SPJ/LA Receives UCLA Correspondence About Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Visit

Nearly 14 months after tendering its request under the California Public Records Act, SPJ/LA received a total of six emails from UCLA in response to the chapter’s request for all materials relating to a controversial 2018 campus appearance by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin appeared on campus on February 26, 2018 at the invitation of UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations to deliver the Center’s annual lecture, an event open to the public and like prior lectures, recorded for subsequent posting on the Center’s website.

During the Q&A, Mnuchin was heckled by several disruptive students, who were quickly removed from the room to allow the program to proceed. As a result, Mnuchin’s office objected to posting the recording.

UCLA initially complied with Mnuchin’s request, but after an outcry from SPJ/LA and other journalism organizations and political groups, quickly reversed itself and posted the lecture, here. But SPJ/LA and other organizations, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and political supporters of the protesters, independently filed public-records requests concerning Mnuchin’s appearance.

SPJ/LA filed its request on March 7, 2018. After six months of auto-generated email delays, SPJ/LA publicly complained on September 20, 2018 about UCLA’s sluggish response. After another six months of unsigned robo-email delays, on March 28, 2019, SPJ/LA formally complained to the UC Board of Regents about UCLA’s continuing failure to comply with the state public-records law.

Finally, and only after FIRE had already filed a lawsuit against UCLA over the same batch of records, UCLA responded to FIRE’s and SPJ/LA’s request by producing the six emails.

While the brief exchange doesn’t tell the full story, it appears that UCLA thought that Mnuchin’s office had consented in advance to post the recording, was told after the lecture by Mnuchin’s staff that they had not agreed to such an arrangement, and realized the need for more explicit advance agreement in writing to resolve any ambiguity and insure against similar problems recurring in the future. UCLA furnished no information about, or explanation behind, the reversal that ultimately led the university to post the recorded appearance.

The most troubling aspect of SPJ/LA’s year-long ordeal was realizing that the California Public Records Act contains no meaningful enforcement mechanism. Those seeking to utilize its provisions to shine a light on the dark corners of government must depend on “the kindness of strangers”—if not a compliant agency, then perhaps a sympathetic judge—because they are unlikely to find relief anywhere else.

Below please find the email correspondence that UCLA released to SPJ/LA in response to the chapter’s California Public Records Act request:

From: Alexandra Lieben <alieben@international.ucla.edu>
Date: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 5:45 PM
To: “Tony.Sayegh@treasury.gov” <Tony.Sayegh@treasury.gov>
Cc: “Wrench, Sophia” <swrench@international.ucla.edu>, “Zachary.Isakowitz@treasury.gov“<Zachary.Isakowitz@treasury.gov>
Subject: Feb. 26 – UCLA event

Hi Tony,

It was great talking with you earlier today.

To summarize what we discussed and then confirmed again before we signed off, you are okay with the Burkle Center and Marketplace audiotaping and with the Burkle Center videotaping the event. We will post both podcast and video on our Burkle Center website. Marketplace will use excerpts of the event in their show the following day and, like we do, will post the audio of the entire event on their website. We agreed to shorten the interview with The Generation, our student magazine, from 20 to 15 minutes. We also agreed to shorten Secretary Mnuchin’s introductory remarks from 15 to 5-10 minutes, as well as to shorten the conversation with Kai Ryssdal from 35 to 30 minutes. And we will leave the Q&A with the audience at 25 minutes. Thank you for agreeing to the intern photo at the end of the lecture. That only takes a few minutes and makes them very happy.

As explained, since the dinner at Mr. Burkle’s house will be in his dining room, the best possible place for a meaningful and intimate conversation, the format will be rather informal there as well. It would be wonderful if Secretary Mnuchin, after Burkle Center Kal Raustiala’s welcome, could start the conversation off with about 5 min. of solo remarks. Then Kal will ask one or two questions to get the conversation around the table started. There will be probably about 20 people present.

As you and I discussed, the easiest way for Kai Ryssdal to get a better understanding of what Secretary Mnuchin will cover in his introductory remarks at UCLA, will be for Mr. Ryssdal or his executive producer Nancy Farghalli to speak with you directly. I will e-introduce you to Nancy after this email.

We are truly excited and are very much looking forward to welcoming Secretary Mnuchin to UCLA!


Alexandra Lieben
Deputy Director
UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations
11353 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
P: (310) 206-4071

From: Lieben, Alexandra
To: Raustiala, Kal
Subject: FW: Feb. 26 – UCLA event
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 6:04:02 PM

Here is the summary of my most recent conversation with Tony Sayegh, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs of the US Department of the Treasury. As you can see, this restates and confirms the agreement with had with them to podcast and videotape the lecture. I sent him this email as record of our conversation and he never objected to any of it. Prior to that, I had conversations about this with Zach Isakowitz and with James Littlefair, both staff members of Secretary Mnuchin’s office.

