Nicole Vargas sees herself in the middle of evolutionary changes underway in the journalism industry.
As an assistant professor of digital journalism at San Diego City College, Vargas is mentoring future news reporters.
“Whether it’s print, podcast or broadcast, my job is to teach students about the fundamentals of journalism,” Vargas told Times of San Diego. “I tell my students that it’s better to be right than fast.”
In addition to teaching classes at City College, she is the faculty adviser for City Times Media, a digital-first news operation that includes the award-winning news website, sdcitytimes.com.
The college’s programs also include the production of “Newscene,” a weekly TV news program, CityScene, an arts and culture magazine, and City Cooking Challenge, a TV show focusing on de-stigmatizing food insecurity.
In 2021, the college was honored by the College Media Association with Pinnacle Awards for the top, two-year college media outlet and two-year college news website in the nation. The college was also a finalist for the top two-year college media outlet again in 2022, as well as the top radio station, feature magazine and TV station.
“Our goal is to prepare our students to work in a number of different journalist fields,” she said. “Students need to feel like there’s a place for them in journalism.”
Vargas admits it’s a challenging time in higher education.
“Colleges are reimagining themselves in ways that match students’ priorities and needs with additional resources for career training and financial aid,” she said. “Educators are looking to find ways to meet the changing needs of students, some of whom are questioning the value of a college education.”
Meanwhile, Vargas also is serving as the 2023 president of the 400-member San Diego Press Club, one of the largest press clubs in the nation in terms of membership size.
“It’s a difficult time to be a journalist,” she said. “Newsrooms are shrinking due to budget cuts and our credibility is under attack. But, that’s why belonging to a community like the Press Club is so important.”
After 21 years of dedicated leadership, Terry Williams, the club’s executive director, is retiring at the end of the year.
The search for a successor is underway and a request for proposals for a new club manager is posted on the club’s website.
The Press Club hopes to name a replacement who will be mentored by Williams through the 50th annual Excellence in Journalism awards program, which will be held in late September this year.
“For so many years, when you think of the Press Club, you think fondly of Terry Williams,” Vargas said. “She has been the glue for this organization for so long. We owe it to her to bring in someone who can carry on her amazing legacy and take the club forward.”
In keeping with her pattern, Vargas’ career has included being a change-maker.
After graduating from the University of California San Diego in 1999, she was hired as a reporter at The San Diego Union-Tribune. During her decade there, she was the U-T’s first sports reporter to shoot video that accompanied print stories, which eventually included high school and college athletics, the Chargers and Padres, and the annual professional golf tournament at Torrey Pines.
“In 2003, I accompanied two high school sports teams on a trip to Cuba and I kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to tell these stories with more than words,’” Vargas recalled.
Shortly after she returned, she started carrying a video camera to athletic events. With training from a newsroom program developed through Cal Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Vargas was involved in the U-T’s earlier multimedia journalism efforts, which included interactive projects and audio storytelling.
After the U-T, Vargas spent another decade as a lecturer and internship coordinator at San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. She was the first faculty member to teach digital and social media as part of SDSU’s College of Extended Studies professional certificate program.
She joined City College in August 2018 and is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Her research focuses on the use of portfolios to assist community college students in transitioning from career-technical education programs to entry-level jobs and paid internships.
“I love watching our graduates get jobs in the media industry,” said Vargas. “They need to be well-versed with a variety of skills because you never know what will be the next big thing in journalism.”
Joining Vargas on the 2023 Press Club board’s executive committee: Andrew James, first VP, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; Sarah Austin, second VP, TW2 Marketing; Cliff Albert, treasurer, KOGO News Radio; Albert Fulcher, secretary, Integrity Newspapers; Eileen Gaffen, immediate past president, Steres Gaffen Media.
Other Press Club board members include: Kristen Castillo, writer and producer; Luis Cruz, The San Diego Union-Tribune; Lisa Deaderick, The San Diego Union-Tribune; Maggie Espinosa, travel journalist and author; John Fox, REZ Radio; Rick Griffin, Rick Griffin Public Relations; Elaine Masters, tripwellgal.com; Ebone Monet, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; Dean Nelson, Point Loma Nazarene University; Don Sevrens, The San Diego Union-Tribune (retired); and Susanna Peredo Swap, Vanguard Culture.
The board also includes four former members with director emeritus status. They include Reid Carroll, Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, Barbara Metz and Laura Walcher.
(W)right On Communications Adds 2 Senior Strategists
(W)right On Communications, a San Diego public relations firm, has announced the additions of Patricia Maxwell and Aleaha Kopec to the staff, both with the title of senior communications strategists.
Maxwell, with 15 years of experience in technology, science, conservation and higher education, will serve clients in Wright-On’s business-to-business and technology group, while Kopec, with more than a decade of strategic communications experience, will serve consumer and lifestyle clients at the agency.
Previously, Maxwell headed her own PR and marketing consultancy. She also has previously served as director of marketing and communication technology for the Catalina Island Conservancy and director of marketing and public relations for Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente. She also spent several years in Lincoln, NB, where she served as communications director for a nonprofit that provided services to blind people.
Maxwell has a doctorate in media psychology from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara and a master’s in business administration from Loma Linda University. She also serves as a director on the San Diego chapter board of the Public Relations Society of America.
Kopec has experience with consumer food and wellness brands as well as healthcare and hospitality on the local and national scale. Her previous roles have included positions with several San Diego public relations agencies supporting a variety of consumer, lifestyle and hospitality clients. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Connecticut.
“Aleaha and Patricia are great additions to the (W)right On team,” said Julie Wright, president and founder of the agency. “They bring more than strong communications credentials. Both have a clear passion for their clients’ industries and their profession that makes working with them a joy.”
(W)right-On, founded in 1998, operates offices in San Diego, Los Angeles and North Vancouver, British Columbia.
Americans Believe National News Misleads, But Trust Local Outlets
Half of Americans believe that national news outlets tend to mislead, misinform and persuade its viewers and readers to adopt a particular point of view through their reporting, according to survey results released last week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.
The survey results go beyond a low level of trust in the media’s truthfulness to the startling point that many believe there is intent to deceive, as reported by the Associated Press.
However, the survey, which drew from a sample of about 6,000 Americans, found that faith in local news outlets remains much stronger than in national organizations.
When asked if they believed that most national news organizations do not intend to mislead, 50 percent of respondents disagreed. Only 25 percent agreed.
“That was pretty striking for us,” Gallup consultant Sarah Fioroni told AP.
“Americans don’t seem to think that the national news organizations care about the overall impact of their reporting on the society,” said John Sands, Knight’s senior director for media and democracy, as reported by AP.
Younger generation survey respondents, including Gen Z and Millennials, were less like to have favorable opinions of mainstream media platforms, as reported by National Review.
However, the AP said, “The ability of many people to instantly learn news from a device they hold in their hand, the rapid pace of the news cycle and an increased number of news sources would indicate that more Americans are on top of the news than ever before.”
San Diego AMA to Host Comedy Club Social
The American Marketing Association’s San Diego chapter will host a networking mixer followed by a comedy show starting at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Mic Drop Comedy Club, 8878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
The mixer runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The comedy show begins at 7 p.m. Cost to attend is $40 for members, $55 for nonmembers. Cost includes one drink ticket, appetizers and comedy show admission.
AMA officials said, “Come out for the connections, stay for the laughs.” For more information, send an email to email@example.com.
Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.