Welcome to our new board members!

Recently, SPJ San Diego had to say goodbye to two longtime board members, Tom Jones and Andrew Kleske. But we’re fortunate to have two talented journalists filling their seats. Please join us in welcoming Lynn Walsh and Kristy Totten to the board. You can read a bit more about them below.

Also, please SAVE THE DATE for our 2021 awards event. This year, we’re opting for something casual and outdoors, with lots of space to say hello to friends and colleagues you’ve missed over the last year and a half. The event will be held at Stone Brewing in Liberty Station the evening of Sept. 23. Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more information.

Lynn Walsh

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism for more than 10 years. Currently, she is a freelance journalist and the assistant director for the Trusting News project, where she works to help rebuild trust between journalists and the public by working with newsrooms to be more transparent about how they do their jobs. 

Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Point Loma Nazarene University where she teaches journalism and communication classes. She is a past national president and former ethics chair for the Society of Professional Journalists. Previously, Lynn led the NBC7 Investigates and NBC7 Responds teams in San Diego. Prior to working in California, she was a data producer and investigative reporter for the E.W. Scripps National Desk and worked as the investigative producer at WPTV NewsChannel 5 in West Palm Beach, FL. 

Lynn has won state and local awards as well as multiple Emmys for her stories. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Lynn is a proud Bobcat alumna having graduated from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Kristy Totten

Kristy Totten is a member of The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board and hosts two U-T podcasts, the San Diego News Fix and Name Drop San Diego

Before moving to San Diego in 2019, Kristy covered technology, education, government and the arts for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada Public Radio and Las Vegas Weekly. As a freelancer, she has written about food and culture for NPR, Rolling Stone, Artsy, Thrillist and Vice. 

Kristy is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has a regional Emmy for documentary writing at VegasPBS and shares an AP Radio award for coverage of the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas. 

As a board member, Kristy looks forward to building community with San Diego journalists, improving representation in local news coverage and encouraging young journalists to get more involved in SPJ and the local journalism community. 

2021 San Diego SPJ Board Candidates

It’s time for San Diego SPJ’s annual election.

Here are the incumbents up for re-election.

Bianca Bruno

Bianca Bruno is the San Diego reporter for national online legal and politics website Courthouse News. She is currently SD SPJ secretary and has served on the board for three years.

While on the SD SPJ board I have advocated for young journalists, women and POC journalists and have served as chair of the Diversity Committee.

In 2020, I spearheaded our board’s efforts to establish a Journalist Relief Fund for San Diego journalists who lost full-time or freelance work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the fund, our board was able to give out more than $4,400 in grants to local journalists in 2020.

I also represented SD SPJ at the National SPJ conference in San Antonio in 2019 and currently work to amplify the work of our board and local professional and college journalists through our chapter’s social media channels and communications.

If re-elected, I will continue to prioritize ways to give back to SD SPJ members. I hope to have your vote to continue working on behalf of San Diego journalists and to collaborate with our professional journalist organization colleagues.

Matthew Halgren

As a First Amendment lawyer, I advise members of San Diego’s news media industry on all matters related to the reporting process, and I help them to avoid the legal pitfalls that can accompany the work of a free press. I have been honored to serve on the SDSPJ board since 2018, and it has been my great pleasure to work with this outstanding group to protect the rights of journalists throughout San Diego. If reelected, I look forward to continuing to lend my expertise to our chapter’s efforts to support, educate, and advocate for journalists in our community.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego who has served on the local SPJ board since 2013. She is a previous board president and has been a champion of the board’s increased focus on advocacy for local journalists and greater government transparency in recent years. She now serves on the board’s diversity and communications committees, and is passionate about what San Diego SPJ can do to help increase diversity and equity in local newsrooms. In her day job, Halverstadt reports extensively on San Diego’s homelessness crisis, city real estate debacles and other local government issues. Before joining VOSD in 2012, Halverstadt was a reporter at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

Elizabeth Marie Himchak

Incumbent Elizabeth Marie Himchak has served on the SPJ San Diego board since January 2019. She has chaired the contest/awards committee the past two years and added membership chair duties this year. Himchak has also been on the scholarship committee for two years. Prior to joining the board, she was an awards banquet committee member.

I have become very involved with board decisions, taken on leadership roles, assisted with SPJ chapter events and completed other board duties, such as judging contest entries from out-of-state chapters. I would appreciate your vote for another term.

Himchak is editor of the Rancho Bernardo News Journal and Poway News Chieftain, part of Union-Tribune Community Press. Before her promotion to editor in April 2020, she was a reporter for the newspapers for 15 years. Her beat included community news and events, politics, community government, schools, crime and the Palomar Health district. She is also the newspapers’ theater reviewer. The University of San Diego alumna started in journalism at The Vista, USD’s campus newspaper. Her professional career began as a freelance writer for newspapers such as The San Diego Union-Tribune and The Southern Cross.

