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Justice in Plain Sight
February 23, 2020
Host: San Diego County Bar Association
Every Spotlight Club event we host is intent on curating a relevant, interesting conversation that uplifts the importance of journalists and the necessity of a free, credible press. We were proud to bring to our Spotlight Club members most recently the incredible David v. Goliath story of a small town newspaper’s fight for public access to the criminal courts, a fight that profoundly changed the criminal justice system across the country.
As detailed in the book “Justice in Plain Sight” by reporter-turned author Dan Berstein, The Riverside Press-Enterprise battled to win two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the First Amendment, the intersection of law and journalism, and the importance of fighting the good fight for the common good.
Most people assume criminal trials have always been open to the public. But cases involving rape, murder, bank robbery were routinely closed to the public and the press as recently as the 1970s, until a feisty, passionate newspaper, just north and east of here, took the fight all the way to Washington. Our program illuminated the dark days of closed courtrooms and plotted the mine-filled course to openness.
inewsource was particularly excited to present this program because our founder and executive director, Lorie Hearn, worked at the Riverside paper in the late 70s and 80s when it made legal history.
Thank you to our speakers reporter Dan Bernstein, editor Mel Opotowsky and the “unlikely lawyer” Jim Ward for sharing the triumphs, tribulations and often downright funny outtakes of the newspaper’s success.
A special thank you to Hal Fuson, a former media lawyer and steadfast inewsource supporter who was involved in the high court drama, introduced the program and the panelists. We are grateful to Matthew Halgren, our First Amendment attorney and inewsource board member, who astutely moderated.
Immigration: What are the facts?
March 17, 2019
Institute of the Americas at UCSD
The topic of immigration seems almost insurmountable right now. Nationwide, as trust in the media is erodes, so too does our ability to obtain information we can trust. That’s why inewsource culled a panel of experts to discuss the facts on immigration and border security.
Our Spotlight Club members enjoyed a reception at the Institute of the Americas on the UCSD campus followed by an in-depth discussion of this pressing issue. Moderator David Price of PriceSmart guided a conversation with guests Alan Bersin, “border czar” under President Bill Clinton, and Saman Nasseri, immigration and criminal defense attorney in San Diego.
The program underscored the complexity of the immigration debate and drilled down into the faults of the system. “We have an immigration management issue,” said Bersin. He contended, “The nature of the problem that we have that has nothing to do with ‘the wall,’ its that the asylum system is broken and it’s part of the larger break in the American immigration system.”
“That’s the crisis we have,” he said, “but it’s not the crisis that’s being talked about in terms of a national security emergency.”
The participants agreed that asylum and refugee system is not designed to support every human misfortune and economic migrant, and the current backlog and lack of immigration judges leave people’s lives in disarray for years.
The program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), an immigration option for undocumented individuals who came to America before the age of 16, was widely supported by most Americans and recently terminated by President Trump. Immigration attorney Nasseri acknowledged that DACA had its faults but at least served to fast-track some of the immigration backlog. Under DACA, “you’re here but you’re a ghost, but you’re a ghost that we know is here… DACA itself was implemented to say ‘You’re going to tell us you’re here, we’re not going to use that against you. We’re going to defer any action against you but we’re not going to give you any permanent lawful status here.”
Bersin said it simply, “There is no magic wand” with which we can solve our immigration issues.
Interested in learning more about immigration on the Southern border? inewsource reporters used their data skills and reporting know-how to create an interactive map of the U.S./Mexico border that shows every mile of the current wall along with immigration patterns and enforcement over the decades. Check out our border reporting project, “America’s Wall”.
October 7, 2018
Hosted by The Lodge at Torrey Pines
The Spotlight Club marked its two-year anniversary — just a month before the midterm elections — with a provocative discussion of dark money, the secret, unlimited currency that fuels and influences elections. More than 100 club members shared drinks, appetizers and conversation at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, which generously hosted the event. Investigative reporter John S. Adams, who is the star of the PBS documentary Dark Money, came in from Montana, and Sheila Krumholz, one of the nation’s experts in campaign finance, joined us from Washington, D.C., where she heads the Center for Responsive Politics.
Campaign finance is the gateway to any issue you care about, whether it’s education, health, transportation or the environment. That was a theme of the conversation, moderated by inewsource Executive Director and Editor Lorie Hearn. John inspired the crowd with the story of his pursuit of the money that funded vicious flyers that clearly steered the outcome of state elections in Montana. Sheila broke down the maze of campaign finance channels through which hundreds of millions of dollars flow.
First Amendment: From the Pentagon Papers to the Twittersphere
February 10, 2018
e3 Civic High School
The Spotlight Club celebrated the First Amendment with an exciting exchange between federal Judge Margaret McKeown, who shared her insights into court decisions on freedom of speech, and Len Downie Jr., the former executive editor of the Washington Post, who took us into the newsroom and virtually on to the set of the movie, The Post.
