70 years of the D49er, Special Projects

From the 49er to the Los Angeles Times

By Betty Chavarria, design director, class of 2013

Betty Chavarria is a 2013 graduate of CSULB. She has worked at the Southern California News Group and USA Today’s Gannett Design Studio in Nashville and is currently an A1 and advanced project designer at the Los Angeles Times. She still resides in Long Beach with her husband and daughter. 


It seems like almost yesterday that I walked down the old steps to the dungeon. For newer journalism students, they will never know the pleasures of obnoxiously green walls, the fish bowl shaped editor in chief office, and the feeling of being completely closed off to the world in the basement of the Social Science/Public Affairs building. Our old newsroom wasn’t the prettiest, but it was a place full of late nights, friendship and many, many rants. 


I was the design director at the time, so I had a lot of fun during the big news moments of the time. The first time I got really excited about a page was in October 2012 when the Space Shuttle Endeavor trekked through the streets of Los Angeles as it made its way to the California Science Center. 


Our photographer at the time, Stefan Agregado, got an amazing photograph of the shuttle flown in on the back of another plane. It was an astonishing photograph, and I knew it needed to run big. 


That day I broke away from the design template and got out of the photo’s way. It ran six columns, with the flag on the photo and the headline “Endeavour to the end.” Gary Metzker, our design advisor, was excited. The newsroom was excited. The whole city was excited about the shuttle! It was the first time I felt the joy and rush of archiving big moments in history on paper. I was hooked. 


The following month was the presidential election. Obama’s second term was on the line and we were prepared to stay up all night for results. It was the first time I was eligible to vote, and I was also covering my first election, so I was giddy with excitement. 


As it got late, the results started to pour in, and the photography staff started sending art from the watch party at the Nugget Grill & Pub. The students were captured screaming and roaring in the photographs, but I didn’t have much time to get excited. I had to get them on the page! 


I had the page preset up, because although we had an extended deadline, I still had a deadline to make. Photos, captions, copy, headlines, BOOM. It was ready for my editor in chief to look over. Another exciting first for me as a designer. It would be an addictive rush that I would be a part of every four years in my professional life. 


My time at the Forty-Niner prepared me for my professional life in my more ways than I could count. It taught me to be dedicated, resilient and to work my hardest for the readers’ benefit. But it also granted me friendships that I can’t imagine my life without. They were at my wedding, they visited me when I moved out of state, and they were there when I had my firstborn. 


The 49er granted me many great experiences that I’ll cherish forever. I only wish future students knew the joys of a dingy basement newsroom with green walls and a fishbowl office.

By Jason Clark, sports editor & designer, class of 2014

Jason Clark is a page designer at the Los Angeles Times and works on everything from daily news to baseball special sections. He was the sports editor and designer at the Daily Forty-Niner from 2012 to 2014.


I did not get the first job I applied for with the Daily Forty-Niner. 


I wanted to be an assistant sports editor. I hoped to be more involved in the paper, and it seemed like a natural step up from covering the Long Beach State softball team as a staff writer. But as it turned out, nobody had applied to be the sports editor. I destroyed an awesome schedule of only Tuesday and Thursday classes to take that job instead.


While I was at the 49er, I did everything I thought a sports editor might do: manage a staff of reporters, edit their stories, and cover some of the more fun sports myself. But the bigger impact on my life came from the things I didn’t expect. 


During my first summer on staff, I went to the CSU Chancellor’s Office to cover a Board of Trustees meeting as a favor to the editor in chief. Believe it or not, attending a Board of Trustees meeting is nothing like covering a basketball game. I was bored to tears, missed half of what was said and turned in a story that was unremarkable at best. 


But that experience made me realize I had a long way to go if I ever wanted to have a career in journalism—as it turns out, the best sports reporters are the ones who can tackle hard news just as effectively. So I volunteered to work with the managing editor on a story about a student who got a little too excited during a protest at the Chancellor’s Office and shattered a big glass door. He got a hefty restitution bill, and I got another byline on a news story, but the most important prize was the quality time I got to spend with the managing editor—a girl I eventually married. 


I also never expected to get into page design, but one of the advisers kept insisting I take the media design course. I eventually gave in and enjoyed it so much that I started designing pages at the Daily Forty-Niner. Those pages and that adviser’s recommendation helped me land an internship at the Los Angeles Times, which ultimately gave me my current job as a sports and news designer. Apparently it doesn’t hurt to try new things. You never know what you’ll be good at. 


I owe much of my life as it is now to the 49er. Without it, I never would have received the training or guidance I needed to work at the LA Times. I also wouldn’t have met my wife. 

By Bradley Zint, editor-in-chief, class of 2008

Bradley Zint was the Daily Forty-Niner editor in chief for the 2007-08 school year. After graduation, he worked as a reporter and editor in Massachusetts, Alaska and Orange County for a decade before transitioning to the non-newspaper world. He still keeps a foot in the news game, however, as a freelance writer.


The majority of my full-time journalism career was spent covering community news. This job usually isn’t glamorous and doesn’t get glorified in movies, but it’s what many journalists actually do.


Yet, even in those small acts of daily reporting, you can make a difference. That happened to me in 2013 when I was a Daily Pilot beat reporter covering the Orange County fairgrounds. I overheard how fairgrounds administrators wanted to tear down a World War II-era building so they could expand the Pacific Amphitheatre. Herein was a classic case of out with the old and in with the new.


I have an affinity for old buildings, and I figured the structure, formally known as the Memorial Gardens Building, had a history that needed to be told before it was gone forever. So I got to work.


With some help from the Costa Mesa Historical Society, community old-timers and old Los Angeles Times newspaper clippings, I dug in. It turned out that the Memorial Gardens Building was named after a veterans memorial garden that had been torn out in the 1980s. Several events had taken place inside the building over the years, including the first-ever veteran’s reunion of Santa Ana Army Air Base, decades of fairgrounds administrative meetings and, one time, Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders.


I spent weeks reporting and one furious night alone in the newsroom writing thousands of words to make my deadline. The final product had one main piece and two sidebars alongside historical photographs.


When I started reporting the story, I figured my work would be an ode to a historic building destined for the bulldozer. I never imagined it changing fate. But that’s what happened.


My newspaper stories influenced enough people, including an Orange County supervisor, to start re-thinking the original bulldozing plan. That’s when the impossible happened. Like magic, there suddenly arose the vision, the plan and the money to save the Memorial Gardens Building.


Nowadays, that structure is known as Heroes Hall, and it serves as Orange County’s premier veteran’s museum.  


Before I started looking into the Memorial Gardens Building, there had been talk to have a veterans museum at the Orange County fairgrounds. But it was an unrealized idea until people started rallying around preserving these old barracks to put the museum in. And that rallying might never have sparked without the solitary interest of a reporter with an affinity for old places and hidden history.

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