Alumni Notes - August - December 2011

Alumni Notes are now online!

Continue to send us your news on job changes, promotions, schooling and families. We will update these notes every few months. Check the date at the top so you can stay current.



Ford Burkhart has been taking part in a letters project started by a New Mexico State University class after he encouraged letter writing in a lecture there. As part of the project, journalism students write 150 words on any New York Times article and send them to The Times. A copy goes to Burkhart, who once edited letters at The New York Times. He picks the three best, writes a critique of all the 2011 letters, and The Times donates prizes. The best prize: the NYT published one of the top three this year -- no small feat, since The Times says it gets about 1,000 letters a day.



Paul Horn is retired and living in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where he does some financial consulting with condo associations.



Sheryl Kornman left television in late March 2011 to take a communications job with Pima County, after more than 30 years in daily journalism in New York (Newsday) Los Angeles (L.A. Times), San Diego (San Diego Union-Tribune), Tucson (Tucson Citizen) and elsewhere. She most recently worked as an assignment editor at KGUN-9 in Tucson. In that capacity, she played a key role in the coverage of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Sheryl writes: “I wrote dozens of web stories during 12- and 14-hour work days in the days following the tragedy. I also helped get our crews to the site, got live interviews with witnesses to the incident and helped arrange many interviews for around the clock coverage by the ABC affiliate. Some of this coverage was picked up by the network and I also helped arrange interviews for days, as a courtesy, for international media.”



Michael Chihak is host of “Arizona Week,” a weekly news program airing on KUAT-TV in Tucson.



Jean Bayou is currently serving her seventh term as president of the Songwriters Association of Washington, D.C.  She was the recipient of the Executive of the Year award from the Washington Area Music Association in 2008 and 2009.  Jean released her debut CD of all original songs entitled "Just About Everything" in 2010.



Ernest Sotomayor, assistant dean for career services at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists June 17. Prior to his current post at Columbia, Ernest was Long Island editor for Newsday, where he also served in several other editor posts for 16 years. He joins fellow UA Journalism graduates Frank Sotomayor ’66 and Edith Sayre Auslander ’61 in the Hall of Fame.



Linda Valdez won the Walker Stone Award, a $10,000 prize from the Scripps Howard Foundation, for editorials that made a case for comprehensive immigration reform as anti-immigration fever erupted in Arizona. She’s an editorial writer at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. Winners were honored at a May 3 dinner in Cincinnati.



Carol Ann Bassett’s third book, Galapagos at the Crossroads: Pirates, Biologists, Tourists, and Creationists Battle for Darwin's Cradle of Evolution (National Geographic Books) is a finalist for the Oregon Book Award (OBA) in Creative Nonfiction. This the second of her three books to be selected as a finalist in that genre by OBA. She is an associate professor in the University of Oregon School of Journalism, where she teaches literary nonfiction and environmental writing.



Paul Giblin won the 2010 U.S. Army Civilian Journalist of the Year Award. He is assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Kabul, Afghanistan. Contact him at



Jennifer Michaels lives in Las Vegas and works for MGM Resorts International, overseeing a department of 24 people responsible for PR for 12 resort casinos in Las Vegas. She also supervises the company’s in-room magazine, which has a quarterly circulation of 180,000.



Savannah Guthrie left her post as White House correspondent for NBC News to become the 9 a.m. anchor of the Today Show.



Jason Ground is the new senior producer at KVOA-TV in Tucson.



Ron Parsons is the senior director of product development for the Tribune Company's newspaper and broadcast websites. With oversight of core functionality for, and other Tribune sites, Ron manages the development, implementation and maintenance of shared functionality across Tribune's Web properties. He is based at the Los Angeles Times office in downtown LA.



Melissa Mazzella DeLaney is the communications director at the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. She previously spent eight years in Washington, D.C., working as press secretary for former Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, two members of Congress and for the National Republican Congressional Committee.



Gregory Holt is the Asian correspondent with FastMarkets in Singapore.

