I was a public defender for 10 years before I applied to run the Federal Public Defenders Office for the Central District of California. When I got the job two years ago I was the youngest person ever appointed to run a federal public defender office in U.S. history. When more senior leaders ask me how I manage an office where most of my staff is older and more experienced than me, I don’t always say this out loud, but sometimes I do: I say it was my experience being editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin that gave me the confidence to take a risk, to apply for something I wasn’t certain I could do and go for a difficult leadership role that challenged me. If I could manage a team that put out a daily newspaper while also not failing out of college, then this leadership role that I have now feels very easy in comparison. I credit the Daily Bruin and the lessons it taught me with my being able to achieve this position and for continuing to inspire me.
I can’t honestly say I remember a single lecture I heard at UCLA. I’m not even confident I can name more than two professors. But the memories that are very real and feel very special are those that I had at the paper. Like the time my editor literally tore up a draft of something I wrote in front of my face and told me it was garbage. And he meant it. It inspired me to work harder every time I had to write something so I would never turn in anything again that was mediocre. I think about that moment every time I have to write and file a brief for court.
The reason I do this work is because I think our system of government needs accountability checks. If it’s operating unfairly, unconstitutionally or cruelly, it needs to be called out. Accountability comes from bringing issues to light – by truth-telling – and that is done by people like journalists and public defenders. We do different work, but the public interest spirit of our work is the same. And for that reason I value and fervently believe in the importance of journalism and especially student journalism.
— Cuauhtemoc Ortega ’03,accepting his award for Distinguished Alumni Award at the recent Daily Bruin Alumni Network reunion
We are in the final few days of our annual Spark fundraising drive and you can help put us in reach of our $25,000 goal. All money raised will go toward scholarships for UCLA students. Dozens of alumni have contributed this year, including $3,170 raised from 30 young alumni as part of a young alumni challenge led by Jillian Beck ’14 and others. Now, we’re racing toward a Nov. 8 end date of our campaign. Won’t you consider chipping in a few dollars? There’s no time to waste.
The Daily Bruin Alumni Network came back to campus Oct. 15 to hold its first full reunion since 2019. The events included a morning careers workshop for current staff, a series of panels featuring alumni, and a dinner program recognizing scholarship recipients and the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
During a panel on the state of the Daily Bruin, current leadership talked about getting back into the swing of three print days a week and the late-night deadlines that come with it. The editors said they are trying to get out of the “survival mode” that came from the pandemic and restore institutional knowledge. “We are not a two-year-old newspaper and it’s important to remember that,” David Rimer, the digital managing editor, said. The Daily Bruin website has gotten 2.2 million views so far in 2022 and is read in 150 countries. While print remains an important part of the paper, staff are also venturing deeper online – including onto TikTok, “with trepidation.”
In the second panel, Suneel Ratan ’84, in conversation with Tanner Walters ’18, shared lessons about how to be resilient and chart a fulfilling career path after leaving The Bruin. The day’s final panel saw an animated discussion of the state of objectivity in the media, including if it’s possible to ever be truly neutral, whether billionaire media owners influence the newspapers they own and the role of social media for today’s journalists.
At dinner, DBAN congratulated scholarship recipients Abigail Siatkowski, Sam Settleman, Alexis Jones, Shaanth Kodialam and Megan Tagami. Tagami was specifically recognized as the second annual Dave McNary scholar, in honor of late journalist and DB alumnus Dave McNary ’74. McNary’s family attended to congratulate Tagami and be recognized for their generosity in creating the Dave McNary endowment, which will fund a scholarship each year. At the dinner program, DBAN also awarded this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award to Cuauhtemoc Ortega ’03, the federal public defender for the Central District of California. He spoke about how his time at The Bruin prepared him for a leadership role as the youngest federal public defender in U.S. history. More than 60 Daily Bruin alumni from six decades attended the dinner program and afternoon events. On behalf of DBAN, thanks so much to those who attended and participated in these events. We look forward to seeing everyone next year!
