City Hall Stonewalls Seasoned Journalist

Diana Lejins

Long Beach City Hall has stooped to a new all-time low.

At the opening of the new Billie Jean King Main Public Library downtown on Sept. 21, this seasoned photojournalist/reporter, who has covered news for more than 40 years, was summarily turned away from the event as a media representative by Long Beach City Community Information Officer Rick de la Torre. That meant I would be disallowed a special press tour of the library interior prior to public admission, excluded from areas where the press was allowed and refused early admission when I arrived over an hour early to photograph the celebration.

Additionally, de la Torre told me that the publications that I partner with such as the Signal Hill Tribune, Beachcomber,, Random Lengths News and others were not considered by the city to be “legitimate news-gathering entities.” Therefore, I was to be denied media/press status. When I asked to speak to his “superior,” Public Information Officer Kevin Lee, I was told that he was too busy.

Later, when I was finally allowed entry to the main event with the public, I approached Kevin Lee. He was evasive and refused to answer my questions. (The YouTube video can be found under “PIO Kevin Lee Long Beach.”) He also told a security guard to escort me out of the media area where other journalists had been photographing.

Prior to the event, I completed all the proper customary notifications and requests. But, the calls, texts and emails went unanswered by Kevin Lee. I especially wanted to take photos of the library before the crowds entered so as not to include children whose parents might not want them published in the newspapers. But the special media event facilitating this was denied to me. While I was displaying/wearing proper credentials, other press representatives were allowed even without credentials.

Even though some of the independent news outlets might not be considered as important as the lap-dog City Hall “owned” news publications by some, their value is priceless. They bring you the news, truth and information that City Hall doesn’t want voters/citizens to hear. Regardless, they have a right to be there and accorded full and equal media access.

The irony of this whole situation is that we were celebrating the opening of a library which represents freedom of information and a plethora of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We were also honoring a woman (Billie Jean King) who passionately stood up for women’s rights while Kevin Lee was blatantly denying media access to a seasoned woman journalist and denigrating the news outlets she represents. What blatant hypocrisy!

Lee’s actions strike a serious blow at the very core of the tenets established by the founding fathers of this country to serve as its foundation. At best they are an affront to every citizen regardless of political affiliations or personal beliefs.

Sadly, this type of behavior harms the citizens of Long Beach the most. Lee and his compatriots are frivolously courting lawsuits that will ultimately be borne at taxpayer expense and they will not be personally held accountable. To add insult to injury, Lee was given $175,149 in pay and benefits in 2018 for his disservice to Long Beach taxpayers according to California Transparent.

At the very least, I expect a sincere written apology to me from the City of Long Beach and Kevin Lee for this egregious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the California State Constitution and the people of this city. Reassurance should be made that this will not reoccur in the future. Additionally, he should be briefed on the value of the First Amendment and receive a full review of the ethics training given to all Long Beach employees.

Per the California State Constitution: “Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

Per the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”



the reason you were treat like crap is because "Signal Hill Tribune, Beachcomber,, Random Lengths News and others were not considered by the city to be “legitimate news-gathering entities.” they expose this city corruption and incompetence, not like the Presstelegram who brown nose for access that's why I don't read that FAKE NEWS outlet, they are pro city corruption.. Why are we allowing a corrupt city hall and corrupted PD!! we deserve a corrupt free City.. Keep up the good job in exposing city misconduct it will pay off sooner then later.

Diana, you should feel proud your previous reporting on Long Beach's corruption has evoked such retaliatory behavior from the people in power. Clearly, what you report is correct, that City Hall wishes to control all media that reports on them.

I will wear it as a badge of honor.....;-)

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