During the uprising following the Rodney King verdict in 1992, protesters in Oakland filled a freeway. Lorenza Muñoz, a Daily Californian staff reporter at the time, was covering it. A police officer refused to let her enter the vicinity, attempting to grab her press badge.
“I, probably stupidly, wrestled it away from him and … he had to let me cover it,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz was on the Daily Cal staff during her senior year before she graduated in 1993. After a yearlong television internship, she started reporting for the Los Angeles Times. There, she covered entertainment, news and government for 15 years.
For one article, Muñoz wrote about a defective truck that killed a boy on a school bus. After an interview with the engineer who worked on the truck, she found out the company had been taking manufacturing shortcuts.
In another story, Muñoz documented a man with a mental disability taking a journey from Orange County to Chiapas, Mexico after the death of his mother. She described his reliance on the kindness and generosity of strangers.
After a foreign woman’s boyfriend threw acid on her face, Muñoz told her story as the woman immigrated to the United States. The readership and publicity helped her afford her surgery.
Muñoz said, due to the internet, the reflective, investigative reporting she enjoyed decreased. She described the diminished ability of journalists to cover the government thoroughly as “devastating for democracy.”
Despite the shift, Muñoz said her time on the LA Times was a wonderful career, allowing her to stay in LA and build a broad portfolio and meet new people.
“In any job, you should know how to write, and so that’s been tremendously helpful for me in my career … to be a good writer, to be able to read material and digest it and then write it in a summary form,” Muñoz said.
After increased instability at the paper, Muñoz left to spend time with her young children for four years. She then worked in press and policy under the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
After a few years, Muñoz became head of member relations and awards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Soon after, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag called out the lack of diversity in Oscars nominations.
Tasked with doubling the number of women and people from underrepresented communities in the Academy by 2020, Muñoz led the effort to create the Oscars eligibility inclusion standards.
“We saw it as an incentive to get producers, directors and studios to really think about equity and inclusion as part of their entire plan for a movie,” Muñoz said. “It needed to be just as important as the storytelling and, in truth, part of the storytelling.”
Currently, as senior global awards executive at Amazon Studios, Muñoz is implementing awards strategy for Amazon films worldwide. She believes journalism can provide a toolkit for launching into other careers.
She warns journalists from having a “holier than thou” attitude, advising them to realize the complexity and grayness in the world.
“Just be fearless and be bold and remember how important journalism is to democracy, that it really is important, and it’s a huge responsibility to be accurate and to be fair in your reporting,” Muñoz said.