Cranking Up the Mentoring
At the request of the current staffers, DBAN launched a pilot alumni advisors program this quarter, beginning with DB Sports. Volunteer alumni have the opportunity to share our section-specific experience and best practices, as well as institutional memories of The Bruin (some of which were lost during the pandemic) with a staff eager to bust out of pandemic mode and reinvigorate the Kerckhoff newsroom. Three to four alumni advisors are assigned each quarter to review productions and provide weekly section critique memos. The section editors also meet with the alumni advisors once a month via Zoom, and staffers are welcomed to contact the advisors for individual “office hours.”
Our thanks to Diamond Leung ’04 (The Philadelphia Inquirer), Claire Fahy ’17 (The New York Times) and Kenzie Posse ’18 (OddsJam) for leading off our program. Joe Yogerst ’79, Bob Heber ’78, Jason Drantch ’15, Luci Chavez ’93 and Scott Bair ’02 are on deck for the winter and spring quarters. The DBAN Mentoring Committee will take what we’re learning in DB Sports this quarter, and explore the possibility of expanding the program for other Bruin sections. If you would like to volunteer and help your old section, please contact Lawrence Ma ’95 at LawrenceMaEsq@me.com or Paul Signorelli ’76 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Latest Honorees
The generous contributions from alumni continue to fund five annual scholarships of $2,000 each for students hoping to go into journalism. Our newest scholars are studying political science, economics, communications and psychology and lead sections of the Daily Bruin ranging from sports to arts to news. As scholar Shaanth Kodialam Exp. ’25 puts it, the Daily Bruin is "a space where I've found support, joy and an affirmation of the journalism I want to pursue." Congratulations to all on a well-deserved honor.
Your Critique Needed
We continue to offer our unvarnished opinion of the Daily Bruin’s coverage in biweekly written feedback to help the current staff see what’s working and make improvements. Please sign up to take a shift. We’re still looking for four volunteers to get us through to the end of winter quarter.
Blue and Gold
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The Bruin staff recently received nine Pacemaker awards, issued by the Associated Collegiate Press, and 12 Pinnacle awards, which are issued by the College Media Association. The awards recognized The Bruin’s website, coverage of campus shooting threats, a magazine story on COVID-19 test vending machines, sports columns and more.
Marlene Casillas ’89 is looking for experienced freelance writers interested in paid work for a Los Angeles firefighter charity. The assignments would be to write articles for the charity’s websites. Some topics may be serious, such as firefighters and cancer, while others would be lighter features and profiles. Contact Marlene at email@example.com or 323-259-5217 if interested.
We remember the life and achievements of George L. Garrigues, a journalist, teacher and chronicler of Daily Bruin history who died Aug. 10 at the age of 90. Born in Inglewood, Garrigues was in the first graduating class at UC Riverside and later came to UCLA to earn a master of arts degree in 1970. He wrote his thesis on the history of the Daily Bruin from 1919 to 1955, a period that included the Depression, war, having to fight off a myth that the paper was run by Communists and a battle with the school over The Bruin’s independence. His career included teaching journalism at six universities and authoring several books, including a history of Los Angeles’s Palms neighborhood.
Eric Warren ’86 formed an e-commerce business, Red Earth Commerce, which recently acquired best-selling e-commerce brand The Gardener’s Friend. Warren spent his early career in computer journalism, followed by several years in public relations. More recently he served as chief marketing officer and operator of tech startups, and also taught English composition at the local community college. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his wife.
Neil Bedi ’15won the inaugural Outstanding Young Journalist award in the Barlett and Steele Awards for the Best in Investigative Business Journalism. Bedi’s award recognized his work at ProPublica investigating faulty mechanical heart pumps.
Hannah Gordon ’03 was recognized by the San Francisco Business Times for inspirational work as a sports executive. Gordon is the top lawyer for the San Francisco 49ers, a role she’s held for a dozen years. In her interview with the Business Times, she reflects on some of the stereotypes she faced as a female reporter covering football for the Daily Bruin, but how she learned, “If you keep walking through those doors, chances are they’re really open.”
Washington Post colleagues National Editor Matea Gold (Editor-in-Chief, 1994) and Projects Editor Courtney Kan (Prime Art Director, 2009) attended the George Polk Awards luncheon in New York in April. Gold led the staff who won the National Reporting award for “The Attack,” a three-part series on the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Kan helped lead the staff who shared the award for Technology Reporting with the Forbidden Stories Network and Guardian U.S. for "The Pegasus Project," a collaborative investigation into military-grade spyware.
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