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.

StoryCorps

Valley Public Radio has partnered with the personal history project StoryCorps and its 2020 mobile tour. Since February 12, StoryCorps has been in Fresno and Bakersfield documenting the stories of residents in the San Joaquin Valley. As part of our collaboration, we’ll be airing segments over the next year based on some of these recorded conversations.   

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer will be the city’s next mayor, according to Wednesday afternoon’s election results from Fresno County. In a press conference before City Hall Wednesday, Dyer reiterated his wish to unite the city, and create “One Fresno,” which was his campaign slogan.

In his remarks, Dyer highlighted the need to bring investment and business to the area. Dyer wasn’t specific about where he plans to prioritize development, but said the city can only be as prosperous and successful as its worst neighborhood.

Kings County Public Health Department

Only two COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the San Joaquin Valley: one each in Madera and Fresno counties. Both are related to travel on Princess Cruises. To prevent further spread, public health departments are monitoring at-risk folks daily.  

Not every county publishes the number of monitored individuals, but from those that do in the San Joaquin Valley,  about 40 individuals have been or are being monitored. About ten of those individuals were cleared after not presenting symptoms following two weeks of isolation.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra was in Fresno Friday to remind residents to fill out the 2020 Census. Fresno County is one of the hardest-to-count regions, and Becerra urged residents not to ignore their chance to be represented.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: A new exhibit celebrates a 1970s-era magazine that highlighted the achievements of African Americans in Fresno. We speak with one of its founders about why he started it.

Plus, we delve into the history of Yemeni farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley, and how the death of Nagi Daifallah and Arab nationalism complicated a multicultural movement in the UFW.

We also take a look at what’s new this year at Fresno’s Rogue Festival. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

California’s Primary Election was on Tuesday, and county election departments are still counting ballots. They have 30 days from the election to certify the results.

In the meantime, county election departments are updating results throughout the month, and below we have linked to the county and state websites where you can see the results for yourself as they are updated. 

Congressional Races 

Fresno Rogue Festival

This weekend and next, take a chance on Fresno’s Rogue festival, an annual tradition in the Tower District that has performers and attendees bustling from show to show. 

To preview the fringe festival, we spoke to Donald Munro who covers art and culture in the San Joaquin Valley on his website, The Munro Review. We talk about how the festival has changed over the last 19 years, and how Munro decides what shows to see: he starts with a program, a block of time, and open expectations. 

Madi Bolaños / KVPR

 

Fresno’s former Chief of Police led the city’s mayoral race late Tuesday night according to the county’s early results. By 10:30 p.m., close to a quarter of the votes were in, and more than 54% of them counted in Jerry Dyer’s favor.

At a packed election party at the Elbow Room restaurant, Jerry Dyer said the campaign has been all consuming. 

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

 

Polls show candidates Andrew Janz and Jerry Dyer are neck and neck. And that race, along with other local races, could be decided next Tuesday. If one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, there’s no runoff in November. But do people know that? 

We spoke with several Valley residents at a local Fresno farmers market - and many were unaware of Tuesday’s primary and its significance.  However, one Clovis man who is not eligible to vote said he finds the whole system baffling. 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: With Tuesday’s primary election just days away, we look at what’s at stake for those down ballot races, and what some candidates are doing to turn out voters. And we sit down with Fresno mayoral candidate Jerry Dyer.

Plus: We hear from an Armenian oud master who is helping to preserve the history of Armenian-American music in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

Supporters of Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren packed into a downtown Fresno business Monday to hear from someone who used to be her competitor.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro addressed around 50 people at the Fulton Street Coffee shop. The 45-year-old was also a presidential candidate, but ended his bid in January. He said running alongside Elizabeth Warren proved to him that she deserves the democratic nomination.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We sit down with candidates Jim Costa and Esmerelda Soria to talk policy and politics as both vye for the 16th Congressional District seat.

 

Plus, you’ve heard her as a panelist on ‘Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!’ the NPR news quiz show: this weekend, comedian Paula Poundstone is coming to Fresno. The standup comic tells us why improvisation is key to a good show. 

We also ask if community efforts to clean up the San Joaquin Valley’s dirty air are working.

Alex Hall / KQED

President Donald Trump was in Bakersfield for a short visit Wednesday to sign a Presidential Memorandum to commit more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers. He spoke to an invitation-only crowd of about 2,000 people.

Porterville Fire Department

After a fire devastated the Porterville Public Library, the city's fire department held a processional Thursday Monring to move the body of one of their own to the Tulare County Coroner. 

25-year-old firefighter Patrick Jones’ body was recovered from the remains of the library Wednesday. He responded to the fire Tuesday afternoon, and wanted to make sure everyone was evacuated. Tulare County Incident Officer Joanne Bear says his peers remember Jones’ dedication.

 

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

After taking the lead in the New Hampshire Primary, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will make his second campaign trip to the Central Valley, this time in an effort to ensure eligible citizens cast their ballots in California's March 3 primary.

Still Image from "Norman Mineta And His Legacy: An American Story" / Mineta Legacy Project

Next Wednesday, February 19, is Day of Remembrance. It’s the 78th anniversary of when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which sent West Coast Japanese Americans to concentration camps. A note on terminology: These were not Nazi death camps in Europe, but they were spaces that Japanese Americans were forced to live in. 

On this week's Valley Edition: There's only one proposition on the ballot this year, Proposition 13. Some say it will deepen state debt, while others think it’s the fix for California’s aging schools.

Plus: We’ll speak to a California native who served in two presidential cabinets. Secretary Norman Mineta was pivotal in convincing the U.S. government to formally apologize to Japanese Americans after their internment during World War II. 

 

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

A White House Official has confirmed to Valley Public Radio that President Donald Trump will be in Bakersfield on Wednesday. This will be Trump’s first visit to the San Joaquin Valley since his election campaign in 2016.

According to the White House, Trump will visit Kern County with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to give remarks to farmers about water supply and delivery in California and other Western states.

https://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i226-00044-1/ / Densho Encyclopedia

This year is the 78th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. That’s the order that sent Japanese Americans to internment camps in 1942. Many Japanese Americans in Fresno County were sent to the Gila River Indian Community in the Arizona desert, including local baseball legend Kenichi Zenimura. Reporter Laura Tsutsui traveled to the former site of the camp to report on Zenimura’s legacy. 

 

Listen to the interview above to hear more about the connection between Japanese Americans from the San Joaquin Valley and the camps.

Ansel Adams / Library of Congress

Back in 1927, baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came to Fresno to play exhibition matches, sometimes playing with all Japanese-American teams. One of those players was Kenichi Zenimura, an immigrant from Japan.

 

In a 1999 documentary film about him, “Diamonds In The Rough,” narrator and actor Noriyuki “Pat” Morita says that, “He’ll always be remembered as Zeni, ‘Dean of the Diamond.’” 

Those words, “Dean of the Diamond,” are memorialized on his gravestone. 

 

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