Soreath Hok

Reporter

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with 16 years of experience in radio, television and digital production. At Valley Public Radio she covers local government, politics and other local news. A Cambodian-American, Soreath began her journalism career in Fresno, graduating from Fresno State with a B.A. in English and minor in Mass Communication & Journalism. Her first media job at KFSR, the campus radio station, helped to launch her career in broadcast news. She worked as a producer at two Fresno stations, KMPH FOX 26 and KSEE 24, before moving to KCRA 3 in Sacramento. After more than 10 years behind-the-scenes as a producer, Soreath explored other creative outlets outside of news in advertising, marketing and social media. Most recently, she started a social media marketing company in Sacramento, before deciding to move back to Fresno to help with her family’s business. Now, she’s happy to be back in her hometown, returning to the medium that started it all for her.

And now to StoryCorps San Joaquin, a series documenting the stories of Valley residents, based on our collaboration with the personal history project. In this conversation, Gabe Mora interviews his life partner, Don Simmons, a Fresno State professor and historic preservation enthusiast. They talk about building their life together in Fresno. For Don, he didn’t expect to grow to love this city, especially after a life-changing tragedy on 9/11.

On this week's Valley Edition: Thousands of migrant workers come to California each year to do temporary labor in the Valley and send money back to their families. What has the pandemic been like for them? We go to Delano to talk to some workers from Mexico who have been living in a hotel for the past four months. 

 And, we speak with four registered nurses who work in ICUs throughout the San Joaquin Valley about the toll of treating COVID-19 patients over the last year. 

 

The Fresno Unified School District announced a potential reopening plan Tuesday for in-person learning. The new agreement between the district and the Fresno Teachers Association outlines a return to a hybrid model that includes in-person instruction by April 6th. 

Superintendent Bob Nelson says the increased ability to vaccinate all district employees changed the conversation. 

“This time last week, I could not have reasonably said we were going to vaccinate everybody by March. Today I can and that’s a huge change,” he said.

On this week's Valley Edition: Farm workers across the San Joaquin Valley are showing high levels of interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine but they say information about where to go is scarce. 

 

But there is plenty of medical mistrust within communities of color and the reasons are complex. We talk about why.

 

Bitwise Industries announced Wednesday it will use $50 million in public and private funding to build facilities and expand job training for tech workers in the Valley. 

Much of the money will go towards the company’s Digital New Deal, an initiative to grow its tech apprenticeship program, by including people from diverse backgrounds. Thilani Grubel, vice president of Bitwise Fresno, says she wants to open up the tech field to underserved communities and people who may have never considered it as a career.

 

At Clovis North High School, parents dropped off their kids on campus Tuesday for the first time in months. Students with pom poms cheered on as cars entered the parking lot. 

For those returning to this hybrid model of online and in-school instruction, Clovis Unified Chief Communications Officer Kelly Avants says student days offline look a lot different now.

“When they get to school, they’ll go through a health check, health screening. Get that wrist bracelet or ticket to show that they have passed that first test of the day,” she says.

Soreath Hok / Valley Public Radio

Along Fern Avenue in the Tower District, businesses are boarded up, some lined with graffiti. There’s trash piled in the doorways.

But on this sunny Saturday afternoon, volunteers move brooms along the sidewalk and sweep the debris into boxes. There’s an upbeat feeling about their work. 

 

 

One of the cleaning crew is Kacey Auston. She grew up in the Tower and is now leasing the former Bank of America building on this street. It’s still empty but she plans on opening a marijuana dispensary called Cookies Fresno. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: How the business community in Fresno’s Tower District has adjusted to the pandemic, and the incoming tenants that could change the face of the neighborhood. 

Plus, Black business owners are finding strength through community as they work to adapt their operating models to the pandemic.

 

We also hear about the Fresno State Art Song Festival, where poetry, musical composition and singing converge. 

 

 

The Fresno City Council will vote Thursday on a plan to suspend bus fares throughout the city. Councilmembers Tyler Maxwell, Esmeralda Soria and Nelson Esparza are sponsoring the Zero Fare Clean Up Act. Maxwell says it addresses equity issues in Fresno, when it comes to reliable transportation. He believes the city is already way behind.

