Laura Tsutsui

Reporter & Producer

Laura Tsutsui is a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Today Laura covers local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produces the weekly news program “Valley Edition.” 

With the Valley Public Radio news team, Laura has won multiple Golden Mike Awards from the Radio Television News Association of Southern California, and been a California Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. In addition to reporting for KVPR, her work has been heard on KQED’s “The California Report” and WHYY’s health podcast, “The Pulse.” 

A Fresno native, Laura graduated from California State University, Fresno as a member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College with a degree in Media, Communication and Journalism.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

With public schools still operating remotely, one subject particularly challenging to teach online is music. Despite the limitations, choir teachers in Fresno County are brainstorming new ways to instruct, even through a screen.

On one Thursday morning, halfway through the high school choir class that Jacob Bailey is teaching on Zoom, he leads the students through a warm up.

“Reach up nice and high to wake up that voice a little bit,” Bailey tells the students while stretching. “Wake up those ribs.”

 

 

This week on Valley Edition: More and more young candidates are running for office. We talk with three Valley youth vying for seats on local school boards.

 

Plus, teaching online is challenging enough. But getting kids to sing in a chorus over the internet? That’s really tricky. Choir teachers are coming up with new ways to make music.  

We also delve into more ballot propositions and update you on the pandemic. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Jordan Pulido lost his grandmother to the coronavirus, and says the pandemic has derailed most of his plans for his last year at Fresno State. 

The 22-year-old is studying music education, and this year, he was supposed to perform in the university’s rendition of “Carmina Burana,” travel to Italy, and participate in the Disney College Program in Florida during the fall semester. 

Instead, he’s been home, avoiding outings as much as possible to protect his family. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: COVID-19 cases are soaring at Avenal State Prison, and inmates there say postponed visitations, rule changes, and constant bed moves are taking a psychological toll. 

Plus, honey bees have already been hit hard by disease, drought and development. Now, the Creek Fire has killed millions more. 

We also continue our election coverage, and delve into more propositions. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

On this week’s Valley Edition: Kern County farmers talk about how President Trump’s immigration policies affect the industry.

Plus, we hear from young community organizers in Fresno and Bakersfield who say they’re fed up with the current political system and are working to bring about change. 

Later, we speak to the president of California State University, Bakersfield as the school celebrates 50 years of education.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

A museum housed in a former Carnegie Library has closed its doors because it can no longer keep up with the terms of its lease. 

The Hanford Carnegie Museum Nonprofit leased the Carnegie building from the city of Hanford for 45 years. The nonprofit was required to maintain and insure the building, but that’s been costly to do for a century-old structure.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

On a weekday afternoon, Elvia Baies’ two teenage daughters finish up their school day while her younger children, a 4 and 5-year-old, play on tablets. 

Baies asks them to turn the tablets down and then points out the tight space where they’ve lived for nine months. 

“This is obviously the room that we're sleeping in, our two beds, we have a TV across from the beds,” Baies says. 

 

On the far end of the room, she opens a door. 

“Our bathroom, and our tub, our sink, along with our kitchen.”

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

This week, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office allowed some people whose homes were destroyed by the Creek Fire to see what’s left of their property in phases.

On Wednesday, those who live in the community of Alder Springs drove up to see the damage, including Dena and Jacob Villanueva. At the mandatory check-in at Foothill Elementary School, Red Cross Volunteers gave them a rake, shovel, sifter, and masks. 

Dena said she knew fire was always a possibility, but living in that community was irreplaceable.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

The election is less than 40 days away and we want to make sure your vote gets counted. We checked in with registrars of voters throughout the San Joaquin Valley to ask what voters should do to make sure their ballot is cast properly.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We hear from one mom who’s helping her four kids with distance learning from their hotel room, all while dealing with the challenges of finding a real home. 

Plus, with elections around the corner, we take a look at some of the propositions before voters, the impact they could have on the state, and the consequences of voter turnout.

 

And we’ll hear from a Fresno Poet that won the American Book Award. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Courtesy of Albert Yurgal, James Sponsler

When James Sponsler and two close friends set out on a backpacking trip Friday night over Labor Day Weekend, they didn’t know the Creek Fire had started 30 miles away.

 

“Just about lunch time on Saturday was when we noticed the massive thunderhead,” says Sponsler. “Unbeknownst to us, this was the fire itself.”

On this week’s Valley Edition: Three hikers who were evacuated from the High Sierra by helicopter last week tell us what it was like to be stranded due to the Creek Fire. 

 

We also talk with wildfire experts about the importance of forest thinning and prescribed burning to prevent the massive outbreak of fires the West is now experiencing. 

 

Later, we’ll have our weekly COVID-19 update. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

With the devastation caused by the Creek Fire, the chairperson of Big Sandy Rancheria calls herself a messenger for her community. So far, most of the 170-member tribe have evacuated.

Elizabeth Kipp is the Auberry tribe’s chairperson. Since evacuating to Fresno, she’s made multiple trips back up Highway 168 to attend early morning logistics meetings with CalFire and sheriff’s deputies.

CalFire - Fresno County District Twitter

More than 30,000 people in Fresno County have had to leave their homes due to the Creek Fire. 

Sharon Souza is one of them. She left Tollhouse Tuesday morning, but spent the weekend deciding what items would stay and what would go. She says she tried to be practical rather than sentimental.  

“At some point, when I realized ‘I can’t take everything with me,’ I actually, one night, went around and took pictures of my pictures on the wall,” she says. “I took pictures of family favorite recipes, I did things like that.”

sierrausd.org / Sierra Unified School Distrcit Website

Sierra Unified School District in the Fresno County foothills is suspending online instruction for the week due to the Creek Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest. 

Superintendent Alan Harris estimates up to 75 percent of district staff and students are being evacuated or have already been displaced by the fire. 

“We need to get to safety, and get to security,” says Harris. “Once we do, then we’ll settle back into what’s happening with the learning.”

Courtesy of Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff's Office / Fresno County Sheriff's Office

UPDATE 12:23 p.m. 9/29/20

 

Containment is at 44% with 305,240 acres burned. 

 

The Following Evacuation Orders are Lifted in Fresno County:

Zone F1O: The south boundary extends to the end of properties located south of  Peterson Road. The west boundary begins at 37887 Peterson Road. The north and  east boundaries are the intersection of Peterson Road and James Mountain Road. 

 

Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Baseball legend and Fresno native Tom Seaver passed away Monday at the age of 75. The celebrated pitcher was considered the epitome of a Hall of Famer. 

  He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 for his 20-year career in the Major Leagues. His early years with the New York Mets set him apart right away.

Andrew Nixon - file photo / Capital Public Radio

Most counties in the San Joaquin Valley have been on the state’s COVID-19 watch list for months, and are still restricted under the state’s new rating system.

Fresno County officials announced the results from January’s homeless point-in-time count Wednesday, including a significant rise in unhoused individuals. 

This year’s annual point-in-time count found 3,251 people experiencing homelessness throughout Fresno County. That’s about a 50 percent increase from 2019, when the number of people counted was 2,131. However, more people than usual were counted in shelters.

Joe Moore (file photo) / Valley Public Radio

Fresno and Tulare Counties declared local emergencies Thursday after rendering plant Baker Commodities in Kerman stopped accepting livestock carcasses. 

Jimmy Andreoli, a spokesman with the company, says it has reached its limit in how many animals it can process according to its permit with the state Air Resources Board. If it surpasses that limit, it could be fined. 

Christopher Greer, the assistant agricultural commissioner in Tulare County says the summer heat kills more cows.  

Pages