Alexandra Lieben
Deputy Director
UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations
p: (310)206-4071
f: (310)206-3555

From: Kal Raustiala <raustiala@law.ucla.edu>
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 6:06 PM
To: Alexandra Lieben <alieben@international.ucla.edu>
Subject: Re: Feb. 26 – UCLA event

Great. I think in the future with sitting gov officials we probably want them to affirmatively say yes or something to that effect. But this is good.

From: alexandra lieben
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 6:11 PM
To: Kal Raustiala
Subject: Re: Feb. 26 – UCLA event

His media person said affirmatively yes and I confirmed it in writing. What else would you have wanted me to do?

Alexandra Lieben
Deputy Director
UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations
p: (310)206-4071
f: (310)206-3555

From: Kal Raustiala <raustiala@law.ucla.edu>
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 6:14 PM
To: Alexandra Lieben <alieben@international.ucla.edu>
Subject: Re: Feb. 26 – UCLA event

I think this only applies to gov officials, and you didn’t do anything wrong—no one anticipated this– but for Schiff for example we should either ask them “Do we have your permission to video…” OR send them a release to sign. Or otherwise eliminate the opportunity for them to post hoc lie and say, we never agreed to that.

From: Lieben, Alexandra
To: Raustiala, Kal
Subject: Re: Feb. 26 – UCLA event
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 6:16:03 PM


Alexandra Lieben
Deputy Director
UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations
p: (310)206-4071
f: (310)206-3555


SPJ/LA Condemns Search of San Francisco Journalist’s Home and Office in an Effort to Get Him to Reveal the Source of a Confidential Report

The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists condemns the recent search of the home and office of a San Francisco journalist by law enforcement agencies and the seizure of his reporting materials. These acts are outrageous, unlawful and set a dangerous precedent for journalists working in California and across the nation.

“At a time when press freedoms are being curtailed in Venezuela, Turkey and many other nations, to have a San Francisco law enforcement agency, working in tandem with the FBI, engage in such authoritarian behavior is appalling,” said SPJ/LA President Stephanie Bluestein. “SPJ/LA stands with the dozens of media and free speech organizations that have denounced these disturbing acts.”

Police officers went to the home of freelance videographer Bryan Carmody last month and asked him to reveal the identity of the person or persons who gave him a confidential report about the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Carmody declined to reveal the person’s identity, protecting the confidentiality of his source or sources. A month later, law enforcement officers returned to his home with guns drawn, handcuffing Carmody for hours and seizing computers, phones, hard drives and other materials.

SPJ/LA agrees with Carmody’s legal team that the raids were both “violent and breathtakingly overbroad” — and that his reporting materials are protected under California’s Shield Law. The chapter supports the ongoing effort to have the search warrants that led to these raids revoked, ensuring that Carmody’s reporting materials are returned to him promptly.


2019 Scholarship Awards/ Application Deadline: June 15, 2019

The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will be awarding its annual scholarships to students interested in pursuing careers in journalism.

Students from Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties who have completed at least their freshman year of college, as well as graduate students from those same counties, are eligible to apply for all scholarships.

High school seniors from Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties are eligible to apply for the Bill Farr Memorial Scholarship.

The awards will be announced on or about July 15th, 2019.

The financial award will be $2,000 for the following scholarship:

– Richard D. Hendrickson Memorial Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to an enrolled college student pursuing a career in the field of text/print journalism. Richard D. Hendrickson, Ph.D., was an SPJLA Board Member who had a 40-year career as an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor and was an instructor at Cleveland’s John Carroll University, UCLA Extension and CSUN. ($2,000)

The financial awards will be $1,500 for each of the following four scholarships:

– Ken Inouye Memorial Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to a college journalist of color and is aimed at increasing ethnic diversity in newsrooms. Ken Inouye was a 22-year-old cameraman for the International News Service, covering the Korean War, when he was killed aboard an Army aircraft. ($1,500)

– Helen Johnson Memorial Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to a college student pursuing broadcast journalism. This award honors the late Helen Johnson, a producer of “Channel 4 News Conference” and an associate producer of “Meet the Press.” ($1,500)

– Carl Greenberg Memorial Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to a college student pursuing investigative or political reporting. Carl Greenberg was a political reporter at the Los Angeles Times, famed for being singled out by Richard Nixon as the only reporter who covered him “fairly.” ($1,500)

– Bill Farr Memorial Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to high school seniors or college students who demonstrate a strong intent to pursue a career in journalism. The award honors the late Bill Farr, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who sat in county jail for 46 days for refusing to tell a judge which lawyers had violated a gag order during the Charles Manson murder trial. ($1,500)

On recommendation of the judges, these awards may be divided among two or more equally promising applicants. Scholarship funding is renewable, but renewal is not automatic. Previous winners who continue to meet eligibility requirements may apply to renew their awards. Renewal requests are considered along with all other scholarship applications and given no preference.

