Risa Johnson

The Desert Sun

Reporter Profile

Risa is a multimedia reporter who has worked for the Chico Enterprise-Record in California. She covered local politics and the community impacts of local disasters, including the Camp Fire in November 2018 and the Oroville Dam crisis in 2017, for which she won an award from the California News Publishers Association. Her team at the Enterprise-Record was nominated for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news reporting for their coverage of the California wildfires. Born and raised in southern California, Risa earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Chico, where she was editor-in-chief of the student publication.

Beat: Native American issues in Riverside and San Bernardino

California is home to more than 310,000 Native Americans — virtually tied with Arizona as the state with the largest population — but has no reporter covering tribal issues. Risa reports on the 14 Native American tribes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, covering issues such as tribal water rights and conflict with state agencies; tribal stewardship of land; development of casinos; land-use disputes; health, employment, education and crime issues on reservations; and cultural preservation matters, among other topics. This job is based in the Palm Springs newsroom but entails extensive travel in the region to visit reservations, casinos and other commercial endeavors run by the tribes. It also involves tracking campaign contributions and lobbying efforts, and liaising with state and local authorities who interact regularly with tribal authorities.