NORTHRIDGE, CALIF — September 28, 2017 — Zack Rome was in awe when he entered the Ferman Presentation Room in the Oviatt Library. Rome, a current California State University of Northridge student, is a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan and listens to local sports radio to follow the team. When he found out AM 570 LA Sports Radio host Tim Cates was going to be giving professional advice at the Journalism Alumni Association Speed Mentoring event he got excited. This was someone Rome listens to all the time and now he has a chance to speak with him. “I listen to him all the time on Dodger Talk. It was just so cool because I walked in here and he’s just sitting right there and he answered all the questions that I just have. That was awesome,” said Rome.
Rome spoke with several mentors in attendance to help get a better understanding of the journalism profession and to see what it takes to make it in the industry. Throughout his time at the event he received plenty of feedback, but one of the most important lessons he learned was to stay the course. “The cliché would be to trust the process. Just never be down if things don’t work out right away. Just know that things will work out if you look in the right places,” said Rome.
This is the type of advice that the JAA has hoped it could offer students when it held its annual Speed Mentoring event Sept. 27, at the Oviatt Library on campus. The event is designed to help journalism majors with their career aspirations by allowing them to receive advice from professionals in various areas of journalism.
Approximately 25 professionals from broadcast, radio, print, social media, sports, and public relations were in attendance to answer questions from about 75 students. Craig Leener, a JAA board member and CSUN alumnus, presented tips on crafting a good resume as well as the job interviewing process.
“One of the primary reasons for the Journalism Alumni Association's existence is to aid students who succeeded us. Speed Mentoring is one of the primary ways we do this," said Bob Rawitch, JAA president.
The event provides the practical knowledge that journalism students are always looking for from professionals in their field. Students were able to visit and speak with numerous professionals both in their field as well as other fields in journalism. Employees from Power 106 and 570 AM LA Sports radio, E! News, NBC, the Daily News, Amgen, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Associated Press, City News Service and the Los Angeles Times were in attendance as mentors for the students. Many of the mentors are CSUN alumni as well.
The students that attended the event got a clearer picture of their future and what they need to do to get their foot in the door.
Tynisha Lewis, a CSUN journalism student, enjoyed the professionalism of the event: “I always like these events put on by the Journalism Alumni Association. I like it because we are getting professional expertise from CSUN alumni and it is a very professional event.”
One of the mentors at the event, Steve Padilla, an editor for the Los Angeles Times, felt this was a beneficial event for the students. He and other mentors believed that this was the type of resource where students could get a little more than what is just offered in the classroom. As to why he did the event and what students can get out of it, he said, “Practical knowledge. A lot of what I’ve heard today is just very practical. Let’s put it this way, there’s certain things that are particular to a classroom like theoretical stuff. Sometimes you really want to know ‘how does it work?’”
Check out the photos here.
The JAA currently has about 150 members.
Where Are They Now?
Where Are They Now? – Tom Sanger, Class of ‘66
After stints in the newsrooms of KABC radio and the Associated Press in L.A., and researching and writing documentary film scripts for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in Sydney, I joined Southern California Gas Company. A 33-year career in corporate communications eventually landed me in San Diego as the corporate secretary for Sempra Energy.
I retired in 2005 and a year later began a four-year project to ghostwrite the autobiography of an Australian orthopedic surgeon. In 2012, I sat down to research and write my first novel. Five years later I produced Without Warning, a historical novel inspired by my grandmother’s experiences as an Athenia survivor. Athenia was a British passenger ship torpedoed by a German U-boat on the first day of World War II, Sept. 3, 1939. Based on actual people and events, my novel follows eight individuals to tell the human side of this tragedy, an event that has faded from the world’s collective memory.
Since the book’s publication in the summer of 2017, my wife, Kay, and I have been traveling the country promoting the book. You can catch up with my wanderings and read my blogs at my website, thomascsanger.com. My current efforts involve producing a documentary for TV about Athenia, and I have started a screenplay based on the book.
Kay and I have a son and a daughter, as well as two granddaughters who are busy growing up entirely too fast. Life has been very good to us.
Where Are They Now? – David Brady, Senior Public Relations Manager at LEGOLAND Florida Resort
From obituaries to newspapers to the dot-com bubble to LEGOLAND, California State University of Northridge alumnus, David Brady, has seen it all.
