Outlet: Pasadena Star-News
Journalist: Brian Charles
Tags: community journalism, crime reporting, watchdog
Read full announcement post.
Brian Charles of the Pasadena Star-News is the Journalist of the Year for Digital First Media’s newsrooms publishing mid-sized dailies.
Charles is recognized for his coverage of the Pasadena police. He is one of four finalists for Digital First Media Journalist of the Year. That winner will be announced in September, when DFMie winners will be honored in Denver.
His editors’ nomination explains:
Reporter Brian Charles is a rising star in the Los Angeles News Group and DFM. His year-long coverage of the officer-involved shooting of an unarmed, black teenager named Kendrec McDade by Pasadena police officers in pursuit of a robbery suspect uncovered questionable patterns and practices in the city’s homicide bureau. It also led defense attorneys, former police officers and citizens to come forward with information that helped him to shine even more light on these patterns and practices.
Brian’s follow-up reporting led to the suspension of one detective and the demotion of another. More importantly, his reporting has prompted investigations by the FBI and Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review into the Pasadena Police Department and its homicide bureau. Those probes, which are continuing, already have resulted in a mistrial in a homicide case where it was discovered that two police officers intimidated a witness and hid exculpatory evidence. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is frantically examining other cases involving those two Pasadena police officers.
As a young father, it would have been easy for Brian to have stopped digging when he uncovered some of this information. Some segments of law enforcement turned up the heat on him to leave well enough alone. But despite that, he doggedly carried on and continued to seek the truth. His search is far from over, but already it has been noticed at the city, county, state and federal levels.
What makes Brian’s work even more impressive is he had much more on his plate than simply reporting on the Pasadena Police Department. As the lead writer in the Star-News’ newsroom, Brian covered Pasadena City Hall and politics this past year. It was all part of his beat, one that was bigger than most in LANG. And anytime Editor Frank Girardot needed somebody to jump on a breaking news story, Brian usually got the call and eagerly gave it his all. He also was among the reporters who contributed to LANG’s Christopher Dorner coverage.
Brian has engaged in the sort of reporting that stands as an example to other local journalists seeking a deeper understanding of their community and its dynamics. For those reasons I believe Brian should be the Journalist of the Year.
Brian Charles of the Pasadena Star-News is to be commended for staying on top of the death of an unarmed man by Pasadena police officers. His stories are clear, accessible and exhaustively reported. Others have noticed: One detective was suspended, another demoted, and an investigation has been launched. His coverage and writing voice have clearly matured and he renders updates on this important story with authority and accountability. Like many reporters at a paper of this size, Brian juggles his commitment to this story among many others. His juggling act is notable and, in one of the most competitive media environments in the world, he embodies the best of local journalism.
Other finalists for Journalist of the Year in mid-sized dailies were:
- J.M. Brown of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, for a project on water desalination.
- Evan Brandt of The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., who was also a finalist for the DFMie for best staff blogger.
A native New Yorker, Brian Charles graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase in 2005. He moved to California and began working in community news in 2006, starting at a rural weekly before moving to a small daily in 2008. In 2009, he was hired by the Pasadena Star-News to cover education, politics and breaking news. His work as a journalist has been recognized by the California Newspaper Publishing Association and in 2009 he won an Associated Press award for coverage of an on-campus suicide at a Los Angeles-area high school.
In March, Charles was promoted to a staff position the Daily Breeze, also a part of the Los Angeles News Group.
Charles lives in South Pasadena, with his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Natalie.