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Long Beach Journalism Initiative chair threatens to sue journalists amid NLRB probe

Matt Kinley, a lawyer who chairs the board of the Long Beach Post’s parent nonprofit, demanded the removal of an article and informational flyers.

Long Beach Journalism Initiative chair threatens to sue journalists amid NLRB probe
Former and striking employees of the Long Beach Journalism Initiative are joined by other unions and organizations as they picket LBJI in Downtown Wednesday, April 3, 2024 following mass layoffs. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The chair of the board of directors for the Long Beach Journalism Initiative threatened to sue the Long Beach Media Guild last week over a Watchdog news story and flyers announcing a federal investigation into the company.

The threat comes just over a month after the guild — made up of laid-off and striking workers of the LBJI, the parent nonprofit the Long Beach Post and Business Journal —  first formed and went on strike.

Board Chair Matt Kinley, a Long Beach-based attorney, sent the guild an email on April 17 saying the “highly misleading” article and the flyers “present an offensive false light of me for which you can be held liable.”

Kinley added that he would personally sue the guild “for an injunction and civil damages,” if it didn’t immediately remove posted flyers and delete a story published by the Long Beach Watchdog last week.

Flyers were posted around the Cal State Long Beach campus, where CEO Melissa Evans and board Secretary Gwen Shaffer are both journalism professors represented by the California Faculty Association.


The email sent by LBJI Board Chair Matt Kinley to the Long Beach Media Guild also erroneously claimed that Jason Ruiz wrote the article published in the Long Beach Watchdog “Long Beach Post faces federal investigation into retaliation amid union vote.”

The Long Beach Media Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge on the heels of mass layoffs on March 22 that eliminated nine positions in the middle of a union drive.

The three remaining reporters have held the strike line since March 21, protesting several labor violations, including coercion to work without pay for two weeks and positions they believe were intentionally misclassified as exempt workers so the company could avoid paying overtime.


Long Beach Post faces federal investigation into retaliation amid union vote

Long Beach Watchdog • Apr 15, 2024

The National Labor Relations Board is investigating the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal over allegations of retaliation following a worker-led union campaign…

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Kinley has not responded to an email from the Guild asking him to clarify what he believed was false or misleading about the article or the poster.

Open government attorney Kelly Aviles said California has what’s known as an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute "specifically to prevent this kind of attempt to silence people talking about truthful matters of public concern."

"I would think running a journalism organization that you would have some level of respect for freedom of speech about important issues relating to unions, relating to journalism," Aviles told the Watchdog.

The Long Beach Media Guild distributed flyers last week that included the names of the Long Beach Journalism Initiative leaders and a QR code to the Long Beach Watchdog’s news article about the National Labor Relations Board’s investigation into the nonprofit. Graphic courtesy of LBMG.

A key question in determining if someone has been libeled or portrayed in a false light is whether a false statement of fact was made, said David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for a free press and freedom of expression.

A typical best practice in claims of libel is to describe what was allegedly false and provide an opportunity to correct the record, Loy said.

“I’m having a hard time understanding what is claimed to be false here,” Loy said, and questioned whether Kinley was disputing that the NLRB is investigating the organization or that he serves as the board chair, as the poster says.

As Kinley has so far not explained which facts or statements he takes issue with, “one has to question the extent to which there is a factual or legal foundation for the threat of a lawsuit,” Loy said. “Merely being offended is not the basis for a lawsuit.”

This is a report written by the staff of the Long Beach Watchdog, an independent, worker-owned newspaper.

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