Laura Tsutsui

Reporter & Producer

Laura Tsutsui was 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. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.

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.

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.  

Facebook Screenshot, Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau

Fresno County has filed an injunction against the Reedley-based private, Christian schools that began in-person classes earlier this month, despite prohibitive state guidelines. 

Supervisor Steve Brandau held a press conference Monday afternoon to oppose the lawsuit against Immanuel Schools, which serve kindergarten through twelfth grade students.

“It isn’t because Immanuel is a private school, a Christian school or anything of the sort. I feel the same way about any school, private or public,” said Brandau.

On this week’s Valley Edition: A well known Hmong filmmaker who documented the lives of Hmong communities all over Asia died of COVID-19 in July. With his funeral this week in Fresno, his family recalls his legacy. 

Plus, a century after white women gained the right to vote, we explore the history of the 19th Amendment, and how it changed the U.S. forever. 

Screenshot via Zoom

It’s hard enough for seasoned teachers to transition from in-person classes to online learning. But what about teachers who are just starting out? 

Oscar Andrade falls under that category. The second year educator left his classroom at Centennial Elementary School in March, and was allowed to return in early August to get ready for the year.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: One Clovis woman hasn’t left her house since visiting Southern California in March. We hear how she’s been sheltering in place with three disorders that put her at risk of severe COVID-19.

And distance learning is a new experience even for seasoned public school teachers. But what about educators who have just started their careers? What’s it like for them? 

And later, we speak to a Guardian reporter who is investigating how agricultural workers have been hit hard by COVID-19. 

Marion County Sheriff's Office in Florida, via FOIA

A year ago, Tulare County native Jose Manuel Martinez was facing 10 life terms in prison before a trial in Florida that could have resulted in the death penalty. But after testimony from his family, painting Martinez as nothing but a loving father, uncle, and brother, he was spared, and given another life sentence. 

Fresno Unified School District Livestream

The Fresno Unified School District announced its finalized plans Monday for distance learning.

In a virtual press conference, School Board President Keshia Thomas made one thing clear:

“The distance learning families experienced this past spring will not be what families experience this new school year.”

Fresno County Sheriff's Office

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday that it has arrested 34 potential sexual predators. The arrests were part of a multi-agency undercover operation.

The Sheriff’s Office worked with Homeland Security Investigations, the US District Attorney’s Office, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, and other agencies to make the arrests in what they called “Operation COVID Chat Down.”

KPCC's LAist Studios

In the southeast corner of Kern County is the Mojave Desert. In that dry landscape there’s a city that looks half built.

There are roads and some houses, but it seems unfinished. That city’s past and present are investigated in a new podcast from KPCC’s LAist Studios, called California City. 

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.

 

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