SPJ/LA Announces 2010 Distinguished Journalist Honorees

LOS ANGELES – The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will honor five local journalists at its 35th annual awards banquet next spring.

The honorees include longtime regional journalists practicing in print, radio, television and new media. They include: Ralph Vartabedian, national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times; Dennis Anderson, editor, Antelope Valley Press; Conan Nolan, political reporter for NBC4 Los Angeles and host of “News Conference” and Larry Mantle, host of “Larry Mantle’s AirTalk” on 89.3 KPCC, Southern California Public Radio. Robert Scheer, columnist and editor-in-chief of the progressive current events website, Truthdig.com, is the  recipient of the chapter’s Distinguished Work in New Media Award.

SPJ/LA presents the Distinguished Journalist 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 are journalists who have achieved a record of accomplishments over the course of several years. For the past three decades, the chapter has recognized reporters, editors and photographers in print and broadcast journalism. In 1997, the chapter began honoring journalists in four categories: television, radio, newspapers with a circulation of less than 100,000 and newspapers with a circulation of 100,000 or more. The Distinguished Work in New Media award was created in 2008 and is given to a journalist who uses the new media’s unique characteristics and capabilities while striving to uphold traditional journalism’s highest standards of honesty, accuracy, responsibility and accountability.

The awards banquet will be held in March 2011, with the date and location to be announced.

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 Los Angeles professional chapter marked its 75th anniversary in 2009.

Distinguished Journalist Award Winners


Conan Nolan is a political reporter for NBC4 Los Angeles and the host of “News Conference,” the longest running political and public affairs interview program in Southern California television. Nolan started in radio in his hometown of San Luis Obispo in 1980, then transitioned to television. After stints at KSBY in San Luis Obispo and later at KSBW in Salinas, he moved to KNBC’s Inland Empire Bureau. This marks Nolan’s 25th year with the Los Angeles station, during which he’s covered everything from the infamous O.J. Simpson car chase to dodging falling concrete in the World Series earthquake at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Nolan is also noted for reporting from Tokyo, Beirut, Iraq, Kuwait, Islamabad and Tel Aviv.


Larry Mantle hosts “Larry Mantle’s AirTalk,” a daily interview/call-in program heard locally on Southern California Public Radio’s 89.3 KPCC, 89.1 KUOR, and 90.3 KPCV. Mantle started “AirTalk” in 1985. The program has won numerous Golden Mike, Associated Press and Los Angeles Press Club awards, including “Best Talk Show.” Mantle also hosts KPCC’s movie review and interview program “Film Week on AirTalk.” In April 2005, Angel City Press published “This is AirTalk: 20 Years of Conversations on 89.3 KPCC.” The Los Angeles Times’ bestseller includes conversations with luminaries and authors, Jimmy Carter, Steve Martin, Milton Berle, Walter Mosley, Jack Welch and Sting. Mantle earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif.  He is a fourth-generation Southern Californian, residing in Pasadena with his wife, Kristen, and 8-year-old son, Desmond.

Print (circulation over 100,000)

Ralph Vartabedian, a national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, joined the newspaper in 1981. He covered aerospace and defense issues for 10 years at the Times, including the military buildup that preceded the end of the Cold War and its decline. Vartabedian spent five years as a Washington D.C. reporter for the paper and four years as deputy business editor. His many reporting assignments have included covering presidential candidates, environmental contamination, nuclear weapons, immigration, airliner crashes, IRS tax collection abuse, New Orleans levee failures and space shuttle accidents. Vartabedian has won several awards, including the Loeb in 1987 and 2010. He also was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2010. He previously worked at the Minneapolis Star and the Kalamazoo Gazette as a business writer.  Vartabedian was born in Detroit and graduated from the University of Michigan with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and economics, respectively.

Print (circulation under 100,000)

Dennis Anderson has been editor at the Antelope Valley Press since 1999. During his tenure, the newspaper, the only family-owned independent daily newspaper in Los Angeles County, earned six general excellence rankings from the National Newspaper Association, one from Suburban Newspapers of America and a first place Freedom of Information award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Anderson’s daily newspaper career started at the loading dock of the Los Angeles Daily News. He moved to Simi Valley’s Enterprise Sun & News as a reporter. For the next 18 years, he worked at wire services in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. Earthquakes, brushfires, the Rodney King verdict and the O.J. Simpson stories figured in the mix. He returned to newspaper reporting at the Valley Press in Palmdale. In 2003, flowing from an Associated Press conference before the invasion of Iraq, Anderson embedded with the California National Guard for the first phase of the Iraq War, returning in 2004. Suburban Newspapers of America and American Press Institute conferred Journalist of the Year honor that year for Anderson’s articles about local citizen soldiers caught in the war. Anderson and his son, Garrett, who fought as a Marine in second battle of Fallujah, are writing a family book about Marine Corps war casualties from World War I to Iraq.

Distinguished Work in New Media

Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of the Webby Award-winning Internet magazine Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing during his 45 years as a journalist. Between 1964 and 1969, he was Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor-in-chief of Ramparts magazine. From 1976 to 1993, he served as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writing on such diverse topics as the Soviet Union, arms control, national politics and the military. In 1993, he launched a syndicated column now based at Truthdig. He has written nine books, including his latest, the L.A. Times’ bestseller, “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.” Scheer is a co-host of the weekly political radio program “Left, Right & Center” on KCRW, the National Public Radio affiliate in Santa Monica, and also is a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He lives in Los Angeles.

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