Brady attended CSUN from 1986 to 1992 and graduated with a double major in journalism and radio-television-film. During his time at CSUN he joined the staff of the Daily Sundial. He credits the Sundial for pushing him towards journalism as a career, “I had been at CSUN for a few years by that point but the energy and excitement I felt at the paper cemented my decision to make it a career.”
Brady currently works at LEGOLAND Florida Resort as their senior public relations manager where he leads their strategies and tactics. Before his current role he worked at the Walt Disney World Resort where he had a variety roles including public relations and internal communications.
Brady first got involved with the CSUN Journalism Alumni Association in early 2000 when he and some other alumni were challenged to revive the association. He and the other members began holding events and fundraising for scholarships.
Brady stresses how important it is to connect with other people in the industry to help your future. “I believe that relationships are very important in everyone's career, so the networking opportunities available from organizations like JAA are very valuable.”
The connections Brady has been able to cultivate have lasted throughout his career and even were helpful for his most recent move to LEGOLAND.
The most important thing Brady believes students should know is, “Don’t burn any bridges! You never know who you'll be working with — or for — in the years ahead, so make sure you're always cultivating and developing relationships.”
Where Are They Now? – Dr. Lori Baker-Schena
Whether it’s an individual, a large corporation, or many things in between, Dr. Lori Baker-Schena, MBA, EdD, California State University of Northridge alumna, can consult and help get her clients on track.
Dr. Baker-Schena brings her clients 35 years of public relations and marketing experience as well as 25 years as a tenured professor of public relations and journalism. She is currently in the process of writing a book.
Through her work she looks to help clients by bringing, “clarity to clients — especially those who feel stuck…helping identify passions, and then sharing the steps necessary to make those passions a reality.”
She knew journalism was her career path early on in life when she worked on her high school newspaper. Her big start in journalism started shortly after graduating CSUN when she served as the copy editor for the Daily News.
Dr. Baker-Schena has been a member of the CSUN Journalism Alumni Association since the 1980s and believes that it can be helpful to students with their careers and futures.
As for how she believes students can be most successful? &lsdquo;Work hard and do a lot of internships before you graduate.”
Where Are They Now Interview – Todd Bigelow '89
Name a major publication and CSUN alumnus Todd Bigelow has likely worked for it. Bigelow has traveled around the country doing freelance photojournalism for various outlets as well as founding a freelance workshop that is offered around the country.
Bigelow graduated from CSUN in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis in photojournalism. He credits taking his first journalism class, an elective, to what made him realize that this was the career choice for him.
“I remember after completing my first photography class that I was going to switch my major to journalism. I was raised in a fairly socially active and conscious family and discovered that photojournalism was the perfect manner in which to earn a living while being engaged in society,” said Bigelow.
Bigelow has done freelance work for major media outlets such as TIME, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People, US News, and World Report. He credits the internship he did while at CSUN for helping him get his foot in the door in journalism.
In the world of journalism, especially in freelance, it is significant to be able to network with others. Bigelow suggests that attending events can only help solidify your contacts. “Networking can be something simple like attending a photo gathering or a CSUN Dodger Night. You never know who you might meet and who might need a photographer,” said Bigelow.
Maintaining this strong network is just as important as starting it. Continuously engaging with his contacts has helped him to not only become successful, but to stay successful. This is where he feels that the alumni association can help with graduates. “It’s vital that students create and maintain a strong network in order to develop clients,” he said. “Like all alumni associations, the members look to help one another so it only makes sense for students to be involved.”
Bigelow continues to do freelance workshops around the country as well as teaching at both CSUN and UCLA.
Where Are They Now Interview – George Robertson '66
Many journalists get their start in smaller newspapers. There is a very beautiful grind that reporters go through throughout their career. For George Robertson that journey was no different, but he stayed in that world.
Robertson graduated from CSUN in 1966 and, just like many other reporters, made his way through smaller newspapers while getting promoted to news editor and then managing editor. Before he graduated he spent his time at CSUN working for the Sundial as a reporter and an editor.
The Sundial was where his passion for journalism was realized. “I knew journalism was my career after writing my first few stories at the college newspaper,” said Robertson.
It was that passion which helped Robertson become a Pulitzer Prize nominee after writing a series of articles on corruption in local government for the Sheridan Sun in Washington, which he went on to buy and operate until his retirement a few years ago. His articles led to a grand jury investigation into local city officials.
