Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Willits News has new City Editor


 source: The Willits News 10/25/2016

  Ariel Carmona Jr. has joined The Willits News as City Editor/reporter. Carmona grew up in the Southern California region in Los Angeles where he cultivated an appreciation for good food, family and community oriented journalism.

    Prior to joining The Willits News this fall, Carmona was a columnist at the Valley Daily Post, a hybrid newspaper website in Espanola, in Rio Arriba County and covered education in the Northern New Mexico region. He also worked as a reporter for the hyperlocal Community Impact chain of newspapers based out of Pflugerville, Texas.

    He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and an M.A. in Communications from California State University Fullerton.
Carmona has written for various print and online publications including the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in West Covina ,California, AOL Patch media, the Orange County Register and the Walnut Weekly News in Walnut, CA where he served as sports editor and as a general assignment reporter.

   “We are glad to have found Ariel for this important position,” said Willits News Publisher Kevin McConnell. “Ariel will be able to coordinate coverage of the Willits community and be ready to interact with our readers as well as do the great reporting we know he can do.”

   Carmona can be reached at the Willits News office at 707-841-2123, on his cell phone at 707-671-3575 or by email to He is on Twitter @AOCarmona.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A year later in New Mexico

A year has passed since I packed my bags and left the state of Texas. It is ridiculous how time flies and you get busy and don't realize it.

I also left the Rio Grande Sun newspaper about three weeks ago after almost a year of employment there and now am writing columns and doing educational coverage for a hybrid news website in Northern New Mexico The Valley Daily Post.

My time as an education reporter in New Mexico has been amazing, I have covered controversies regarding teacher vacancies, school districts, charter schools and funding and program cuts at Northern New Mexico College.

Personally, I have been enriched by a good group of friends in Los Alamos and by a friendly game group I belong to in nearby Santa Fe. If I have to move on and leave the area anytime soon like I was forced to do a year ago because of employment, at least I can say I have made some amazing friends here.

The experience has been a good one overall for me. 

My education column has been featured in the Espanola and the Los Alamos newspapers and I am excited to have the opportunity to write a column for a professional newspaper like the Post.

You can read the first part of my series on Charter Schools here. I will be posting the next couple of articles and featuring some of my other work here on the blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Then and Now

A month ago....

I packed my bags again and filled up my car and drove more than 800 miles from Spring to Espanola New Mexico. Things didn't work out at The Facts long term, so I searched for another newspaper or news outlet to work for. This time I looked for a weekly because the daily pace was wearing me out.

As luck would have it, I got about 4 or 5 callbacks from newspapers hiring in Sherman TX, Grand Rapid City Michigan, Iowa, Argus Media and the Woodlands, but I had already accepted an offer to spend a weekend in New Mexico about 30 miles distance from Santa Fe to interview with the Rio Grande Sun.

 I recall spending my last night in Spring having dinner with my roommate at T.G.I.F. and being excited over the possibility of working for the Sun.

The newspaper paid for my stay at a hotel during the hiring process and 3 days later I was offered a position as education reporter and all that was left to do was to look for an apartment. After spending a relaxing week in Arizona with my sister, I was still apprehensive. I recall having breakfast with my brother-in-law and feeling sort of homeless, it isn't easy to take a leap of faith and all I knew is I had to spend a few days in a hotel because I had nothing lined up, as luck would have it I found a place I liked 10 minutes from the newsroom.

I have settled in quite nice in my new newsroom. I think I am having success in adapting to the style and editorial demands of the education beat at the Sun. At least once a week I cover a board of education or school related meeting and my reports on two school lockdowns and recent school rankings in the state have graced our front page.

There are some really cool things about this place, the Indian Casinos, the community feel of a small town, some cool mom and pop stores and indie shops. Santa Fe is only a 25 mile drive away which offers more in the way of the big city life style I am accustomed to. It makes for a cool weekend getaway.

A year ago....

On all days, my mom's birthday, I packed my bags in my car and made the the long trek from Covina CA to Spring Texas. It was over 1,500 miles of driving through three states, but I was eager to work with Community Impact in Houston.

I made some good friends in Houston but I also struggled, and every day, even now, I long to go back to Covina to visit my family and friends I left behind, to visit my old haunts. I am beyond stoked over the possibility of seeing them during the holidays this fall. 