Two electric lifts move alongside a freshly painted mural on 7th street in downtown Sanger.  

Painters are doing touch-ups on the piece created by Valley artist Omar “Super” Huerta. 

In the center of the mural is Tom Flores. On either side of him, two football players in Raider colors. 

 

“I think it’s because of him I became a Raider fan. Because I knew from my family telling me, ‘hey that guy is from Sanger.’ And it’s like ‘OK, I’m a Raider fan now,’” says former Sanger Mayor, Frank Gonzalez. 

On this week's Valley Edition: A small initiative in Fresno County to help a few elderly women stay safe during the pandemic keeps expanding. Now, Save Las Senioras delivers groceries to over 60 recipients in rural areas.

Plus, we remember Cookseyville, one of the Valley’s most celebrated Black settlements. 

 

And one year after fire destroyed Porterville’s library, a handful of tiny libraries are springing up in its place. 

 

 

This year’s theme at the World Ag Expo: Ag is Essential. Presentations will center on how the industry has pivoted to continue operating during a pandemic. 

Jennifer Fawkes, marketing manager for the World Ag Expo, hopes the event will help people better understand how food is grown and transported during the pandemic. Many exhibits will focus on tools and technological innovations in the ag industry.

On this week's Valley Edition: A new study out of UC San Francisco shows which essential workers are most at risk of death due to COVID-19. At the top of the list: food and agriculture.

Plus, what are the limits of free speech, especially when that right collides with the spread of potentially dangerous misinformation on social media?

And we hear about the Fresno Philharmonic’s Digital Masterworks Series. 

Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above.

 

Dora Garza, 82, walks out of the Madera County Health Department on a windy day in February. She’s just received her first dose of the vaccine and she says the shot was quick and painless.

“It didn’t hurt and I would like everybody to get it that you know, needs to have it,” she says.

Garza says she got the vaccine because she has a younger sister who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past two months. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Restaurants have had to ride the wave of pandemic shutdowns and reopenings for the past ten months. We look at how one business in Madera is surviving and what’s happening to its employees.

 

Plus, when a local newspaper closes shop, how does that affect voting behaviors and political corruption? 

 

And we’ve got another segment of StoryCorps San Joaquin. A grandson remembers his  pioneering grandmother who spent her summers living and working in a fire lookout station.

 

It’s just before the 5 p.m. dinner hour and tickets are starting to print out in The Vineyard’s kitchen. 

Customer Robert Fischer waits to pick up his dinner order at the dining room entrance. 

“Oh we’ve got the special tonight. We’ve got the calzone, so I can’t wait to get home to dig into that,” he says.

 

He says he orders takeout twice a week to support Madera restaurants. He’s been coming to the Vineyard for 15 years and wants to make sure it stays. 

 

In the past few weeks, Fresno police have been called to break up anti-mask protests at businesses like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. At a news conference Monday, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer spoke about a weekend protest at Sprouts, which resulted in one person being cited.

He says officers can only intervene by issuing a citation for trespassing. After that, violators who refuse to cooperate will be arrested. 

On a Thursday afternoon in mid-January, Woodland Elementary School’s cafeteria is transformed into a vaccine center. The room is sectioned off into check-in points with nursing staff and a waiting area for newly-vaccinated staff members. 

 

 

Bill Peterson, 78, is greeted by a nurse as he walks in. He holds onto his health information packet as he walks up to the cafeteria stage, behind the curtain. Nurses are stationed there with vaccines. Peterson sits down, joking with them before he rolls up his sleeve. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: The Mariposa County Unified School District is ahead of the curve in vaccinating educators and keeping classrooms open during the pandemic.

Plus we talk about the future of Central Valley politics in a post-Trump era.

And, with hiccups in vaccine distribution and no national reserve to speak of, we look into how COVID-19 vaccinations are going in our part of the state. 

 

Fresno Police are on heightened alert on Inauguration Day, watching for any potential threats with protests. Speaking in front of City Hall Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the department hasn’t received anything credible to investigate, but teams remain in contact with the FBI to monitor intelligence. Balderrama said street closures are in effect Wednesday with officers concentrated in the downtown area. 

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