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.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We’ll hear firsthand accounts of how COVID-19 has impacted conditions for those working in the fields.

We also talk to a reporter who spent three weeks in Kern County’s corner of the Mojave Desert. Her new podcast investigates false promises of wealth in California City. 

And, we discuss what will happen to Valley renters out of work because of COVID-19 and potentially facing homelessness when the state’s eviction moratorium is lifted.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

Courtesy of The Wonderful Company

The largest agricultural employer in the San Joaquin Valley announced today that it’s providing $1 million in grants to support COVID-19 relief in rural communities. 

Fruit and nut powerhouse The Wonderful Company says the form of that relief will be decided by community non-profits applying for grants. 

Fresno County Jail (file photo)

 

Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 response this week shifted to eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley, where he is now sending support teams and $52 million in aid to assist with testing, contact tracing and other containment measures.

 

This week on Valley Edition: We learn more about an organization in Fresno that’s buying crops from small farmers to help offset the huge losses growers are experiencing due to COVID-19.

Plus, a man currently incarcerated at Avenal State Prison describes the toll that COVID-19 has taken on life behind bars, including months without seeing loved ones. 

 

And documentary filmmakers tell us what it’s like inside the Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield.

 

Courtesy of Kei Jackson

The American Civil Liberties Unions of Northern and Southern California sent a letter to the Greenfield Union School District Superintendent this week after a former employee complained of a racially hostile work environment. 

Kei Jackson says before going to the ACLU, she filed multiple complaints with the district about what she calls microaggressions she experienced while teaching English to seventh graders at Ollivier Middle School. There was the time in February last year when she wore a dashiki to school. 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: For Syrian and Hmong refugees in the Valley, language barriers can make understanding the pandemic especially difficult. We hear from two language translators who share some of the challenges these communities face.

 

And some small businesses in the Valley are pivoting their business models in reaction to the pandemic. 

Plus, we also talk to a reporter for CalMatters whose investigation into Merced County’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts has ruffled some feathers. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

  

 

People experiencing homelessness often rely on the hospital emergency room for medical care. In Porterville, Vera Miles has done it multiple times. She’s lived under the trees along the Tule River in Porterville for five years. The 60-year old shares the space with her partner. She says she isn’t worried about getting the coronavirus.

 

“I think we're safer down here than anywhere actually,” says Miles. “With this going on, I'd rather be here.”

 

On this week's Valley Edition: As COVID-19 cases rise, what’s it like for teachers as they prepare to go back to school? Local educators discuss balancing their concerns about student learning with their own personal safety.  

Plus, we go to Tulare County, where a team of doctors and students are using medical care to connect people living on the streets to housing.   

And we hear from Hugo Morales who recently received a National Heritage Fellowship. Listen to these stories and more on the podcast above.

 

 

On the this week's Valley Edition: Are Valley hospitals prepared for a surge in COVID-19 patients? We talk with a local doctor about how they’re staying on top of growing patient loads. And a palliative care doctor tells us why he wants to change people's minds about the coronavirus.

 

Plus, we look at Fresno’s Civil War Reenactment. The Fresno County Historical Society event is cancelled due to COVID-19, but when it returns next year, it’s going to look very different.

Fresno County Historical Society's Civil War Revisited Website

Last week, the Fresno County Historical Society announced that its annual Civil War Revisited event won’t be happening this year due to COVID-19. However, the Society is planning an event centered around telling more stories of the 19th Century, beyond the Civil War. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We take you inside a church in Fresno where the priest is considered a healer by some and by others, a sexual predator. 

We talk to the KQED journalist who reported the story about how she gained the trust of the alleged victims, and the reaction from the congregation now that the report is out. 

Plus, an update on why bars and indoor dining are on hold in many counties. Listen to those stories and more in the podcast above. 

City of Fresno Facebook

The Fresno City Council voted Tuesday to approve its billion dollar budget, just in time for the July 1 deadline. However, it will have to be reconsidered in three months. 

Bakersfield High School Website

As residents call for cities to defund police departments, some parents and students want the same in their school districts. The Kern High School District board is voting on its annual budget Monday and ahead of that meeting, community organizers have been circulating a petition to defund the district’s police department.

Kern High School District has its own police department. Only two percent of districts in the state operate one; most contract with a local city. 

Courtesy of Patrick Contreras

This week we spoke to a musician who, like others, lost a lot of work when the pandemic hit: Performances were postponed, or cancelled altogether. Patrick Contreras, a Fresno violinist, started to offer front lawn concerts to make ends meet, and the idea has taken off. He says he’s heard from other musicians across the country, asking how he’s made it work. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Black community leaders in Bakersfield are meeting with law enforcement, and calling for more transparency. They tell us about the push to establish a community police advisory board.

Plus, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in every county in the San Joaquin Valley. We bring you our weekly health update. 

Later, we speak to Fresno violinist Patrick Contreras who told us how he’s kept busy during the pandemic, even after losing every major booking for the year.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Fresno County’s Registrar of Voters settled a lawsuit this week that will allow a church with Black Lives Matter banners to  host a ballot drop-box.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand Facebook

The City of Fresno announced the 37 members of the new Police Reform Commission Friday. The city council, mayor, and mayor-elect all committed to taking the recommendations seriously. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Local recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, react to the Supreme Court decision protecting their status to live and work in the United States. 

We also speak with writer Nick Belardes. He wrote an essay for “Boom California” about Confederate imagery in Bakersfield which he hopes sparks a discussion around street and school names, including one called Plantation Elementary. 

And we get an update on the COVID-19 outbreak at Avenal State Prison. 

Fresno Unified School District Facebook

The Fresno Unified School District announced Thursday that on-campus instruction will resume August 17. 

Superintendent Bob Nelson said based on parent survey results, the district expects 75 percent of kids to return to school in the fall. However, school will be a little different.

City of Fresno Facebook

Nearly a hundred people made public comments Monday afternoon during the Fresno City Council’s budget hearing on the city’s police department. 

Most called for the council to defund the police and redirect the money to other services like mental health. Council President Miguel Arias said thousands more residents expressed their opinions via email. 

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