I will continue to fight the good fight, and now that I have internet hooked back up in my home I promise to make more entries in this here, the old blog 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Eight Months Later: The calm before the storm (literally)

It had been my intention to update this blog on a regular basis detailing my professional life and my writing endeavors in Texas. Somehow, things got so hectic that I was never able to jump on this virtual journal until now!

So much happened in such a brief amount of time, it is difficult to encapsulate or even internalize or process it all. Suffice it to say that I became quite comfortable with Spring and my surroundings and region, but as often happens in life "Just when you think it's all downhill, life throws you a curve" (Thank you poster from my 5th grade classroom for that bit of philosophy and insight)

On the professional side, I covered the Spring/Klein region for Community Impact newspaper for the better part of 7 months. While working under editor Matt Stephens, I learned a great deal about the C.I. style, although I never truly fit into the scheme of things.

I think in retrospect part of my inability to quickly adapt to the newspaper's style was not due to my inexperience with hyperlocal journalism, as I was previously doing a lot of local coverage while at AOL patch and other outlets, but I think it was mostly due to my being more accustomed to writing for weeklies as opposed to a monthly edition and very different deadlines and time elements.

My employment with C.I. came to an end on May 18 of this year, just before the memorial day holiday and right before the first round of storms which pelted the region for several days and left parts of Houston flooded and distraught. Fortunately for me, Spring wasn't as battered by the flooding and rain which crippled some of the area and took some people's lives.

The same could not be said of my ego and confidence. Here I was, one day sitting in my bedroom and trying to figure out what my next move should be. Should I move to Arizona with relatives and loved ones? Or should I give Houston one more chance even though things had not gone as planned? Was it time to throw in the towel?

Before I answer, I have to say that I was very fortunate to make really good friends with co-workers. The members of my editorial team for example, were invaluable in making me feel at home, as much as an out of towner can feel. I like to think that I made some really good friends in a short period of time.

Also, I give props to my therapist. I don't think I am ashamed to say I sought professional help with some of the transplant issues I was having, being alone in a new region with my family and friends scattered throughout the country.

I am happy to report that the answer to my previous query was a resounding no. I was not yet ready to throw in the towel, I resolved to remain working in print media, to fulfill my mission of ingraining myself in a community. Within 10 days of leaving C.I. I had job offers from publications as far north as Amarillo Texas and Wyoming.

It wasn't easy, let me share that, I worked and networked my butt off.

Ultimately,  I opted to stay local and have begun a professional relationship with The Facts, a daily newspaper covering Brazoria County, south of Houston.

I am eager to get back to steady writing (and blogging) again. But I have to get through this mess first

Saturday, November 22, 2014

One month Later

Incredibly, amazingly, even miraculously, I have survived an entire month in Houston Texas. Not that I have been able to explore much outside of Spring which is about 30 minutes from the office (with no traffic) yet. I put so much effort into getting here that at first I thought the cultural and personal transition would be too much to bear, especially leaving behind my comfortable life in California in order to (hopefully) advance my career further. I hope to make more of these posts more frequently. Monday I am having my 30 day review at the newspaper. Wish me luck!

One thing which has been a big help has been focusing on the many assignments I am juggling for the paper. The latest one has been the most interesting: A community forum at Spring Independent School district (ISD) designed to give staffers an opportunity to share their feedback and address grievances in front of district administrators. I am hoping I will get a good web story out of it for next week.

I am also working on a story about a study put together by the Houston Galveston area council regarding redevelopment in the North West Houston area: Specifically a region called Cypress Creek Parkway which has been lagging behind other areas due to numerous factors including a rapid shift in demographics and older infrastructure.

One big adjustment, besides the weather, (it hardly rains now in So. Cal due to the ongoing drought, whereas it has been rainy and wet here for several days)  has been not having enough time to enjoy some of my hobbies like reading comics, writing about superhero culture and happenings and table top gaming and playing mmorpgs, which I hope to change by devoting more time to on weekends, days off and evenings. There will be four days to catch up on it all this coming holiday weekend.

I also plan to find a paper to freelance that covers sports on weekends because I really miss doing that. Last Saturday I attended a playoff game at Spring High School just to be in the midst of prep football once again, though being a spectator is not as much fun as actually covering the event IMHO.

