorees are longtime regional journalists practicing in print, television, radio and digital media. They are: Tom Bray, Southern California News Group senior editor; Maria L. La Ganga, Metro reporter for the Los Angeles Times; KTLA assignment manager Vance Scott; retired KNX-1070 news reporter and anchor Diane Thompson; and Lynell George, journalist and essayist.

The Freedom of Information award will go to David Snyder, the First Amendment Coalition’s executive director.

SPJ/LA presents the Distinguished Journalists awards to members of the profession who demonstrate good news judgment, a strong sense of ethics and a passion for getting the story right. Honorees have achieved a record of career accomplishments. For nearly four decades, the chapter has recognized reporters, editors and photographers in print and broadcast journalism. Since 1997, the chapter has honored journalists in four categories: television, radio, newspapers with a circulation of less than 90,000 and newspapers with a circulation of 90,000 or more.

The Distinguished Work in New Media award, now simply the Distinguished Journalist award in the digital category, was created in 2008 and is given to a journalist who uses digital media’s unique characteristics and capabilities while striving to uphold traditional journalism’s highest standards of honesty, accuracy, responsibility and accountability.

The Freedom of Information award honors a non-journalist who has helped promote First Amendment issues. Previous winners have worked in the legal profession, academia, government and nonprofit organizations.

Distinguished Journalists Award Winners

Print (circulation under 90,000)

Tom Bray, senior editor of Southern California News Group’s six daily newspapers in Los Angeles County, has been a journalist of one sort or another since he started covering high school sports in 1975. Over the years, he’s served as a reporter, copy editor, section editor and page designer. Bray served as managing editor at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, the News-Leader in Springfield, Mo., the Sun in San Bernardino and the Times-Delta in Visalia, Calif., and also toiled at the now-defunct Downey Southeast News, the now-defunct Huntington Park Daily Signal and The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, among others. He has earned individual or team awards from Sigma Delta Chi, Best of Gannett (including two Gannett President’s Rings), APNEC, CNPA and others.

Print (more than 90,000 circulation

Maria L. La Ganga is a Metro reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She joined The Times in 1981 as an academic intern, splitting her time between the former Metro section and National Dragster, the official publication of the National Hot Rod Assn. She has served as Seattle bureau chief, San Francisco bureau chief, as a Business section editor and pitched in on six presidential elections, five for The Times and one for the Guardian. La Ganga left The Times in 2015 and returned in 2018 after a brief hiatus during which she wrote for the Guardian and the Idaho Statesman.


Vance Scott, a TV journalist for over five decades, has been at the forefront of some of Los Angeles’ most epic and enduring news events, from fires and floods to riots and earthquakes. Scott began his career in 1968 on the assignment desk at KNXT (now KCBS) during the legendary ‘Big News’ era, widely regarded as the golden age of television news. In 1981 he joined KABC’s ‘Eyewitness News’ as an assignment editor, special projects producer and Orange County bureau chief. In 1990 Scott helped launch KCAL’s innovative ‘Prime Time News.’ As the station’s news assignment manager, he helped direct KCAL’s award-winning coverage of the Northridge earthquake, the 1992 L.A. riots, the 1993 floods and devastating firestorms that followed. Scott is celebrating his 25th anniversary as assignment manager at KTLA, where he manages the station’s daily news gathering operation.


Diane Thompson spent 40 years in the broadcast news business. She started, while still finishing college, at KVUE-TV in Austin as a weekend producer. She moved to Los Angeles in 1980 after working for 18 months in Phoenix as a news anchor/reporter at KJJJ and KBBC/KTAR.Thompson worked at three legendary stations in Los Angeles: KFWB, KHJ and KNX. She spent 34 years as a news reporter and anchor at KNX. She covered 26 Academy Award ceremonies, 14 Rose Parades, the 1984 Olympics, the opening of the Reagan Presidential Library, the official visits of both Pope John Paul II and South African President Nelson Mandela, the L.A. riots, San Francisco and Northridge earthquakes, the Simpson/Goldman murders and broke the story nationally of the murder of Phil Hartman. Starting in 2007, she produced the “KNX Hero of the Week” feature where, she said, the people and their stories changed her from a cynic into a believer and restored her soul.


Lynell George is an award-winning Los Angeles-based journalist and essayist. A former staff writer for both L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, her work has appeared in various news outlets including Boom California, The Journal of Alta California, Preservation Magazine, Zocalo Public Square, Smithsonian, Vibe, The Washington Post, Essence, and Ms. She has also provided arts commentary for KPCC | The Frame and KCET | Artbound. She was selected to be a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow in 2013 and received the Huntington Library’s Alan Jutzi Fellowship for her studies of California writer Octavia E. Butler in 2017. She is the recipient of a 2017 GRAMMY for her liner notes for “Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go.” George is the author of several books, including “No Crystal Stair: African Americans in the City of Angels” (Verso/Doubleday). Her new book, “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World That Made Octavia E. Butler,” will be published by Angel City Press in 2020.

Freedom of Information

David Snyder, the First Amendment Coalition’s executive director, spent 2019 in legal battles across the state, winning key rulings resulting in the release of public records, often in the face of well-funded, powerful opponents who tried to keep police misconduct, search warrants, sexual misconduct and other public records a secret. On a nearly daily basis, in conjunction with the First Amendment Coalition’s Free Legal Hotline, Snyder drops what he is doing and dispenses invaluable information, doing legal research when needed and consulting with other experienced lawyers to make sure any journalist or member of the public who needs help gets it. This helps reporters — freelancers, independent journalists and those working for news organizations of all sizes — hold governments accountable and inform the public.

Snyder worked as a reporter for nearly 16 years, including at the Washington Post, before going into law. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law. He became FAC’s executive director in 2016, growing its staff, open-government litigation and programs, including the Subpoena Defense Initiative, which provides pro bono legal counsel to journalists.


The awards banquet will be held Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Tickets for the event are:
$100 for SPJ/LA members
$140 for non-members
$80 for students
Tables of 10 are available for $1,000

A no-host cocktail reception will begin at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. To make a reservation, contact Sarah Favot at or 617-756-5643.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available, as are program ads to congratulate this year’s honorees.