SPJ/LA Calls On Federal Judge To Open Homeless Lawsuit Proceeding to Media Coverage

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Photo courtesy Nathan Solis

SPJ/LA has sent the following letter to the Hon. David O. Carter, Judge of the District Court for the Central District of California, in protest of his judicial order of March 23, 2020 excluding members of the media from covering what he described as a “settlement conference” in a lawsuit. The matter is LA Alliance for Human Rights et al v. City of Los Angeles et al, a lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles aimed at requiring those local governments to accelerate efforts to shelter and house homeless individuals living on the street and particularly vulnerable to illness and infection, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

To: The Honorable David O. Carter, Judge
United States District Court, Central District of California
℅ Kelly Davis, Courtroom Deputy Clerk <Kelly_Davis@cacd.uscourts.gov.>

Dear Judge Carter:

I am writing to you on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter, to express our deep concern about your order dated March 23, 2020 in the matter of LA Alliance For Human Rights et al v. City of Los Angeles et al, that would limit the number of people permitted to attend the settlement conference scheduled for March 24, 2020.

While we are fully cognizant and respectful of federal, state, local, and judicial directives that limit public gatherings and require a prescribed measure of “social distancing” to ensure public safety in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, these considerations in no way preclude the attendance of one or more media representatives at important meetings of public officials conducting the public’s business. There is neither need nor precedent for suspending open government and transparency laws in this type of situation, and it is our firm belief that the severe harms far outweigh any purported good from such restrictions.

Your order cited as justification “both the epidemiological dangers of the escalating COVID-19 crisis, and the confidential nature of the settlement discussions.” Whatever the legal merits of the confidentiality argument, there is no acceptable rationale for completely excluding the press, and therefore the public, on the basis of public safety considerations. Assigning a pool reporter to cover a judicial or other governmental proceeding on behalf of all media is a long established and generally unobjectionable practice, and there is no argument to be made that such a proceeding is at heightened risk from a reporter observing appropriate social distancing, or that the reporter would be at any increased risk from appropriately covering such a proceeding.

Therefore, we respectfully request that you reconsider your proposed ban on media attendance at this settlement conference, and at a minimum, agree to admit at least one pool reporter to represent media and public participation in the conduct of this important public business.

Thank you for your attention to our request.

Respectfully,
Joel Bellman
Chair, Advocacy Committee
Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter
bellman.spjla@gmail.com

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

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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 sarah.favot@gmail.com or 617-756-5643.

SPJ/LA postpones March 25 Distinguished Journalists Awards banquet

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has postponed its 44th annual Distinguished Journalists Awards banquet, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The banquet will be rescheduled at a later date. Refunds will be available for ticket buyers, sponsors and banquet program advertisers.

SPJ/LA took this action in light of multiple health advisories issued by city, county and state agencies working to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The annual banquet honors Southern California journalists in print, broadcast and digital media.

This year’s Distinguished Journalists Awards Banquet event had been slated to feature Jennifer Medina, national political correspondent for The New York Times, delivering the keynote address.

SPJ/LA will work in the coming months to find another evening to honor this year’s Distinguished Journalist honorees: Southern California News Group senior editor Tom Bray; Maria L. La Ganga, Metro reporter for The Los Angeles Times; retired KNX1070 reporter and anchor Diane Thompson; KTLA assignment manager Vance Scott; and Lynell George, journalist and essayist, as well as Freedom of Information Award honoree David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.

Contact: Sarah Favot
617-756-5643
sarah.favot@gmail.com

SPJ/LA will reschedule its March 14 “Know Your Rights” workshop

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will reschedule its workshop, “Know Your Rights: A Guide to Public Records, Court Access and Publishing Without Fear.”

The workshop, featuring media law attorney Susan Seager, had been scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 14 at Santa Monica College.

SPJ/LA took this action in light of Santa Monica College’s recent decision to cancel all extracurricular events and move most of its courses online, as part of the effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Organizers of the workshop will work to come up with a new date for this event in the coming months.

Contact: Sarah Favot
617-756-5643
sarah.favot@gmail.com

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KNX 1070’s Frank Mottek to MC SPJ/LA’s Distinguished Journalists Awards Banquet

Frank Mottek, KNX 1070’s senior money anchor.

KNX 1070’s business news anchor Frank Mottek will be the master of ceremonies at the March 25 Distinguished Journalists Awards Banquet sponsored by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The event, which will take place at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, honors journalists in print, broadcast and digital media. The evening’s keynote speaker will be New York Times National Political Correspondent Jennifer Medina.

An award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 30 years of experience, Mottek currently anchors the morning drive Your Money reports on KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO and hosts the one-hour business and consumer news program “Mottek On Money,” which is also a podcast. He provided daily coverage of the 2008 financial crisis, the Great Recession and stock market updates.

Since joining CBS in Los Angeles in 1992, Mottek served as reporter and anchor on KNX as well as business anchor on KCAL9-TV and spot reporter for KCBS-TV CBS2. For 10 years, he also worked as reporter and business news anchor on the KTLA Channel 5 News @ 10 and the KTLA Morning News.

He is frequently called to lead some of the highest-profile business discussions, including economic forecast events for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the Milken Institute, UCLA Anderson School of Management and the Association for Corporate Growth.

This year’s Distinguished Journalist honorees are: Southern California News Group senior editor Tom Bray; Los Angeles Times Metro reporter Maria L. La Ganga; 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. Table sponsors are listed in the program.

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

Platinum ($5,000):  Acknowledgement in the banquet program, event signage, logo included on banquet website and in emails, one complimentary table at the event.

Gold ($2,500):  Acknowledgement in the banquet program, logo included on banquet website and in emails, five complimentary tickets to the event.

Silver ($1,500):  Acknowledgement in the banquet program, logo included on banquet website and in emails, two complimentary tickets to the event.

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

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

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

SPJ/LA to host “Know Your Rights” workshop on March 14

The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host a free workshop titled “Know Your Rights: A Guide to Public Records, Court Access and Publishing Without Fear.”

The workshop, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 14 at Santa Monica College will feature veteran media law attorney Susan Seager, who will discuss strategies for navigating libel law, seeking public records and obtaining court documents.

Seager is the head of the Press Freedom and Transparency practice at the University of California at Irvine’s Intellectual Property, Arts and Technology Clinic. She has defended journalists from lawsuits and worked to unseal court records and government documents.

A former journalist herself, Seager has written for the LA Weekly, the LA Daily Journal and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. She received the Freedom of Information Award from SPJ/LA in 2004.

The workshop is being sponsored by SPJ/LA’s Freedom of Information Committee.

WHAT: Know Your Rights: A Guide to Public Records, Court Access and Publishing Without Fear.

WHO: Led by media law attorney Susan Seager

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Saturday, March 14

WHERE: Santa Monica College Center of Media and Design Room 102
1660 Stewart St. Santa Monica, CA 90404.

PARKING: Free

COST: The event itself is free and open to the public.

RSVP: spjlosangeles@gmail.com

CONTACT: Matt Tinoco, FOI Committee chair: 213-290-2318