Robertson still likes to support journalism. He has been a part of the CSUN Journalism Alumni Association for many years and supports the schools’ journalism program.
Networking helped Robertson advance his career, but he also believes that having a strong reputation impacted his career just as much. “Networking in my career was important but even more important was my reputation as a serious reporter who kept asking the hard questions and not letting my biases show through,” he said.
Continuously learning is a strong message sent by Robertson to beginners as well his. Its passion for journalists telling important stories.
“Never forget that what you are doing is very important – keeping people informed about their local communities and the world,” said Robertson.
Where Are They Now – John Rogers '73
It started at a very early age for CSUN alumni John Rogers. It was at the Pow Wow, a weekly newspaper at Pacoima Junior High School, where his love of journalism first began as a reporter and editor.
“Since elementary school I had loved to write, but the idea of journalism, with its deadlines, breaking news and the chance to meet an endless stream of fascinating people with interesting stories to tell was what probably won me over to this form of writing,” said Rogers.
Like other writers, Rogers began his journey at a small community paper, the Simi Valley Enterprise, which eventually was purchased by the Ventura Star. This proved to be valuable experience as he was able to see various aspects of the newspaper business. “It was a great place to start, giving me a chance to learn all aspects of print media,” said Rogers.
Throughout his career, Rogers has worked across the country, from the west coast, east coast and in the Midwest. It was in 1987 though where he received a big opportunity working for the Associated Press where he has been ever since. Most recently he covers pop culture in Southern California.
Rogers has been a part of the CSUN Journalism Alumni Association for some time now and sees how it can benefit graduates. The journalism business is everchanging and that is part of where he sees the JAA’s benefits, he said. “In meeting people like that (alums) it also provides the opportunity to learn how the business is changing and how students might better prepare themselves to meet those changes when they leave school.”
It is this everchanging landscape where Rogers offers his best advice to young journalists. He suggests to continuously adapt so you can make yourself more marketable for companies.
“You can’t have too many skills these days,” said Rogers. “Also, match that with unending curiosity. Learn a little bit about everything. Never stop reading and learning.”
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Additional Information, Resources & Helpful Links
Special Offer for JAA Members:
Best-selling author Nathalie Virem
is offering a complimentary Breakthrough Session on "Building a Personal Brand" for CSUN JAA Members.
Bob Rawitch ’67, is now retired after a 50-year career as a senior editor at the L.A. Times and as executive vice president of Winner & Associates, a crisis management and strategic communications career. He started the Minority Editorial Training Program at the Times in 1984 and was president of the California Society of Newspaper Editors, the California Freedom of Information Committee and the California First Amendment Coalition. He is in his second term as president of the JAA.
Joselyn Arroyo ’04, ’08, Journalism Bachelors and Master’s Degree from CSUN (04 and 08). While at CSUN, co-founded Dreams To Be Heard and currently a member of Dreams Alliance. 10 years experience as a Producer for shows on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, MTV and TruTV. Former Supervising Producer for TruTV's "Top Funniest." Currently a producer on "Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen." Married for 12 years and Mom of 3 boys.
Steve Brener ’73, is president of Brener Zwikel & Associates, Inc., recognized as one of the top sports publicists in the country. Brener's professional career actually began at Los Angeles Valley College where he was Sports Information Director for the college as well as sports editor of the college newspaper, the Valley Star. He graduated in 1974 from CSUN with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a minor in Business Administration His career in public relations and Major League Baseball began with the then California Angels in 1969. He joined the Los Angeles Dodgers' public relations/publicity staff in 1970 and the Dodgers named him to the position of LA Dodgers Publicity Director at age 24, making him the youngest publicity director in major league baseball history. Brener spent 18 years with the Dodgers.
After spending the majority of his professional life with the Dodgers, Brener moved on to the sport of Thoroughbred racing when he was named vice-president of marketing and public relations for the famed Hollywood Park racetrack in 1987. In 1988, he launched his own public relations firm and two years later merged his business with that of his partner, Toby Zwikel, forming Brener Zwikel & Associates, Inc.
Brener serves on numerous foundations and boards including the Jim Murray Foundation board and the advisory board of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission.