Just shy of her seventh anniversary at the Arizona Daily StarShelley Shelton was laid off July 21, 2011, with 51 other friends and colleagues. In early August, Shelley was hired as a communications assistant in the UA’s office of university communications.



Andrea Kelly left the Arizona Daily Star to become a radio reporter with Arizona Public Media in Tucson.



Aaron Mackey is a legal intern with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He just completed his second year of law school at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to law school, Aaron was a reporter at the Arizona Daily Star.



Ernesto Romero is the managing editor at KYMA News 11 in Yuma, Ariz.



Annie Chandler was Named Conference Woman of the Year for the 2010-11 academic year. The UA competes in the Pac-12 Conference. Chandler moves on to become a candidate for the NCAA Woman of the Year. That honors graduating student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, community   service and leadership.

Matthew Lewis is attending the UA College of Education for their Teach Arizona program – a one-year accelerated master’s program. He wants to teach journalism or be an education reporter at the high school/college level.

Taylor Reed is living in Nanjing, China, teaching English at Nanjing Audit University.



Michael Abbott is the morning news editor for KTVK-3TV in Phoenix. He’s also helping out the sports department on Fridays with their high school football program.

David Blattman has been hired as a production assistant for ESPN’s Espy Awards.

Michael Christy landed a paid photo internship with the Colorado Springs Gazette.


A number of alumni won Arizona Press Club awards in May 2011:

  • Candace Begody ’10, Navajo Times, Best Sports Reporting, first place: “A long shot: Female boxer works to qualify for Olympic trials”;
  • Jen Levario Cieslak ’02, The Arizona Republic: 1)Arizona Designer of the Year; 2)Best Page One Layout/Design, second place, “Stop failing Arizona; start fixing immigration”; 3)Best Non-Deadline Layout/Design, second place: “Animals in the Gulf: 7 ways you can help”; 4)Best Multi-Page Design, first place, “Crossings”
  • Cyndy Cole ’03 and Joe Ferguson ’06, Arizona Daily Sun, Best Environmental/Science Reporting, third place, “Winding the Schultz fire down” and related stories
  • Carmen Duarte ’80, Arizona Daily Star, Best Education Reporting, third place, “Educator: Teachers told kids to cheat”
  • Jeremy Duda ’02, Arizona Capitol Times, Best Business Reporting, third place, “Going nuclear?”
  • Joe Ferguson ’06, Arizona Daily Sun, Best Business Reporting, first place, “Too risky business”
  • Hillary Davis ’06, Arizona Daily Sun: 1)Arizona Community Journalist of the Year, second runner-up; 2)Education Reporting, first place: “FUSD to overcollect taxes by $1.5M” and related stories; 3)Best Short-Form Writing, first place: “A princess goes to her kingdom”
  • Marisa Gerber ’11, Nogales International, Best Immigration Reporting, second place, SB 1070 coverage
  • Bill HessSierra Vista Herald: 1)Best Politics And Government Reporting, second place, “Vets will honor slain soldier” and related stories; 2)Best Health Reporting, first place, “Carondelet deal to bring changes at local hospital”
  • Dean Knuth ’06, Arizona Daily Star: 1)Arizona Photographer of the Year, first runner-up; 2)Sports Action Photography, first place, “Fight” and second place, “Flip”
  • Shelley Shelton ’04, Arizona Daily Star, Best Short-Form Writing, third place, “Legend marks birthday with many folks from the circuit” 
  • Linda Valdez ’80, The Arizona Republic, Best Editorial Writing, first place, “Stop Failing Arizona, Start Fixing Immigration,” “State Must Find Way to Bridge Ethnic Divide” and “Dream Act Merits McCain, Kyl Help.”



In Memoriam

George Ramos – approx. July 23, 2011. Taught in the School of Journalism in the late 1999s/early 2000s. Played a key role in a groundbreaking series on Latinos in Southern California that won the Los Angeles Times a Pulitzer Prize in 1984. He was also a mentor to young Latinos in journalism.


Past Alumni Notes

April 2011 - August 2011

December 2010 - April 2011

July 2010 - December 2010

April 2010 - July 2010

October 2009 - March 2010