Plaque honoring local journalists gets new home

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 28, 2001

LOS ANGELES — A memorial to California journalists who died while pursuing news stories was given a new home and an 18th name on Tuesday at California State University, Northridge. 

The Fallen Journalists Memorial plaque bearing names of reporters and photojournalists killed in World War II, the Jonestown massacre, helicopter crashes and coverage of other conflicts at home and abroad, carries the additional name of James Bertken. 

Bertken was a reporter for the Daily News of Los Angeles when he was swept off a boat while covering a sport-fishing story off the California coast in 1995. He was an alumnus of the journalism program at CSUN. 

The wood and bronze plaque was created by the Los Angeles Press Club in 1979, one year after three California journalists were killed in an ambush in Jonestown, Guyana. It was displayed at City Hall, and had been in storage during a lengthy earthquake retrofit project at City Hall since 1994. 

Its new location is in Manzanita Hall, home of the Department of Journalism at the Northridge campus. 

Those honored on the plaque include reporters and photographers killed in France and the Philippines in 1944, in Iran in 1979 and Honduras in 1983 — and Francis Gary Powers. The U-2 spy plane pilot who was captured in Russia in 1960 later became a Los Angeles helicopter reporter, and died in a crash in 1977. 

Bertken’s widow, Louise Yarnall, and their two sons, attended the ceremony Tuesday along with several other relatives and former colleagues of those honored. 

“It reminds us of how in the course of doing our jobs, we are often in situations of risk,” said Daily News Sports Editor Michael Anastasi, who was Bertken’s supervisor when the reporter died. “It wasn’t someone killed in wartime. But a huge number of people who enjoyed his outdoor columns told us how much they shared our loss.”