Leah Cartabruno ’65, became managing editor of the California Journal magazine and PBS TV show after being the first professional woman to become a nonpartisan consultant to a California Assembly committee. Subsequently, she was a PR appointee under President Jimmy Carter and later second in command of the communications department of the NASDAQ stock market. Ultimately, she heard California call her home and resumed her consultant role with committees in the state Senate. After retiring, she's resumed her "Valley Girl" role.
Kitty Dill ’72, ’80, Durich’s broad career paths have been etched in the fields of journalism, public information, public relations, community volunteering and arts advocating. She was pre-founder and co-founder of the Ventura County Professional Women’s Network and received its inaugural Spirit of Networking Award. Also, she cherishes a City of Thousand Oaks Excellence in the Arts Award; and the Journalism Alumni Association (JAA) Board 2016 Volunteer of the Year. Her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in education, educational psychology and guidance are from CSUN.
Elena Epstein ’92, as the Director of Content and Strategic Partnerships, Elena is responsible for overseeing the editorial content of L.A. Parent’s print monthly magazine, weekly e-newsletter, digital content, as well as annual publications including “Inclusive LA” and the “The Education Guide.” Elena is also responsible for establishing and maintaining partnerships with various community organizations that impact the lives of children and families in Los Angeles. Elena and her husband, Ron, bought LA Parent in 2012.
Janet Gossom ’97, After working as a graphic artist and photographer, Janet Gossom decided to embark upon a career in journalism. This led her to California State University, Northridge in 1995.
Janet held many staff positions on the Sundial while attending CSUN. She worked as a staff writer, copy editor, wire editor and editor in chief. Janet also worked as a freelance writer for The Ventura County Coast Reporter while attending CSUN.
Upon earning her degree in December 1997, she took a staff writer position with the Signal in Santa Clarita and eventually became the Lifestyle editor. She continued to write articles for the Signal after taking a position as a communications writer at Blue Cross of California in 1999.
Janet continues to work for Blue Cross, which is now known as Anthem Blue Cross. She has served as a senior proposal development analyst for the past nine years. She is also a Notary Public.
Janet has participated in many volunteer activities through the years. She has served an adult literacy tutor for Ventura County. She has also enjoyed her time as a mentor for CSUN’s Journalism Alumni Association. While her favorite spare-time activity is figure skating, Janet has also served as a board member for the Channel Islands Figure Skating Association, as well as a skating school coaching assistant.
Michelle Hokr ’96, has more than two decades of experience in public relations and corporate communications. Her areas of expertise include media relations, employee communications, publication management and crisis communication. Michelle has been working with Kevin/Ross Public Relations since 2001, providing day-to-day PR support to some of the agency’s longest-standing accounts. She has contributed strategic and creative direction to many award-winning projects and has landed media coverage for Kevin/Ross clients in a wide range of media outlets. Michelle holds a bachelor of arts in journalism from CSUN. She graduated Kappa Tau Alpha.
David Kano ’03, ’17, an award-winning graduate of CSUN in the entertainment industry. David has written and produced feature film projects, wrote for various Hollywood publications, and has been reporter/host for FilmOn TV in mixed martial arts and boxing. Currently, David is the director and executive producer on the feature documentary 'Concussed: The American Dream,' which covers head trauma in combat sports.
Rochelle Shapiro Kanoff ’79, is a corporate affairs senior manager at Amgen, the world’s leading independent biotechnology company, where she focuses on campaigns, brand and reputation strategy and communications. She is the former editor-in-chief of Amgen’s internal newsletter, staff news portal and several annual reports. Prior to joining Amgen in 2003, Rochelle spent several years in magazine publishing working on dozens of publications in roles ranging from managing editor of Hot Rod Magazine to director of operations for Variety. Rochelle also taught UCLA Extension copy editing courses. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from CSUN and has been a CSUN Journalism Alumni Association (JAA) board member since 2001 and director of scholarships since 2002. She’s also a volunteer writing coach and mentor for Journalism and Public Relations students. In 2015, Rochelle received the JAA CSUN Volunteer of the Year Service Award for her ongoing commitment to inspiring and developing the next generation of communicators and storytellers.
Craig Leener ’77, recently retired as president of Burbank-based post-production house My Eye Media, where his duties included directing the company’s human resources efforts. Prior to that, he was Senior Vice President of Human Resources & Administration at Technicolor Creative Services. He began his career in film operations at Warner Bros. and technical video services at Disney. In 2017, Craig published his debut novel, “This Was Never About Basketball,” a young-adult thriller with a theme of redemption. He works as a freelance sportswriter for The Signal Newspaper in Santa Clarita. Craig graduated from CSUN with a Radio/TV/Film Degree in 1977.
