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Melody Gutierrez, Robert J. Lopez and Alene Tchekmedyian to join The Times’ Investigations team

Melody Gutierrez, Robert J. Lopez and Alene Tchekmedyian
Melody Gutierrez, left, Robert J. Lopez and Alene Tchekmedyian.
(Los Angeles Times)
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The following announcement was sent on behalf of Executive Editor Kevin Merida, Editor at Large Scott Kraft, Senior Editor of Investigations Jack Leonard and Deputy Editor for Investigations Carla Rivera:

We are thrilled to announce that Melody Gutierrez, Robert J. Lopez and Alene Tchekmedyian will be joining the Investigations team, enhancing our newsroom-wide commitment to high-impact accountability reporting.

Gutierrez, Lopez and Tchekmedyian each have a strong track record of investigative reporting, including original work that has exposed corruption and misuse of power. They also are skilled at telling the stories of vulnerable and exploited communities, which is an essential component of our public service mission. In their new roles, they will focus on long-term and quick turnaround stories and continue collaborating with colleagues across the newsroom to report on a range of topics.

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Gutierrez joined The Times as a state politics and government reporter in 2018. Before joining the newsroom, she was Sacramento bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle. She also covered politics, education and sports during her 10 years at the Sacramento Bee.

With an emphasis on watchdog reporting, she has written award-winning stories on price gouging during the pandemic, pension spiking and rape kit backlogs. She also partnered with Jack Dolan, Kim Christensen and Brittny Mejia on the award-winning investigative series about failures of the Medical Board of California.

Most recently, Gutierrez detailed how state Controller Betty Yee worked behind the scenes to help a politically connected company land a $600-million no-bid government contract that would become one of California’s most troubled pandemic deals. And she wrote a moving personal account of revisiting her abandoned childhood home that was featured as a Column One.

Her first reporting job was for the newspaper in her hometown of Twentynine Palms while she was in high school.

Lopez returned to The Times in 2021 as an accountability reporter for Metro, focusing on underserved communities. Before that, he worked at Cal State Los Angeles, where he rose to the position of associate vice president and directed the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

His current work includes an ongoing investigation, with Colleen Shalby, that has exposed breakdowns and inconsistencies in the way that California State University handles complaints of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation.

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In his previous two-decade career at The Times, Lopez was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for stories that uncovered corruption in the city of Bell. He also led award-winning coverage of the California energy crisis and the rise of gang violence.

He spent years working to uncover secret files about the death of pioneering Los Angeles Times journalist Ruben Salazar, which added dramatically to our understanding of a momentous chapter in Los Angeles history.

A Los Angeles native, Lopez has taught journalism and social media to reporters, students and academics in Latin America, the Caribbean and Middle East and has mentored several early career journalists at The Times.

Tchekmedyian, who grew up in Huntington Beach, joined The Times in 2016 from the Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader, which were part of Times Community News. She covered breaking news and criminal courts before taking over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department beat in 2019.

On that demanding assignment, she has reported on controversial hiring decisions by Sheriff Alex Villanueva and, with investigative reporter Paul Pringle, the cover-up of misconduct by deputies who shared photos of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash. The disclosures resulted in a new state law and led to a successful lawsuit by his widow, Vanessa Bryant, against Los Angeles County.

Tchekmedyian’s reporting on a deputy who knelt on a handcuffed inmate’s head for three minutes, and the alleged cover-up of the incident, led to a criminal grand jury investigation. The revelations prompted national attention when Villanueva announced that she was the target of a criminal investigation, and won Tchekmedyian acclaim for her hard-nosed reporting of his department. He quickly took back the remarks.

Other work exposed how the practice by sheriff’s deputies of pulling over bicyclists for minor violations became intrusive and disproportionately targeted Latino riders, and uncovered troubling practices by animal rights activist Marc Ching that led to criminal charges.

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