San Diego SPJ Unveils Journalist Relief Fund

Journalists have kept the world informed during the Covid-19 pandemic but have also suffered economic and job losses. San Diego is no exception, with layoffs and furloughs at print, radio, television, and digital news organizations across the county. 

We want to help.

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is creating a Journalist Relief Fund. We’ve allocated $1,500 for $250 grants to media colleagues who’ve lost work. We know it’s not going to cover rent, but we hope the grants will provide some relief. 

Those wishing to apply for a grant don’t need to be members of SD-SPJ, but they must work (or have worked) in San Diego County. The application deadline is midnight Sunday, Aug. 2. You can check out the application here.

We are also accepting donations from those wishing to contribute to the SD-SPJ Journalist Relief Fund via our PayPal account. Please note: Donations are not tax-exempt, but they will go a long way. To donate, click here.

For questions related to the Journalism Relief Fund, email spjsandiego@gmail.com.

Election Results Are In

San Diego SPJ’s annual election results are in. Congratulations to new board members Jill Castellano of inewsource, Kendra Sitton of San Diego Community Newspaper Group and freelance journalist Jared Whitlock. They join returning re-elected board members Andrew Bowen, Kelly Davis, Andrew Kleske and Tom Jones.

Thanks to outgoing board members Brooke Binkowski, Elliot Spagat and Megan Wood for their service on behalf of San Diego’s journalism community.

You can learn more about the San Diego SPJ board here.

2020 San Diego SPJ Board Candidates

Andrew Bowen, Current Vice President, SD-SPJ Board

I’m incredibly proud of my past two years on the SD-SPJ board, and would be honored to serve another two. My proudest accomplishment was organizing our ​panel event​last year, held at the storied drag bar LIPS in North Park, on how journalists can improve our coverage of the trans and nonbinary communities. I was also honored to co-organize and moderate last year’s ​Grade the Media event​featuring one of our most diverse panels ever, as well as our Better Journalism workshop​on investigative reporting in 2018. And I organized and spoke at this past January’s panel event​looking into the growing phenomenon of newsroom unionization.

I currently serve as the board vice president and chair of our advocacy committee, a role that has me coordinating our chapter’s public statements on issues, bills and controversies relevant to our local journalism community. My goals for the next two years include more events to educate journalists on underrepresented communities, including people with disabilities, keeping our annual contest entry fees as affordable as possible and building on our partnerships with our local minority journalist associations. I would be honored to have your vote!

Jill Castellano, Data Investigative Reporter, inewsource

I’m running to be a board member of the SPJ San Diego chapter because I want to support journalism in San Diego County. I moved to San Diego two and a half years ago with a passion for investigative reporting, and in that time, I’ve met so many talented reporters whose stories have made a real impact on residents and local government. As a member of SPJ, I hope to help fuel and reward that journalism by planning speaking events, advocating for journalists’ rights and organizing the annual award ceremony.

I have won numerous journalism awards in my career so far, including from this chapter of SPJ, the California Press Association and even the Pulitzer Prizes – I was on a team from USA TODAY newsrooms that won the explanatory reporting prize in 2018 for our coverage of the U.S.-Mexico border. I think I can bring my eye for high-quality investigative reporting and impactful data journalism to the board, as well as my experience reporting in three mediums: web, radio and television. I hope you will consider my candidacy and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Brittany Cruz-Fejeran, Student Journalist and Freelancer

I am finishing my degree at Southwestern College where I found my place at The SWC Sun. I recently finished my term as Editor-in-Chief and would like to spend my time helping my journalism community. I was born and raised on Guam and flew to the U.S. in 2016. The board, along with journalism as a whole, needs diverse voices and I want to provide my own. ​Having a student journalist on the board would provide perspective on struggles student journalists face and how we can begin working to solve systemic problems in the industry starting at the collegiate level. ​More students should be involved in SPJ’s work and events. I will help with outreach to get more students involved in things such as networking events and scholarship opportunities and work to advocate for issues on the forefront of student journalists minds. This generation of board members nationwide will influence the upcoming years within the journalism industry. If elected, I will advocate for the diverse future young minds want to see.

Kelly Davis, Current Board Member, SD-SPJ Board

This will be my third term as a San Diego SPJ board member. During the four years I’ve been on the board, I’ve helped organize a regional conference, moderated a few panels and co-authored letters to local and state officials advocating for transparency and accountability. It’s been a good time and I’d love for it to continue. A bit about me: In 2002, I helped start San Diego CityBeat and shape it into a respected alt-weekly. I left CityBeat in early 2015 to pursue freelance journalism with a focus on the criminal legal system and incarceration. I’m particularly proud of the work I’ve done with the Union-Tribune’s Jeff McDonald and Lauryn Schroeder on the high mortality rate in San Diego jails. Currently, I’m heading up a project for The Appeal looking at the impact of coronavirus on jails and prisons. I think the upcoming year will be an important one for journalists—especially in California—as we try to open up law enforcement records to the public. I look forward to working with the board on this issue and supporting other reporters in their efforts to hold people in power accountable. 