Lauren J. Mapp

Lauren J. Mapp is the caregiving, senior care and Indigenous communities reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune. She previously wrote for inewsource, North Coast Current, Times of San Diego, The Daily Aztec at SDSU and was the editor in chief of The Mesa Press. Mapp was also a staff writer at Indian Time and The People’s Voice on the Akwesasne Kanien’kehá ka (Mohawk) Reservation before moving to San Diego in 2005. 

As a graduate of the journalism programs at San Diego State University and Mesa College, Mapp strives to give back to the next generation of journalism students through volunteering in honor of those who mentored and supported her during academic journey. During her first term on the SPJ board, she helped launch an initiative to improve diversity in San Diego’s media scene and increase equitable coverage of underrepresented communities. She has also volunteered as a mentor and guest speaker for college students and classes throughout the county. 

Mapp hopes to continue her support of media diversity and equity if elected for a second term on the board. 

Arthur Santana

I am a journalism professor at San Diego State University. For the past 13 years, I have taught and researched journalism. My research appears in peer-reviewed journals. Prior to joining academia, I was a reporter and editor for 14 years, including at the San Antonio Express-News, The Seattle Times and The Washington Post. I earned a B.A. from the University of Texas, an M.S. from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. My first academic appointment was at the University of Houston. I joined SDSU in 2015. I have been advisor to the SDSU SPJ chapter for three years. I have been a SD pro chapter member since 2019.

Join the San Diego SPJ Board!

We’re currently seeking candidates interested in running for a seat on our chapter’s board. Board members are involved in planning and executing events, putting on our annual awards banquet, crafting and releasing statements and generally advocating for journalists everywhere. We meet on the first Tuesday of every month in the evening. If you’re an SPJ member, you’re eligible to run.

If you’d like to run for the board, please submit your candidacy statement, including any biographical information you would like to share (200-word limit) by 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 3 to spjsandiego@gmail.com.

Election results will be announced by early July. Need to renew your membership? Click here.

Announcing our 2021 Window, Wall and Sunshine Awards

Every year, the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honors public officials, individuals and agencies who did the best (and the worst) job of ensuring that government is accessible and transparent. 

The Window Award goes to the person or public agency that prioritized transparency and made information accessible. Our Wall Award goes to the person or public agency that made it difficult for journalists to do their jobs by ignoring information requests or otherwise compromising the public’s right to know. And our Sunshine Award goes to a journalist or community member who went above and beyond to make the government more transparent and hold elected officials accountable.

Since we had to cancel last year’s event because of COVID-19, we’ll be honoring both the 2020 and 2021 awardees in a video you can watch here.

Window Award: Dave Rolland, City of San Diego

We’re pleased to give our 2021 Window Award to Dave Rolland, senior communications adviser to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. Rolland had a long career as a journalist before transitioning to government communications roles, first in the state Legislature, then the city of San Diego. While serving as the council communications director for City Council President Georgette Gómez, Rolland started The People’s Business, a blog explaining in plain language items of public interest on the council’s meeting agendas. These agendas can be complicated for the average person to understand, but Rolland made them accessible and provided important context for key issues.

Journalists also find Rolland easy to reach and quick to respond, even when he’s not the right person to answer our questions. His initiative is a great example of a public servant going the extra mile to show a true commitment to open government.

Wall Award: San Diego County

We recognize it’s been a difficult year for the county as it grappled with an unprecedented health crisis, and we commend county staff and elected officials for holding frequent press conferences to update the public on the pandemic. But certain actions have shown that the county still has work to do when it comes to transparency. County officials stopped responding to public records requests, telling journalists that things were “on hold” due to the public health emergency. Yet other counties and government agencies that faced similar challenges amid the pandemic still managed to honor the California Public Records Act.

Equally troubling were efforts by county officials to kill a KPBS story examining leaked data — data that the county had refused to turn over — on COVID-19 outbreak locations. County officials called the story “not responsible journalism.” As you’ll see below, we disagree.

Three years ago, San Diego County received our Wall Award for its lack of transparency surrounding the Hepatitis A crisis. Recently the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to establish a new transparency advisory committee. This is encouraging, and we hope it leads to real change. While we wait, we hope this year’s Wall Award will push the county in the right direction.

Sunshine Award: Claire Trageser, Katy Stegall, Amita Sharma and David Washburn of KPBS

Last December KPBS published a three-part series examining previously undisclosed data on COVID-19 outbreak locations. Claire Trageser was the project’s lead reporter with additional reporting by Katy Stegall and Amita Sharma. David Washburn was the series editor.

Multiple media organizations sued the county to try to get this data. The county argued that making the information public would hamper contact tracing efforts and discourage businesses from reporting COVID-19 outbreaks. The media organizations argued — and SD-SPJ agrees — that the public interest outweighs those concerns.

The KPBS reporting team showed courage in standing up to the county’s efforts to withhold this information from the public, and we are pleased to present them with this year’s Sunshine Award.