CCMA panelist bios for 2012 career workshop

April 21, 2012 @ CSU Fullerton

10 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. : Resume, cover letter and portfolio critiques

Gabrielino Room

Get your materials reviewed by experienced media professionals Randy Hagihara, John Futch and Diana Swartz. Sign up for a time at the registration desk. Click here for more information on Randy, John and Diana.

John Futch

John Futch’s checkered career includes stops as a Sports Editor at the Athens, Georgia, Daily News; Executive Sports Editor and Features News Editor at the Atlanta Journal; a number of positions in editing and new technology at the (Long Beach, California) Press-Telegram; and as editor and vice-president of the Boca Raton (Florida) News, not necessarily in that order. His favorite part of the business is recruiting and developing new talent. John grew up on a farm in south Georgia, although as a Gallipolis, Ohio, native he points out his family fought on the winning side of The War. He is a Vietnam veteran, honored with the Bronze Star medal, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Georgia. He taught at Georgia and at Long Beach City College. These days he is semi-retired trying to figure out how to find a real job.

Randy Hagihara

Randy Hagihara worked at the Los Angeles Times for 21 years, serving as senior editor for recruitment and director of the paper’s reporter training and summer internship programs. Prior to that he was city editor of the Times’ Orange County edition. Hagihara also served as Peninsula bureau chief at the San Jose Mercury News, which won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. He was night city editor at the Oakland Tribune, an editor and police reporter at the Peninsula Times Tribune and reporter/photographer for a number of other newspapers in California. A native of Los Angeles, he attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College and Cal State Northridge.

Diana Swartz

Diana Swartz is a regional editor for in Los Angeles and a multimedia instructor at UCLA. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years, including 10 years at the Los Angeles Times’ website, where her work won several awards. A native Californian, Diana launched her professional career covering preps for the Daily News. She later became a reporter for the L.A. Times, a copy editor at the Ventura County Star and the editor of

9:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.: The real job market

Recent grads share their experiences finding a job in today’s economy.

Ari Bloomekatz

Ari interned at the Nashville Tennessean, Cincinnati Enquirer, Seattle Times, Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times, and then was hired straight out of his Times internship as a staff reporter. Ari has covered crime and breaking news and now covers transportation for the City-County team.

Amanda Dennin

Amanda is a Multimedia Advertising Consultant with Orange County Register Communications. She works with clients in the Irvine area and assists them in promoting their business through print, digital, and interactive products. Amanda graduated from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Spanish. While there, she worked for her school newspaper the Mustang Daily as an advertising executive & manager. She also served as Vice President of Communications for Alpha Chi Omega sorority. In the past, Amanda has worked in publisher development for Alloy Media + Marketing, general news with ABC7, and marketing for COAST magazine. Upon graduating, Amanda returned to Orange County where she was raised and is currently a member of the Cal Poly SLO Alumni Club of Orange County.

Samantha Schaefer

Sam graduated from UCLA in June 2011 and has since interned at the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register. She has written for KPCC’s (89.3 FM) environment blog, Pacific Swell, and has been freelancing for the Orange County Register since November. Samantha was just hired as a Web producer in Metro for the Los Angeles Times and starts April 30.

Samantha Tata

Samantha Tata is a digital journalist at KNBC writing and reporting for the station’s website, As their evening editor, she works closely with NBC 4 News, contributing story ideas and coordinating coverage, while managing the station’s social media and integrating NBC LA’s broadcast and digital products — making sure the website reflects the broadcast package and them some. Samantha interned with KNBC’s digital team during the summer of 2011 before serving as news editor for CSUN’s Daily Sundial. She graduated in December 2011, and has since learned to whistle.

Nicole Vas

Nicole Vas graduated in 2010 from UCLA, where she was design director of the Daily Bruin. She served graphic design internships at a graphic novel publisher and a t-shirt company before deciding to stick with journalism as a career. In 2011 she became a page designer for the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a legal affairs newspaper, and this July she will be returning to school to pursue an M.A. in Magazine, Newspaper and Online Journalism at Syracuse University.