Jorge Martin ’90, is the Director of University Communications at CSUN. He's been in that post since 2014, overseeing content posted to CSUN Today, CSUN Weekly, the university's social media, alumni and development communications. He got his start writing prep sports for the Daily News, eventually working in health care and later for DIRECTV and the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was the Publications Director. Jorge worked with fellow alumni Mark Langill and Cary Osborne to publish Dodgers: Coast to Coast, the first illustrated history produced by the Dodger organization. Jorge and his wife Shannon have three daughters: Solana, Rheanne and Larissa.
Kacey Montoya ’03, is an Emmy Award winning reporter/anchor/weather-caster at KTLA. After she graduated from CSUN she started her career at WOAY-TV in Oak Hill, West Virginia. Her next move was to Palm Springs, CA where she spent two years as the morning and noon anchor before she moved to Portland, OR where she worked at KOIN-TV for five years.
Dr. Melinda Sue Norin ’80, Motivational Trainer, Consultant, Life Coach. With a passion for knowledge and results, Dr. Norin earned her bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Speech Communication, then a California real estate license, certification in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Doctorate in Psychology for Organizational Management and Consulting. Transitioning from her public relations interest to business acumen, Dr. Norin consults organizations on government regulations, marketing strategies, employee engagement and change management. Founder of www.TheCompanyDoctor.biz. Some of her 6,000 clients include: The County of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura; City of Los Angeles and Santa Monica; SCAQMD; FBI; IRS; USPS; DWP; Google, Honest Company, and Latham & Watkins. Dr. Norin received awards from LAUSD, LAC+USC Medical Center, Ventura County Transportation Commission, Metro, Book Publicists is Southern California and the SFV American Society of Quality. Raising the neighborhood kids along with her son, Brandon, and caring for her now-deceased sister and World War II vet father were her priority.
Brittany Pierce ’06, is the award-winning executive producer and host of Rhythm Abroad, a travel series airing nationally on PBS. She created the television show after noticing a lack of diversity in travel programming. In Rhythm Abroad Brittany travels the world connecting with people through dance and music despite language barriers. Prior to developing her own television show, she worked as a producer and reporter for Channel 4 San Diego covering human interest and lifestyle stories. She is a CSUN alum who earned a degree in broadcast journalism.
Milt Valera ’68, is the Founder and Chairman of the National Notary Group, which comprises the nonprofit National Notary Association and National Notary Foundation, as well as NNA Services, LLC; and NNA Insurance Services, Inc.
Valera founded the National Notary Group upon assuming leadership of the National Notary Association in 1982, restructuring the NNA into a nonprofit educational entity and then establishing NNA Services and NNA Insurance Services as important support enterprises. Valera later founded the nonprofit National Notary Foundation to serve as the NNA’s philanthropic arm in support of charitable causes and educational programs. .He is a member of the CSUN Foundation, the AMC Dean’s Circle and former chair of the CSUN Heritage Society.
Roberta Gootman Wax ’73, a former reporter with United Press International, is a freelance writer covering a variety of topics, from parenting and health to business and entertainment. Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Westways, Emmy, L.A. Parent, Health Trends, Belle Armoire, Los Angeles Magazine, RN Times, UCLA Magazine, Animation Magazine, Somerset Studio, Cloth Paper Scissors, and others. She teaches feature writing through UCLA's Writer's Program and has taught journalism at CSUN and UCLA Extension. She is on the board of directors of the L.A. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Steve Wyard ’75, and former Entertainment Editor of the Sundial, is in the twilight of a mediocre career as a sales rep for All Valley Washer Service, which provides equipment and service for apartment laundries. He served as a Director and President of the JAA in its first incarnation during the '80s, and now, in his second tour of duty, enjoys helping current J-students hone their skills as part of the Board's Coaching Program, He and wife Kim (Class of '75, former Co-Editor of the Sundial and CEO of the Northeast Valley Health Corporation) live within walking distance of the campus, and while neither has a job "in the field" they're grateful for the communication and writing skills they learned in the J-Department, which have served them well in their careers.