Another change has been that it is hard to make new friends because of my schedule. Back home, a lot of the people I grew up with are still in town or came back to town, including my brother and I missed hitting up my old haunts like the bookstore in Glendora and Frank and Son's Collectibles in Industry. Yet, I think these are adjustments everyone faces in life at one time or another and counting my 2 year stay in Fullerton for graduate school, this is the second time in recent years that I am faced with making these life altering changes. Here we are a mere 6 days away from thanksgiving and less than a week from Black Friday craziness, but I have no plans for the holiday other than watching some football in the AM and maybe joining a gaming group to do some gaming into the evening with, hopefully, a lot of turkey eating in between.

I got my EZ tag in the mail this week, this is a device which allows me to go through the highway tolls and it electronically deducts money from an account, this has saved me quite a bit of time and it is nice not having to worry about looking for money or change for my commute on a daily basis.
CI is having their annual Christmas celebration in Austin near their headquarters in a couple of weeks and I am looking forward to the trip. Also, the most joyous news of all is the fact that I get to go home for Xmas for nearly a week on Dec. 23. It will be nice to be in the Covina area for a few days and be briefly reunited with my old haunts.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Community Impact job in Houston TX

It's funny that a week ago I was driving through Texas and stayed at a hotel in a little town called Sonora on my way to my new job in Houston.
Last night I found myself near downtown Houston a the grand opening of a bar that was offering free food for Halloween revelers.

I got offered a job as a reporter in the Spring-Klein market, so I packed up my Kia with as much of my belongings and trekked my way through two states.

The Friday before Halloween I found myself having dinner alone after a long day of driving at a place called Ozona, 36 miles or so away from my destination, the hotel room I reserved that night in Sonora. Though the wi-fi was spotty, the room was comfortable and I had a good time speaking to my sister, whom I stayed with two nights prior in Arizona.

It wasn't easy to say goodbye to family and friends and my routine, but I relished a fresh start and full time work so the decision really was made for me. I drove for four straight days with stops in Arizona and El Paso along the way before finally reaching Houston a week ago.

Right up till my move I had been practicing journalism and writing as much as I could, doing some freelancing for the SGVExaminer and tweeting out scores of prep football games for the SGVTribune. In fact, I was freelancing for three newspapers including the Weekly News in Chino and

Thought I was comfortable with my freelancing, I wanted to work full time and doing it out of state was my only options. Journalists are often told to start in small markets before pursuing bigger more saturated media jobs, but with all my experience, I am not exactly new to the industry.

My experience in the new job, though I have had some rough patches, is plugging along and I even participated in our office Halloween party this past weekend.

 It is great to be able to practice journalism full time with a good market to cover including coverage of school districts and local government.

I have not completely got used to some things in Houston, the highways and toll roads, and the differences in weather patterns, but I think getting acclimated in a new region always takes time and patience and hard work.

I never knew how much I would miss my old life, my routine trips to Barnes and Noble on weekends, jaunts to North Orange county near my alma matter, high shool football games and Mt SAC and Citrus College games, and even my old desktop computer.

Thus far, the fruits of my labor has been covering an event for the Spring ISD (Independent School District) which gave me a chance to get to know the communications people for the district and to write a nice little web story. 

Next week I will be covering local races in Texas for the upcoming election, and who knows what else. Though today I finally got a chance to rest for a bit, and though I am grateful to be working in journalism, I felt homesick for the very first time, missing my hometown and my routines, but I think that the future holds good things for me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I am a reporter, that is what I do

I have started to write again for the Walnut Weekly News. For some reason, the publisher decided to change the masthead and it is now called "Our Weekly Newspaper" but most people still call it the Weekly News.

I may be a small fish and not working for big media print outlets like the L.A. Times or the OC Register, but I feel that I still make a contribution in my industry and chosen profession.

It's interesting, while reporting at the OC Register this summer I had a backstage view of the goings on in the newsroom and their plans to expand to Long Beach. Shout outs to my many friends fighting the good fight there like Raymond Mendoza, Alma Fausto, Jackie Moe, Evan Lancaster and a few others.

The next few weeks into the holiday are going to be busy with projects to end the year and with my thesis and research for CSUF, but I feel pretty good about the upcoming year, 2014 is looking up. I maintain optimistic about the future. I will be Dr. Gail Love's section of history and philosophy of mass communications, while continuing to freelance for various news outlets like the Walnut Weekly and (hopefully) an online news agency like the Voice of OC.

The Register continues to post from time to time stories that I wrote during my tenure in Santa Ana and Tustin, here is a link to the latest:

Five questions with family caregiver Josefina Ortiz

Well, that is all for now, I will post again sometime, I am on my way to cover a city council meeting