10:50 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.: Building your brand

A panel discussion on how to build your most important asset – YOU – through social media, online portfolios, blogs and more.

Ryan Chartrand

Ryan Chartrand is the Sr. Social Media Strategist at Pechanga Resort & Casino, the largest casino in the Western U.S., where he produces online videos & commercials, develops online marketing campaigns and social games, and leads an innovation & new media team. Previously he worked with the San Diego Union-Tribune as Lead Content Producer and consulted San Diego businesses on social media marketing. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in journalism where he earned his school’s paper, the Mustang Daily, its first ACP Pacemaker award for Best News Website.

Travis Cross

Travis is a Community Manager with The Armory: Ad Agency + Production Co. where he is responsible for brand building, maintenance, and engagement via social platforms. He has held positions at the Orange County Register (Social Media), Los Angeles Angels (Media Relations), Clear Channel Outdoor (Advertising Sales), and has also spent time with Octagon, AEG Live, and Sandbox Marketing. Travis graduated from Chapman University with a dual degree in Communication Studies and English with a concentration in relationship development. An Orange County native, Travis is a member of the Chapman University Young Alumni board, freelance writer for, and a former snowboarding instructor.

Greg Hernandez

Los Angeles-based correspondent Greg Hernandez has been a professional journalist for more than two decades. Just a few years out of college, he began writing for the Los Angeles Times and went on to spend 11 years at the newspaper assigned to various beats over the years including breaking crime, criminal courts, city government, Disney theme parks, the restaurant industry, and workplace issues. Closeted during his years at The Times, he left the paper in 2000 to shift to entertainment reporting and was hired as a staff writer at The Hollywood Reporter. He began an eight-year run at the Los Angeles Daily News in 2001 where he initially covered the entertainment industry for the business section. He eventually founded the popular Out In Hollywood blog which focused on LGBT topics, became the paper’s page two columnist and covered several Oscars, Grammys, Emmys and Golden Globes, the Democratic National Convention, the GLAAD Media Awards, various film festivals, movie premieres and philanthropic events and interviewed hundreds of Hollywood stars. Following major downsizing at the Daily News in 2009, Greg founded his own website, Greg In Hollywood, focusing on entertainment and LGBT topics and became a contributing writer to Daily Variety and He is currently president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and thrilled to have landed at Gay Star News where he has been able to call on his past experience to cover stories that he is passionate about at a critical time in LGBT history.

Alice Walton

Alice Walton is the publisher and editor of, an online news site about Los Angeles city politics. She is also the president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2010, Walton received her master’s degree from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, where she had a concentration in media management. Walton was a reporter with City News Service from 2005 to 2009. She is also a 2005 graduate of the University of Southern California, with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and political science.

12 p.m. – 12:50 p.m.: Lunch and Keynote with Tony Pierce, KPCC blog editor

Tony Pierce is the Blog Editor at KPCC (89.3 FM). A graduate of UC Santa Barbara’s mysterious College of Creative Studies, Tony was the editor of LAist , a hyperlocal glob about Los Angeles. Within a year and half, LAist was quadrupling the page views of the LA Times’ most popular blog — a detail he highlighted when he applied to work for the Times. The LA Times hired him a few weeks later in 2007 as its Blog Editor. Over three years there he increased traffic from 3 million page views a month to 72 million a month. Tony has been writing on his personal blog, for over 10 years. he lives in Hollywood where he enjoys eating tacos.

1 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.: Nailing the interview

Learn how to seal the deal with a killer interview, led by Jennifer Aquino, CCMA board member, NDNU lecturer, writer and editor.

2 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.: Crossover skills

Learn from the pros the skills you need to succeed in today’s changing media landscape.

