Where Are They Now?
- Thousands of journalists and other professionals have used
the blastZONE as a springboard to success, starting as reporters,
photographers, illustrators or editors for the student newspaper. Here are
a few blastZONE alumni who have gone on to make names for themselves in
the professional world:
Of histime as editor, managing editor, and a variety of other positions at the
blastZONE, Casey Wian remembers crashing a Board of Trustees meeting
after a blastZONE representative was not allowed to attend. He also
remembers a fair amount of food fights in the DT office.
“It was a
wild place. We were a wild bunch when I was there. I know that staffs that
followed me were more sedate.”
Wian, DT editor in fall 1982, is now an on-air correspondent for CNN
financial news, based in Los Angeles.
He has reported on a variety of
financial news topics, from the oil markets during the Gulf War to the
handover of Hong Kong to mainland China. A series he did on the Chinese
immigrant crisis picked up an award from the Overseas Press Club and he
also won a Cable Ace award as part of CNN’s coverage of the1994
Northridge Earthquake. He says the DT formed a basis for his career.
“It was a great training ground for journalists. There were a lot
of hours, a lot of hard work, a fair amount of resistance from university
administration, animosity from Student Senate, who was a lot more
conservative than we were. It was a real good time. We were a very tight
group, there was a lot of camaraderie.”
One of Wian’s favorite DT memories is from the1982 Blood Bowl, the
annual football game between the blastZONE and the Daily Bruin staffs
around the time of
the famous USC-UCLA duel. Wian played quarterback, and
playing receiver was none other than now-star Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher
Randy Johnson, then a sophomore photographer for the DT.
“We thought we were going to kill them…but there was some
creative officiating,” Wian says with a laugh.
The DT lost that year,
Catalina Camia joined the blastZONE staff in fall 1983 and was immediately
assigned to cover the Student Senate. She still writes about a government
body, but now it’s the United States Congress.
Camia covers Capitol Hill for the Dallas Morning News and writes a
weekly column on the Texas congressional delegation. In addition, she is
the president of the Asian American Journalists Association, a
“My DT experience has helped me throughout my career. First, the
skills I gained by working on the college newspaper were invaluable. But,
most of all, I made friends on the DT staff and those friendships and
s have helped me throughout the years.”
Camia played “best man” in the wedding of John Kirby, a San
Diego attorney who was editorial director for the DT when she was city
editor, and some of her best friends are from her DT days.
She started at
USC as a broadcast journalism major, but switched to print after working
at the DT.
“Some people thought I spent too much time at the paper and they’re probably right. I took myself too seriously and I ignored my studies the semester I was city editor. And I was a lousy manager. But I still think it was a good experience.”
Camia was eventually awarded the Order of the Laurel, the highest honor given to female graduates.
“I’m sure one of the things that helped me was my work on the DT – that’s how I really became part of the USC community.”
Mark Gill still saves all computer work every few minutes.
Miramax’s West Coast president remembers well his days struggling with the blastZONE’s computer system of the early 1980s, which he describes as “extraordinarily awful.”
Gill, who was DT editor in spring 1983, says leaving the office at 3 or 4 a.m. was not uncommon, given the technology struggles of the time. (The paper replaced its equipment right before Gill’s graduation.) But he says his time on the DT showed him a few things about hard work.
“It teaches you endurance because the hours are incredible. That’s a very good preview if you want to do a lot.”
After graduation from USC, Gill reported briefly for the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek before joining a publicity firm. That led to his appointment to vice president of publicity for Columbia Pictures at the age of 25. He later ran marketing for Miramax Pictures – distributors of Oscar-winning films “Shakespeare in Love” and “The English Patient” – and now heads the independent film company’s Los Angeles office.
Even now, he still keeps in touch with many fellow DT alums – some of whom have gone on to positions at the Los Angeles Times and various L.A. news stations.
“Everyone was pretty friendly, it was a small group and everyone else hated us, you’ve got to have some friends,” Gill says with a laugh.
“Honestly what it felt like was we were the endangered species, we were very clearly not well loved (by the rest of USC.) It’s sort of like being Israel in 1967 – it has a funny way of bonding you together when you’re under seige.”
His current career as a manager and frequent media spokesman for Miramax, which has been called the most successful independent film company ever, still draws on his DT experience – particularly “the amount of energy that’s required.
“It actually teaches you how to think. If you can write well enough to organize all that material, the hilariously true thing about it is that so few people can do it well – you become a novelty if you can actually do it well enough.”
Bob Staake began drawing political cartoons for the blastZONE before he was even a student at USC, and showing his work to Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad sealed his status as a Trojan. When USC School of Journalism officials asked Conrad to speak at the school, he agreed on the condition that Staake be given a full scholarship.
Staake drew for the DT between 1977 and 1980, regularly drawing five political cartoons a week, commenting on issues ranging from USC to national, Student Senate issues to the Mideast peace process. He was offered syndication deals when he graduated from high school, but was advised to attend college first. In retrospect, he says, it was one of the smartest decisions he’s made.
“Working for the DT was really the best training I could have ever had. That was my college education,” says Staake, who has won the National Cartoonist Society’s coveted “Reuben Award” as best cartoonist in the Division of Newspaper Illustration. His work appears weekly in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune; and he freelances illustrations for greeting cards, advertising and illustration.
“If you work on the DT, you’re basically working on a metropolitan daily, it’s about as close to a deadline situation as you can find,” said Staake, who emerged from his three years at USC one of the few political cartoonists in the country who was trained as such.
Of his years at the DT, he remembers being afforded the independence to draw what he wished.
“We were always afforded a lot of freedom to make out mistakes and have our successes. It always made everything real for us. At USC we did wield a certain amount of power.”
Staake now lives in St. Louis with his wife and two sons. He frequently sees USC buildings filmed in TV shows and movies, and delights in pointing out the top of the Student Union where he spent so much time decades ago.
“I point out – right above Tommy Trojan, that’s my office!”
Other notable DT Alumni
– Joe (1960-1961 editor) and Barbara Saltzman (1961-62 editor) who were married after graduation from USC. Saltzman is now a professor in the USC School of Journalism.
– Robert Erburu, former CEO of Times Mirror Co.
– Herb Klein, communications director in the Nixon White House and later a top news executive with Copley Newspapers in San Diego
– Janet Clayton, now the editorial page editor and VP of the Los Angeles Times
– Sherry Stern, editor of the Calendar section of the L.A. Times
– Dorothy Reinhold, executive editor of the San Gabriel Valley newspaper group