Rearwin Ward elected to California News Publishers Association board

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Ojai Valley News file photo

Laura Rearwin Ward.

By Kimberly Rivers Ojai Valley News reporter

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Laura Rearwin Ward, an owner of Ojai Media LLC, publisher of the Ojai Valley News, and publisher and editor of Ojai Magazine, has been elected to the 21-member board of the California News Publishers Association.

“It’s a critical time for local news. We cannot let up on the fight for the well-being of the Fourth Estate or the public’s right to know,” said Rearwin Ward. “I’m excited and honored to be able to represent the newspaper interests for our region at the state level.”

She noted the opportunity the position provides to engage state officials on vital Ojai Valley issues, such as water, fire and housing.

CNPA focuses on First Amendment freedoms — the public’s right to know and participate in government affairs at all levels, as stated in the introduction to the state’s open-meeting laws, called the Ralph M. Brown Act — Government Code sections 54950 to 54963: “The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.” 

CNPA provides legal support to its members when it becomes necessary to challenge government policies that restrict access to public meetings, public records and courts.

The OVN has been a CNPA member since 1927, winning multiple awards for its coverage.  Former owner and publisher of the OVN, Ren Adam, was a CNPA member from 1996-2000. 

Last year, Rearwin Ward won first place in the CNPA Editorial Comment category for weeklies with under 4,300 circulation, for her Nov. 20, 2020 editorial, “Want justice? Take the train.” The editorial highlighted how the LA Superior Court denied reporters remote access to cover the water adjudication lawsuit proceedings during the height of the pandemic.

CNPA has been advocating for newspapers across the state since 1888 through its mission “to protect and serve the common interests of its news media members, to help members inform and thereby strengthen their communities, and to foster the highest ideals, ethics and traditions of journalism, a free press and the news profession.”

Directors of CNPA “establish policy for the operation of the organization and contribute individual perspectives on behalf of their companies to policy decisions that benefit the association’s members collectively. Key topics are always advocacy for business interests and First Amendment rights,” said Joe Wirt, director of affiliate relations at CNPA. Board terms are three years. 

Ward is keeping an eye on Assembly Bill 911 aimed at supporting newsrooms. “I care a lot about this opportunity for California newspapers to get some support,” said Rearwin Ward about the potential for $50 million in grant funds. State Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) is a co-author of the bill making its way through committee.

Among the bills CNPA supports are Assembly Bill 2284 that would create a grant program to promote media and digital literacy in schools, and AB 2557 that would require that records used by entities formed by local government, for civilian oversight of law enforcement, be subject to disclosure, pursuant to the California Public Records Act.

CNPA opposes Assembly Bill 2679, which seeks to change 1,700 state laws that require public notices be printed in newspapers. It would allow such notices to be posted solely online by county clerks on county government websites, thus reducing the number of people the notices would be in front of.

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