Sara Catania

Sara Catania is editorial director for digital media at NBC4 Southern California. Prior to that, she helped bring to California, launching dozens of sites for AOL/Huffington Post’s hyperlocal operation. Sara is a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times op-ed page and an adjunct journalism professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. She is the recipient of a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford and a Katrina Media Fellowship with the Open Society Institute. She has been a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, the LA Daily News and the LA Weekly. Her work has appeared in (and on) numerous publications and websites including Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, California, Legal Affairs, salon, Asian Week, New America Media, LA Observed and the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Doug Smith

Doug Smith is the Database editor of the Los Angeles Times. In 40 years at the Times, he’s covered sports, police, courts, schools, politics, local government, disasters and war. Highlights for him include writing the main bar for the Times’ Pulitzer-winning coverage of the North Hollywood shootout, and five trips to Iraq. Doug first used census data in the early 1990s to profile areas within the city of Los Angeles. He relied on data extensively while covering the Los Angeles school system in the late 1990s. In 2005 he was named database editor, responsible for all data analysis on projects. Among the projects he’s participated in over the past five years have been tracking migration out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, cataloguing deaths on the Metrolink commuter service, analyzing insurance payouts to civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan (T. Miller’s Selden Ring award winner), building a database of California’s war dead, building an interactive map of Los Angeles County’s 300 neighborhoods with census profiles, analyzing California student test scores and building a California schools website, working with reporters on The Times report on value-added test score analysis and most recently doing data analysis for the investigation of waste in the Community College building program.

Robert Meeks

Robert Meeks is online editor for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach and manages website production and development. A Southern California native and Long Beach resident, Meeks started his journalism career at the Orange County Register, where he covered the communities of Anaheim Hills and Villa Park. He has also written for The Compton Bulletin and The Inglewood Tribune. Robert, who graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, started working at the Press-Telegram in 2006. Since then he has produced award-winning news video and interactive web content and launched the pop culture blog, Modern Mythology.

Andy Sternberg

Andy Sternberg is currently an adjunct instructor of digital journalism in USC Annenberg’s graduate program and a founding partner and digital strategist at Adler Integrated. He’s been publishing content on the web since the mid-90’s for a variety of publications and online guides. In recent years, he served as news editor for, was a content producer for Yahoo! News, a blogger for KCET and was vice president of Digital at Live Earth. His personal blog is and he’s on Twitter: @andysternberg.

Diana Swartz

Diana Swartz is a regional editor for in Los Angeles and a multimedia instructor at UCLA. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years, including 10 years at the Los Angeles Times’ website, where her work won several awards. A native Californian, Diana launched her professional career covering preps for the Daily News. She later became a reporter for the L.A. Times, a copy editor at the Ventura County Star and the editor of

3 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.: To go to grad school or not?

Is more education worth the time and money?

Leon Braswell

Leon Braswell has served as director of admission and financial aid at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism since 2007.  A  graduate (bachelor of arts degree, political science and Latin American Studies, cum laude) of the University of Massachusetts, he served as director of international and transfer admissions at Tufts University from and has also worked in admissions at the University of Vermont and Bowdoin College. He earned his master of education degree in administration, planning and social policy at Harvard University and completed all course work and two chapters towards adoctoral degree in education; but is currently ABD (all but dissertation).

Rachel de Leon

Rachel de Leon graduated in the spring of 2011 with a bachelor’s in journalism from Cal State Northridge. She is attending Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism this fall. Throughout her undergraduate career, she held internships at multiple news organizations, including Vanguard, a documentary show on Current TV, and the public affairs department at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. She began looking into grad schools after taking an investigative course at CSUN that introduced her to the exciting world of FOIAs. After receiving her master’s, Rachel hopes to work in documentary production or longform digital storytelling.

Anthony Pesce

Anthony Pesce is a Digital Editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he builds news applications, data visualizations, and interactive graphics for Anthony was the Editor of the UCLA Daily Bruin, and a 2008 winner of the Knight News Challenge.

Marc Zarefsky

Marc Zarefsky is the Communications and Social Media Manager for Medill at Northwestern University, where he has worked since August 2010. In that role he facilitates Medill’s presence in the social media world, creates content for prospective graduate students, serves as Managing Editor of the Medill Alumni Magazine, maintains the Medill website, and more. Prior to his current role, Marc served as sports editor of the Faribault Daily News in Faribault, Minn., and as an Associate Reporter for, the official Major League Baseball website of the Chicago Cubs. Marc received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from Medill in 2007.