Primarily, awards are based on applicants’ potential to succeed in news media careers. However, financial need is considered if all other qualifications of competing applicants are equal.

Applicants may apply for more than one scholarship by checking all of the appropriate boxes on the form, but no more than one scholarship will be awarded to any applicant. Multiple applications will be discarded.

In addition, applicants must:

– Provide proof of enrollment or acceptance in a journalism program at a two-year or four-year college or university.

  • If your college does not have a journalism program, or if you are not enrolled in a journalism program, you must supply a letter from an adviser to your student media program, student-run campus news outlet or an SPJ member in good standing in your geographic area, verifying that you intend to pursue a career as a professional journalist and that you show strong potential as a journalist.
  • Students completing pre-journalism programs must provide proof they have been admitted to a journalism program.
  • Students must have completed at least their freshman year in college, and have at least one semester to complete in a journalism program after the award of the scholarship.
  • Graduate students in journalism programs are eligible. However, students in fields, such as advertising, public relations or law, are not eligible.

– Reside in or be enrolled at a high school, university or college in Los Angeles, Orange or Ventura counties. Or, if you are enrolled in college in another state, have graduated high school in Los Angeles, Orange or Ventura counties.

To find out more about the Society of Professional Journalists Greater Los Angeles Chapter, please visit spjla.org

 (see below)
Attach to the front of your application, which should contain resume, journalism work samples, and an essay. Be sure your name is on all elements of your submission.

This document should contain a record of your school and/or professional journalism experience, including positions held, (reporter, city editor, etc.), dates you began and ended work for each position and a brief description of your duties (e.g., “feature editor, assigned and edited six to 10 features a week for a staff of four writers”), and a list of references with contact information.

  • You may include additional information, including journalism honors and awards, scholarships or achievements in any field (art or athletics, for example).

Students may submit their work in traditional formats, such as clips, tear-sheets and prints, or via optical storage devices, such as CD or DVD. Send a self-addressed return envelope with sufficient postage if you want these items returned. Do not send irreplaceable original material.

  • Print: Submit three samples of your best work. Photocopies are acceptable.
  • Online and multimedia: Web page URLS are acceptable, but hard copy printouts of web pages would be helpful.
  • Broadcast: Submit up to three short video and/or audio samples. Microcassettes acceptable.
  • Photojournalism: Five or six samples are sufficient, but if you need to send more to show the breadth of your experience, you may do so.

Be sure that your submissions are clearly and accurately identified, with your name and other pertinent information, such as your university, college or high school. You may describe any special circumstances under which the work was done – such as unusually tight deadlines or particularly adverse conditions.

Applicants are required to provide a letter of recommendation from one of their journalism professors or instructors. If the you are an incoming college freshman, then provide a letter from a high school teacher outlining your journalism career goals.

Write no more than 500 words describing your career goals: What specific kind of work do you hope to do in journalism when you graduate and later in your career? What are your expectations as a future practitioner? How will you accomplish your goals? (If you wish for financial need to be considered, include documentation in this statement.)

Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Los Angeles Chapter 2019 scholarships

NAME ________________________________________________________
MAILING ADDRESS______________________________________________
CITY________________________________STATE_______ ZIP__________
TELEPHONE ________________   TWITTER HANDLE ___________________
E-MAIL ADDRESS________________________________________________

Check each of the scholarships for which you are applying:

  • Richard D. Hendrickson Scholarship – text/print scholarship ($2,000).
  • Ken Inouye Scholarship – ethnic diversity scholarship ($1,500).
  • Helen Johnson Scholarship – broadcast journalism ($1,500).
  • Carl Greenberg Scholarship – investigative or political reporting ($1,500).
  • Bill Farr Scholarship – journalism majors or future journalists ($1,500).

