Georgeanne Irvine with one of the San Diego Zoo’s flamingos.

By Rick Griffin

San Diego public relations veteran Georgeanne Irvine, a 40-year employee with the San Diego Zoo, has ventured into a new role of overseeing book publishing at San Diego Zoo Global Press, an entity that’s part of San Diego Zoo Global, the nonprofit organization that operates the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Irvine began working at the zoo on March 22, 1978, as a public relations assistant. Over the years her titles have included public relations manager, associate director of development communications and now director of corporate publishing.

“This is actually my third career with the zoo, first in PR for 22 years, then development for 16 years and now overseeing our book publishing division since January 2017,” said Irvine. “I have found that each role has prepared me for the next.”

So far, San Diego Zoo Global Press has released five books, including three for children and two for adults.

Irvine has authored all three children’s books, including one titled “Karen’s Heart: The True Story of a Brave Baby Orangutan.” It’s the story about a baby Sumatran orangutan at the zoo with a hole in her heart and needed open heart surgery to correct it.

The book also features a 1994 letter written to Karen by Jennifer Auger of San Diego, who was 5 years old at the time and battling leukemia as a patient at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Withdrawn and despondent, Auger’s mother encouraged her daughter to write a letter to somebody else who was sick. So, the child wrote an encouraging letter to Karen, telling the 2-year-old young ape recovering from open-heart surgery to be courageous and stay strong.

Both Auger and Karen eventually recovered. Today, Karen still lives at the San Diego Zoo, and Auger works as a registered nurse at Rady’s Children’s Hospital.

Irvine kept the encouraging letter in her files for 25 years and included it for the book. “The letter touched my heart, which is why I saved it,” said Irvine, who has written 24 books for children. “Not until recently did I have the opportunity to write the book about Karen and feature Jennie’s letter.

In the summer of 2017, Irvine googled Auger and discovered she worked at Rady’s. When Georgeanne reached out to her and told her about the letter “Jennie was surprised and stunned,” said Irvine. “Jennie couldn’t believe that anybody would keep a letter that she had written as a child. Jennie told me the hospital nurses who cared for her as a child inspired her to become a nurse. Jennie still visits Karen in the zoo today. I know that Jennie is a wonderful, dedicated nurse to the children who are patients in the hospital.”

The other two children’s books authored by Irvine are titled, “Fabulous Floyd: The True Story of a Flamingo Who Never Gave Up,” and “Ruuxa & Raina: A Cheetah and Dog’s True Story of Friendship and Miracles.”

More books are planned in the near future. Next year’s batch will include a biography of the Belle Benchley, who led the zoo from 1927 to 1953, becoming the first female director of a major public zoo as well as more children’s books by Irvine.

Scheduled for release in 2020 will be a tale about the return of the California condor, as well as the story of former zoo director Chuck Bieler who helped the zoo overcome financial struggles in the 1980s and expand conservation efforts. Former TV anchor Kathi Diamant is writing the book about Bieler. Irvine said proceeds from book sales will advance conservation efforts by San Diego Zoo Global. Books can be purchased at the zoo or online at

Health Care Communicators Announce 2018 Finest Awards

The Health Care Communicators of San Diego, a professional networking group, recently presented its 2018 Finest Awards. First-, second- and third-place awards were presented in 24 categories, including digital marketing, PR, writing, collateral and special events. Entrants for the awards included health care providers and companies, public health agencies and marketing firms.

UC San Diego Health received 14 awards and Palomar Health took home nine awards. Other multiple-award winners included Scripps Health (six awards), AMN Healthcare, and Studio K Communications (three awards), Millennium Health, North County Health Services and Sharp HealthCare (two awards). Single award winners included CG Life, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Jacqueline Carr

Jacqueline Carr, assistant executive director of communications and media relations at UC San Diego Health, was named Communicator of the Year. Judges said the winner was selected for her humble nature and how she led her team to support the School of Medicine’s 50th anniversary.

The Best in Show award went to Studio K Communications, the entrant with the highest overall score among all entries. Studio K was honored for their feature article, “For the Boys,” which was written for Cedars-Sinai. Also at the event, a $2,000 scholarship was presented to Tanner Cunrow, a recent Fallbrook Union High School graduate who is now studying nursing at California Baptist University.

Awards were presented Sept. 27 at the Green Acre Campus Point restaurant. A complete list of winners can be found at The HCCSD is a professional networking group for communications professionals who work in the health care, wellness, biotech, medical device, health information technology and pharmaceutical industries.

Former Lawyer Turned TV Anchor Joins KUSI-TV

Logan Byrnes, a former practicing attorney, has joined KUSI-TV as a news anchor.

A California native, Byrnes graduated from the University of Southern California, followed by earning a law degree at Whittier Law School in Los Angeles. He litigated general civil and construction defect cases, often representing architects, contractors and developers.

Logan Byrnes

“But, I was always attracted to broadcasting,” Byrnes said. “For several years, I was a lawyer during the week and spent weekends in Palm Springs as a reporter for the NBC affiliate, then later as the main evening anchor for the ABC affiliate.”

He left law and was eventually recruited to Connecticut, where he spent 10 years at WTIC-TV, a Fox affiliate in Hartford and WVIT-TV, an NBC affiliate in New Britain. He also filled-in on overnight newscasts, including NBC’s “Early Today” and MSNBC’s “First Look,” along with interviews with the ultra-rich on CNBC’s “High Net Worth.” He also reported for “Inside Edition.” In 2016, he returned to L.A. as weekend anchor at KTTV/Fox 11.

“I always wanted to live in San Diego,” said Byrnes, who also is a certified ski instructor and scuba diver. “Whenever I visited San Diego, I would drop by to check-in with Steve Cohen (KUSI news director) and keep him in the loop about my career. I loved trial work, including the performance aspect of the trials and asking questions at depositions, but I prefer news broadcasting.”

AMA Presents 20th Annual Cause Conference

San Diego’s American Marketing Association chapter will present the 20th annual Cause Conference on Friday, Oct. 12, at the Town and Country Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North. This year’s theme is “Cause + Conference.”

AMA said the conference brings together purpose-driven businesses and nonprofit community leaders for one of the largest cause and social purpose marketing events on the West Coast. Cost to attend is $189 for members, $299 for nonmembers. For registration information, visit

More than 50 speakers are scheduled to present. Malin Burnham, president of The Burnham Foundation, is among this year’s keynote speakers. Burnham’s name has been synonymous with San Diego philanthropy and civic leadership for decades. It graces the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, USD Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and The Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement at The San Diego Foundation. He was selected as “Mr. San Diego” in 1998 and “Philanthropist of the Year” in 2000. The 90-year-old Burnham has served on the boards of 18 for-profit businesses and 32 not-for-profits, plus he had a founding role in three firms listed on the NYSE or American Stock Exchange.

Other speakers will include: Patrick Combs, author of “Major in Success;” Margie Blanchard, The Ken Blanchard Companies; Anne Marbarger, Padres Pedal the Cause; Nancy Jamison, San Diego Grantmakers; Hal Dunning, Marsh & McLennan Agency; Brad Lee, Breg, Inc. Sponsors include Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, Buchanan Brand & Design, Divergent Group and National University. Speakers from media outlets will include: Noreen Ippolito, iHeart Media San Diego; Alberto Mier y Teran, KFMB Stations; Nels Jensen, San Diego Business Journal. A kickoff reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11, at National University’s La Jolla headquarters.

Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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