The backdrop for the conversation, entitled, “First Amendment: From the Pentagon Papers to the Twittersphere” was the film, The Post, about the court battle over publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. We gathered at e3 Civic High School in the downtown San Diego library.
Quote of the night came from Judge McKeown, who sits on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:
“President Nixon called Daniel Ellsberg a son of a bitch, and he said ‘Ellsberg gets to be a national hero … and the New York Times and the Washington Post get a Pulitzer prize. So what’s the world coming to?’ I would say to President Nixon: Thank God for the Post, thank God for the Times and thank God for citizens like Ellsberg. And that’s what the world’s coming to.”
Len, who was an editor at the Post at the time of the Pentagon Papers, was technical adviser for the movie and he delighted with outtakes. One gem: He said: Meryl Streep didn’t engage in small talk on the set because she was always in character as Katharine Graham. Director Steven Spielberg called her Katharine and her chair on the set said Katharine Graham.
Wall Street: Then and Now
September 14, 2017
Hosted by Sandra Timmons and Richard Sandstrom
The Spotlight Club celebrated its first anniversary with a national media headliner: New York Times investigative financial journalist Diana Henriques. She discussed the darkest days on Wall Street, focusing on Black Monday, the worst day for the markets in history. That day, Oct. 19, 1987, is the subject of her newest book, A First-Class Catastrophe. Henriques warned that not much has changed since then.
“I don’t know when we’re going to have another crash,” she told Spotlight Club members at an exclusive event, “but I do know we are going to have another crisis.”
Diana followed in the impressive Spotlight Club tradition, prompting rich conversation about issues that define our times. You may have seen her (playing herself) in the HBO film, The Wizard of Lies, based on a book she wrote about Bernie Madoff.
Fake News, Alternative Facts
July 18, 2017
Hosted by Martha and Ed Dennis
inewsource staff invited a conversation about “Fake News” – how to tell fact from fiction – at a summer social. The presentation included a fake news quiz for club members.
With the traditional media under attack and the line between news and opinion increasingly blurred, inewsource has taken a lead in promoting independent, fact-based journalism. During this presentation, in the garden of the home of the Dennises, Editor Lorie Hearn and Assistant Director Brad Racino not only exposed skewed news, but also showcased the work of inewsource work for its transparency and trustworthiness.
Pressing Forward: Pursuit of Truth in the 21st Century
February 16, 2017
Hosted by Joan and Irwin Jacobs at Rancho Valencia
The second exclusive Spotlight Club event featured a panel of nationally known journalists, who examined the “Pursuit of Truth in the 21st Century.” The need for credible, fact-based journalism was the theme of comments and questions at an the event, which featured Rosalind Helderman, of the Washington Post, Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity and Walter “Robby” Robinson, of the Boston Globe.
Robinson recalled the body of work that ignited the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. But he raised the specter that the investigation might never have happened today.
The investigation of pedophile priests and the church’s deception was sparked by reporting on lawsuits out of the Suffolk County courthouse, he said. Today, Robinson said, the Globe doesn’t cover that courthouse.
Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs or otherwise left the profession over the past two decades, as traditional media has struggled to replace the advertising revenue model that produced double-digit profits before the advent of the internet.
“At every newspaper, every day, there are broken links in a very important chain,” Robinson said.
The panel agreed there are reasons to be hopeful about the future of fact-finding: Since the 2016 election, web traffic at the Washington Post has soared, subscriptions to the New York Times have increased tenfold and journalism nonprofits such as ProPublica report a flood of new donors.
“There’s a new sense that the public understands that there is such a thing as facts,” Helderman said, “and that reporters are the ones that, in a free society, find them out and tell them to the public.”
Spotlight Club Kick-off Event
September 16, 2016
Hosted by The Lodge at Torrey Pines
The Spotlight Club launched with a discussion of investigative journalism and the critical need for it. Walter “Robby” Robinson, who headed the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team during its Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of the Catholic Church, came out from Boston to help celebrate our supporters.
He gave the audience of nearly 100 people a taste of his career in news, from foreign correspondent to White House reporter to editing at the Globe. He found important stories on every beat.
“I think every reporter should be an investigative reporter,” he said. “And nowadays, because of the same internet which has hollowed out our newsroom, we have resources at our fingertips that allow good reporters to really shrink that gray area in every news story where we have he said and he said and we leave it to the reader to figure out where the truth is.”
He applauded the work of inewsource, telling the audience,
“I was eager to come out here, and not for the weather by the way. The weather in Massachusetts is still pretty good in September. I was eager to come out here because inewsource is one of the best investigative nonprofits in the country. I know Lorie from IRE, Investigative Reporters and Editors, which is a national organization, and everybody, when they talk about which cities are doing the best work in this area, inewsource is always on the tip of everybody’s tongue, as it should be.”