University, college (or high school if applying for Bill Farr Memorial Scholarship) ____________________________________________
Major ___________________________Minor ________________________
Grade Point Average (GPA)  ___________Journalism GPA ______________
Degree sought: BA_______ MA_______ Ph.D. ______
Anticipated date of graduation ___________________
Date of birth _________________________________
High school from which you graduated ______________________________
City and state of your high school __________________________________
Applications may be submitted either by regular mail or electronically, using universally readable e-mail attachments. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Deadline is midnight, June 15, 2019

Click here to download a copy of the application.

Send applications by e-mail to Richard Saxton, Scholarship Committee Chair –SPJLAScholarships2019@gmail.com

SPJ/LA and NABJLA cosponsor a panel discussion: “The New Old Beat: Reporting on Racism”

Newsrooms across the country have grappled with reporting on racist rhetoric from politicians and public figures for decades. The goal of journalists is to strive for accuracy and hold those with power accountable and this might mean that publications will need to repeat those problematic comments verbatim.

The advent of social media, the Donald Trump presidency and rise in reported hate crimes add to the conversation newsrooms need to have when discussing racism.

Editors and reporters need to have those discussions that sometimes have fallen short, with Iowa Congressman Steve King expressing support for white-nationalist, but only recently being reprimanded by congress.

In a Jan. 15, 2019 New York Times article detailing King’s affinity for white supremacist and neo-Nazis on Twitter the publication asked, “Why Not Trump?”

Whether it’s a picture of a group of high school students who arrange red plastic cups at a party into a swastika or anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim inspired violence newsrooms need to ask the difficult questions on how to report on racism.

The Associated Press recent update to race-related coverage provides some careful guidelines, but the section also stresses an important note that this panel will embody in some respect.

“Reporting and writing about issues involving race calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language, and an openness to discussions with others of diverse backgrounds about how to frame coverage or what language is most appropriate, accurate and fair. Avoid broad generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are one part of a person’s identity. Identifying people by race and reporting on actions that have to do with race often go beyond simple style questions, challenging journalists to think broadly about racial issues before having to make decisions on specific situations and stories.”

The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists invite you to attend a panel discussion focused on these issues and more on Saturday, May 18, 2019.

SPJ/LA and NABJLA cosponsor a panel discussion – The New Old Beat: Reporting on Racism

The panel will include:

  • Deepa Bharath, writes about religion, race and social justice issues for The Orange County Register and the Southern California Newspaper Group
  • Toni Guinyard, an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist for NBC4
  • Jaweed Kaleem, the national race and justice correspondent at the Los Angeles Times
  • Leslie Berestein Rojas, KPCC’s immigration and emerging communities reporter SPJ/LA associate board member Nathan Solis and NABJLA’s vice president Jarrett Hill will moderate.

11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 18, 2019

5757 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles 90036

Free and open to the public.

Please RSVP at spjlosangeles@gmail.com

Parking is free with validation. The best entrance to the event space is on Masselin Avenue.

Nathan Solis, SPJ/LA

Navid Nonahal, SPJ/LA
(818) 317-2234

Legislator pulls anti-transparency bill after SPJ/LA, others protest

Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) has pulled AB 700, her bill to exempt a vast swath of university research materials from the state’s public-record disclosure law. Her decision came after protests from SPJ/LA, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the ACLU, and other journalism organizations and open-government advocates.

AB 700 was introduced on Feb. 19, 2019 and breezed through the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 2 on a 9-3 vote, despite reservations voiced by Chairman Mark Stone (who ultimately supported it.) But it ran aground before it could be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee after fierce opposition from journalism organizations across the state, consumer advocates, animal-rights groups, and others concerned that it would throw a shroud of secrecy around research funded and/or conducted by public universities.

See SPJ/LA letter of protest here and a second letter from SPJ/LA President Stephanie Bluestein here.

In a May 2 Facebook post, Friedman cited a November 2018 article in New York Times about the “weaponizing” of public-record requests and its potentially chilling effect on research as her rationale for introducing the bill. Then she explained her reason for tabling it for the remainder of the 2019 legislative session:

“Our open records laws are critical to government transparency – they rightly protect the public’s right to know what’s happening with their tax dollars and keep decision makers at all levels accountable. However, like many of you I find the push by some industries, whether they are the NRA intent on discrediting research on lead poisoning in wildlife, tobacco companies seeking to stifle public health research, or chemical manufacturers racing to register patents based on public research, troubling….Over the past month, I’ve heard from a number of organizations and advocates about their concerns and outright opposition to the bill…AB 700 was never intended to obscure animal research, sexual harassment, or professional wrongdoing. That’s why I’m putting a hold on the bill for this year.”

SPJ/LA will continue to monitor the situation and will be prepared to speak out again should the bill return for further legislative consideration.

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