Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Watch us on Youtube Join the Archive Mailing List Read our Blog

Diverse Communities of Los Angeles, 1970–1980: Preserving and Ethically Describing Historic KTLA Newsfilm

About the Author

A photo of the massive amount of archived material the FTA curates

The Archive is renowned for its pioneering efforts to rescue, preserve and showcase moving image media. It is dedicated to ensuring that film history is explored and enjoyed for generations to come.

KTLA newsfilm from 1978 for a story on the 13th anniversary of the 1965 Watts Rebellion (watch online). 

Thanks to a generous grant from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has digitally preserved, cataloged and made publicly accessible online a curated selection of 65 television news stories documenting diverse communities in Los Angeles circa 1970–1980. These news segments, broadcast on local Los Angeles station KTLA, cover topics relevant to African American, Asian American, Chicana/o/x, Latina/o/x, LGBTQ+ and Native American communities and encompass issues including civil rights, poverty, public policy and more. Mostly unseen since their original broadcast, the selected news stories and file footage, held on 16mm film elements, illuminate the history of complex sociological and economic challenges that continue to impact the Southern California region and all of its residents. By extension, original station descriptions of the newsfilm from the 1970s are instructive in revealing cultural and institutional biases that can oppress and marginalize — providing a cataloging action point for rectification as a vital component of this preservation and access project.

Exchange students from South Vietnam, who are facing deportation, in an interview outside the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles in 1974 (watch online).


Marked by the international trauma of the devastating war in Vietnam and the national political upheaval of Watergate, the 1970s were a critical decade for social movements in Los Angeles. Throughout this period, activism in the city flourished as members of marginalized communities organized, lobbied, marched, testified and protested in response to continued legacies of oppression, discrimination and prejudice. Local television news of the era covered the people, places and events central to these struggles, sometimes with implicit bias, reflected not only in on-screen reporting but also in the language used to identify news segments and file footage on film cans and film leaders following a segment's production.

Left: Activist Irene Tovar speaking on behalf of the Chicano Coalition of Los Angeles County (watch online).
Right: Activist Bobby Seale commenting on police and government intelligence agencies targeting leaders of the Black Power movement (watch online).


One such example is a KTLA newsfilm story that arrived at UCLA in 1991 with a film leader identifying the footage only as “weapons and Chicanos.” As discovery of under-identified content was one of the goals of this preservation project, this vaguely titled segment was selected for digital scanning and review. In the newly preserved footage, an unidentified young activist speaks to KTLA reporter Cecilia Pedroza, providing a firsthand account of a violent police response at a youth event at the Valley State College Chicano Community Center on August 27, 1971. Upon additional research of the incident in local newspapers, in keeping with the Archive's ethical description practices, Film and Television Catalog Librarian Amanda Mack created a new assigned title to identify the segment: “Chicano youth spokesperson seeks police accountability following disturbance at community center dance.” For reference, the original station description of “weapons and Chicanos” (which refers to a brief section of footage where police displayed weapons allegedly confiscated from youths at the Center) was retained in the catalog record under the heading “title on leader.” (Read the Los Angeles Times coverage of this event: “Police Dispute Charge Over Ruckus at Dance,” August 31, 1971).


Watch: “Chicano youth spokesperson seeks police accountability following disturbance at community center dance” (1971)

Digital Lab Manager Randy Yantek utilizes software to color correct faded KTLA newsfilm for preservation and access. 


In a collaborative process between the Archive’s Cataloging Department and Television Office, existing metadata for 65 segments included in this project was carefully reviewed, with numerous holdings requiring external research to confirm event details, resulting in subsequent ethical intervention in description. It is hoped that these newly updated catalog records for this curated selection of newsfilm will lead to better discovery for research and break the chain of the legacy of biased documentation of these stories.

Film and Television Catalog Librarian Amanda Mack reviews KTLA newsfilm clips to create summaries for discovery. 

Some of the numerous rolls of 16mm film in the KTLA Newsfilm Collection, with original KTLA notes labeled on the film leaders (seen here: “Cinco de Mayo,” “Black Colleges”).


The 65 KTLA newsfilm segments in Archive’s “Diverse Communities of Los Angeles (1970–1980)” project, which includes stories covering Chinatown redevelopment, transit expansion project in Watts, and American Indian Movement activism, are viewable online. This new project joins curated KTLA selections the Archive has previously placed online that highlight local and national topics, including stories covering the career of Thomas Bradley, Mayor of Los Angeles, and footage of activists Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr. and more. Also available is a study guide (PDF) listing complementary research resources in the collections of the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the UCLA Library.

—Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator 

<  Back to the Archive Blog