Tom Jones, Current Chapter President, SD-SPJ Board

When I joined the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SD-SPJ) in 2017, the press was in a multifront fight for its credibility. Defending from being pegged as “fake news,” and thrust into a debate over what is fact versus fiction, I felt I needed to do my part to advocate for our local journalism community. Too often journalists are encouraged to stay silent when their reporting is questioned or attacked, in order to remain objective and to prevent what could be deemed as biased reporting. That’s why I joined SPJ and I want to remain on this board. In the three years that I have served on the board, one major accomplishment of mine was overseeing the creation of an advocacy committee whose mission is to defend the public’s right to know or access information. During this challenging time, my priority is to help journalists, whether it’s those whose work has been impacted by the pandemic, or to support events that help diversify our newsrooms, ensuring that all people’s voices are heard, both the disadvantaged and the advantaged. Our work is not done. Because of that, I would love your vote to continue my work on this important and noteworthy board.

Andrew Kleske, Current Chapter Treasurer, SD-SPJ Board

Andrew Kleske is the reader outreach editor and a member of the editorial board for The San Diego Union-Tribune.
He is a San Diego State University graduate and has taught journalism at University of California, San Diego, since 1998. He previously was editor of the San Diego Daily Transcript and online editor for the North County Times.
He serves on the board of the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and is a member and past president of the San Diego Press Club, which awarded him its 2017 Harold Keen Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism.

Jack Molmud, Producer-in-Residence, CBS News 8

I am a recent graduate of San Diego State University where I was live producer for The Daily Aztec and president of its SPJ chapter. I am currently the producer-in-residence for CBS News 8, producing shows and digital content.
The enthusiasm I have for engaging with industry members and supporting the next generation of journalists is the ultimate driving force behind my career choices. I want to continue my endeavors in growing as a reporter while bringing my community up with me.
Working in media became a passion after my involvement with the student newsroom at my community college in Cupertino. While working in close quarters with a hard-working group of editors, I had the support of our advisor, Cecilia Deck. Without her guidance, I would not be a journalist today. I want to bring that same energy to the San Diego media industry by connecting to local community college newsrooms for events and mentorships.
It is my belief that being a great journalist is also being an advocate for our network.

Kendra Sitton, Editor, San Diego Uptown News and Downtown News

I want to be on the SPJ board to bring the perspective of someone working in community news. As an editor for a hyperlocal neighborhood newspaper, I will advocate for the needs of small outlets struggling in the wake of COVID-19 and downward trends in the entire journalism industry.

I am a local journalist with print, online and cable news experience. At San Diego Community Newspaper Group, I serve as the editor of San Diego Uptown News and Downtown News. I also work as a freelance reporter for East County Magazine and other publications. I won San Diego Press Club awards in 2019 for articles on San Diego Police Department policies regarding transgender civilians, LGBTQ history and the San Diego Arab Film Festival. My coverage in East County includes border, immigrant and refugee communities, land use issues and wildfire recovery. In central San Diego, I focus on neighborhood coverage of arts and cultural events, feature stories and news.

Jared Whitlock, Freelance Journalist

I am a freelance reporter and editor, with clips in publications such as The New York Times and Wired Magazine. Locally, my reporting includes covering senior facilities amid Covid-19 through a grant project for Voice of San Diego and USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
Before freelance life, I was a biotech and health care reporter at the San Diego Business Journal. Other highlights of my resume: associate editor of the Encinitas Advocate and staff reporter at The Coast News.
My start in journalism came upon discovering that writing for The Daily Aztec was way more fulfilling than struggling through business classes. I hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University.
Why am I running for the board? I joined San Diego Society of Professional Journalists more than a year ago, and I’ve found the networking events and workshops to be valuable. Through my seven years of local reporting experience I’d like to contribute, including advocating for transparency and diversity.
In addition, one of my priorities as a board member would be more workshops and training events, like best practices in filing public records act requests — or maybe even an introduction to data journalism. I’d also explore partnering on events with other journalism groups, when it makes sense.
It seems such workshops would be a great way to find and engage members — and elevate the region’s journalism.
I would also continue to press the county on fulfilling public records act requests. I appreciate this organization’s advocacy on this front. It reflects a wider need: finding ways to support journalists who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this area, I don’t have the answers right now, but would work to find solutions.
Thank you for the consideration.