Media pros meet at ULV

Campus Times
March 5, 2004

photo by Sara Kirk

Rob Fukuzaki, a ULV graduate, now serves as sports anchor on KABC every weekday. Fukuzaki was the keynote speaker at Saturday's Southern California Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Conference in the ACB building. This is the first time ULV has hosted an SPJ workshop.

by Erin Zabarnick
Staff Writer

The Arts and Communications Building was abuzz with clever and intellectual discussion last weekend as professional and student journalists talked of media accesses, the Patriot Act and the blurring of the line between sports and legal reporting – a la Kobe Bryant.

The Inland Southern California Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, in conjunction with the University of La Verne Communications Department, brought SPJ’s annual winter workshop to the campus.

“I thought the Arts and Communications Building was good space for the (conference) and that it would be really cool for the students at La Verne to get a chance to meet professionals working in the fields they want to go into,” said Elizabeth Zwerling, assistant professor of journalism, SPJ board member and co-chairwoman for the workshop.

The keynote speaker was Rob Fukuzaki, a sports anchor for KABC and also a University of La Verne alumnus. Other speakers included Mel Opotowsky, retired managing editor for the Riverside Press Enterprise, and Rich McKee, president of the California First Amendment Coalition, which helps journalists and the public understand their rights to information.

“When rights are being taken away SPJ fights for (the journalists) in court,” said Jason Cohen, assistant city editor at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and SPJ chapter president.

SPJ is a national organization that among other things helps journalists understand their rights when it comes to access.

During the first panel discussion moderated by Felisa Cardona, assistant city editor for the San Bernardino Sun, Opotowsky and McKee spoke mostly about the Patriot Act and HIPAA; they said both laws restrict journalists and at times run counter to First Amendment rights.

Bill Norris, sports copy editor for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, moderated the second session, which looked at what happens when a sports story becomes news. Panelists – including Fukuzaki, Jim Gazzolo, sports editor for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, and Billy Witz, sports writer for the Los Angeles Daily News – shared their love for sports reporting with the roughly 50 conference attendees.

Fukuzaki said reporting sports on television allows only three to six minutes to report a story, precluding most in-depth reporting.

The panelists explained that big stories, such as the Kobe Bryant case, are often taken away from them by news writers. They said that when the story is off the court, it can be hard to tell if it is still sports or news.

“Sports writing isn’t that hard,” Norris said. “A sport comes down to people just playing the game.”

They also gave tips on how to be a good sports writer.

“Develop a style that you are comfortable with and write as much as you can,” Gazzolo said.

Fukuzaki concluded the day with a keynote address as he told anecdotes about how he got to his prestigious job, his first appearance as a TV anchor and his days as a student being critiqued by communications professor, Mike Laponis.

“It all began being a huge sports fan,” said Fukuzaki “My parents were very encouraging and I knew I wanted to do this type of job in high school.

“I gained a lot of experience from ULV. ULV provided so much. You are able to get one-on-one experience here and you get to talk to teachers on a daily basis,” Fukuzaki said.

Fukuzaki also offered advice to aspiring broadcast journalists.

“Make demo tapes of your work and send them in to stations. Try to start out in radio and then move up slowly to the top of your profession,” he said adding, “feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to an institution like this. Don’t take it for granted.”

ULV students, who made up roughly one-third of the workshop attendees were enthusiastic.

“Knowing that Rob came out of my school is inspirational and makes me feel that maybe I can make it too,” said Nick Montes, a junior broadcasting major who attended the Saturday event.

“I thought hanging out with some professionals would be real beneficial,” said Tom Anderson, freshman journalism major.

Added Rich Uranga, junior TV broadcasting major: “I came here because I thought it would help answer some questions about my future career and give me some light to guide me along the way.”

This was the first time the University has hosted such an event.

Zwerling, who joined the SPJ board last spring said she got the idea to bring the conference here soon after board members started talking about a winter workshop.

“It’s so important for students and journalists to go to conferences so they are able to make connections and exchange ideas in a relaxed and informal environment,” Zwerling said. “But students are so busy, I thought it would be a great advantage having the conference on their own turf. And by having it here professionals can see how great La Verne is,” she said.

“I thought it was a great success and I was excited to see the number of students who came out,” said Todd Ruiz, a senior journalism major who is restarting an SPJ campus chapter.

“One thing lacking in the program here is the opportunity for professional development. By partnering with SPJ we can hopefully get students networked with people who get paid for what they want to do,” he said.

SPJ is the nation’s largest professional journalism association, with chapters throughout the country and numerous student chapters.

The Campus Times was recognized by SPJ 21 times last year alone, along with many other awards in previous years.