Journalism bit Frank Sotomayor at an early age, and the Tucson native raised in Barrio Hollywood has been pursuing excellence in the news business ever since.
Sotomayor began working for the Tucson High newspaper and the Arizona Daily Star when he was a teen. He received a journalism degree from the University of Arizona, where he was editor of the Daily Wildcat and named outstanding UA male graduate in 1966.
Early in his career, he was a reporter and copy editor at the Star, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pacific Stars and Stripes newspapers.
In the 1970s, he started at the Los Angeles Times as a foreign news writer and worked as a editor there for 35 years, including 18 years as an assistant metro editor. He was co-editor and a writer on the series “Latinos in Southern California,” which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Sotomayor, series co-editor George Ramos and other Mexican-American journalists at the Times proposed the package on Latinos in 1983.
“Our goal was to dispel the stereotypical portrayal all too common during that era,” Sotomayor said. “I became co-editor, mentor and writer for the series. We ended up producing 27 stories, enhanced by outstanding photography.”
Fellow UA grads José Galvez ('72), a photographer, and Virginia Escalante, a reporter, contributed to the Pulitzer with Sotomayor, who wrote about the experience in “The Pulitzer Long Shot,” an e-book (jourviz.com/long-shot/index.html).
Sotomayor, who later earned a master’s degree in communication from Stanford, edited other award-winning stories for the L.A. Times. He’s a former associate director for the Institute for Justice and Journalism at USC Annenberg.
He played a key role in saving the UA journalism program from elimination in 1994 and now chairs its Advisory Council.
“Journalists of today and of the future must be ready to work in multiple platforms,” Sotomayor said. “It’s an ongoing challenge to keep the curriculum up to date. The school’s core mission, however, must continue unchanged — preparing journalists to keep the public informed and to serve as watchdogs on government, businesses and other institutions.”
An early advocate for news media diversity, he’s helping the school recruit diverse faculty and co-founded the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California.
“If you’re preparing a news report for a diverse audience, people from different backgrounds and experiences make for a richer news product,” Sotomayor said. “We are still experiencing racial and other serious fault-line divides in this country. For an informed public to function correctly in our nation, we need the voices of all people reflected in the news coverage.
“Journalists from all different types of cultures and backgrounds can help span those divides and help bring those voices to life.”
In 2002, he was named to NAHJ’s Hall of Fame and the Arizona Daily Wildcat Hall of Fame. Sotomayor, also a member of the Tucson High Hall of Fame, studied at Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship in 1985-86 and received the Centennial Achievement Award from UA in 1998.
— Mike Chesnick, '84
FRANK SOTOMAYOR: IN HIS WORDS
"In 1965-66, the Arizona Daily Wildcat was linked to the Journalism Department (under adviser Sherman R. Miller 3rd). My favorite memory is the camaraderie of producing the Wildcat with a group of wonderful fellow students.
"Back in the day, we wrote stories on typewriters and did editing in pencil. We would shuttle the stories to a “hot type” print shop in South Tucson.
"Our class held its 50th anniversary celebration at Homecoming last October. The journalism education at UA prepared me extremely well for what became a 40-year professional career."