If you read the article in the Los Angeles Times on February 21, 2021 about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, you might have been left with the wrong impression regarding the Los Angeles Press Club’s emergency fund. Unfortunately, LAPC was never contacted by the Times for a fact check or a comment, which would have avoided this confusion.
It is true that LAPC received a grant of $125,000 from HFPA last year. With that grant, LAPC (not HFPA) created an emergency fund for journalists in Southern California. The purpose of the fund was to help journalists who had lost work and income due to the pandemic. Many of those hit the hardest were freelancing entertainment and sports journalists/photographers.
From the start, HFPA agreed in writing that they were “not requesting names or other identification of financial assistance recipients out of privacy concerns.” This was an important condition that ensured funds would be distributed independently of HFPA.
When LAPC announced the program, we were explicit in our announcements that applicants did not need to be a member of either organization.
We received more than 300 applications for assistance.
To review the applications, LAPC established a screening committee. This committee was made up of volunteers who received no compensation and who were not allowed to apply for aid themselves. The committee spent many weekend hours learning about the dire needs of journalists in the Southland. There were journalists who had gone from making a decent living to having lost all their assignments. There were journalists who could not pay their rent, their health insurance or put food on the table for their kids. The LAPC committee was diligent in learning how the pandemic had changed the applicants’ lives. We delved into professional backgrounds to make sure the applicants really were journalists, we asked how much money people needed, what the money was going to be used for, if they had applied for money elsewhere and how much. We also asked for income reports before and after the pandemic. It was a difficult and depressing process. It was also rewarding being able to help fellow journalists in need, even in the smallest way. This would never have been possible without the grant from HFPA.
It is also true that some of the applicants were HFPA members and often also LAPC members. We reviewed each applicant on merits only, without regard to affiliation.
After the article in the Times, we did an audit of the grants and compared them to public listings of HFPA membership. Out of some 170 grants awarded, we subsequently have only identified 10 recipients who are HFPA members. Combined, those HFPA members received just $7,000 of the $125,000 in total grants. As part of our audit, we also found that there were HFPA members denied assistance, as they did not meet the criteria. Overall, the rate at which HFPA members received grants appears reasonable and proportionate to the population of journalists in our region who lost work due to the pandemic.
We are glad that this outcome reflects how HFPA had zero input or influence on who received the grants, and that it validates our use of an independent review process.