Wrangler’s pathway to success: A road well traveled

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don mugshot july 2016 (2)If you’re thinking I’m going to talk in this column about the incredible financial milestones we’ve achieved in the past 25-plus years, let me set the record straight before you read further: We’ve been successful, yes, however not so much for the gold bullion in our bank account but for the personal rewards we’ve amassed as a result of helping countless young people take their first steps toward success.

Going back to the early 1990s, after I had left a daily newspaper and public-relations career spanning 30 years, I got the idea for a small, neighborhood-based paper that focused exclusively on one contiguous community, its schools, its churches, its businesses, its kids.

It didn’t take much searching to discover that south Tempe’s 85284 and west Chandler’s 85226 zip codes had all the right appeal. Good demographics, a good educational system, good city government.

Thus was born what we called Warner Wrangler—Warner because we delivered the bulk of our then-3,000 papers to neighborhoods bordering a narrow swath on both sides of Warner Road, Wrangler because of the area’s abundance of horse properties.

(Interestingly, though we’re now called Wrangler News to convey the wider scope of our coverage, there are still lots of people who call us by our original name. It’s always nice to hear someone evoke their memories of that “Warner Wrangler” masthead because we know it’s someone who has been with us from the very beginning. Back, though, to how we got to where we are today, and to who helped us get here.

Practically from day one we found what we considered a surprising number of high school and college students who wanted to be part of our little enterprise.

That enthusiasm seems never to have subsided, never to have left us wondering if there would be enough young talent available to fill our ongoing need for writers, photographers, layout designers—all the people it takes to produce a newspaper that tells the stories that are truly relevant to our families, our jobs in the community, our daily lives.

Looking back on the many young people who have set themselves apart by their commitment and their contributions to us, I’d like to share some of those names with you.

I know I will overlook some, perhaps many, but they all represent, in my mind, the cream of the crop.

Nathan Seiter was a student at Corona del Sol High School in the early 1990s. Nathan did some remarkable photography for us, especially considering the digital era had not yet arrived and all of his photos were shot with black and white film.

Nathan went on to BYU and, in the very early days of that first semester, was on hand when a would-be assassin fired close-up shots at the Mormon Church’s president during a college assembly. Copies of Nathan’s pictures were beamed around the world via The Associated Press.

The last time I heard news of Nathan, he had earned a masters degree in mechanical engineering and was holding an impressive position with Orbital Sciences in Chandler.

Brian Gomez, likewise from Corona, covered sports for us for a number of years. He never let us down, never missed a beat, never shortchanged the young athletes he wrote about. Brian in recent years has been a sportswriter for the daily Colorado Springs Gazette.

Kyle Maki was with us fulltime for 14 years, from the time he graduated from high school until he left us four years ago to become a marketing executive with a respected digital-imaging company.

Alex Zener has covered sports for us for more than 10 years, and now works with American Airlines. Like others, he’s built a storehouse of respected sources and never once has missed a deadline. You’ll still find Alex’s bylined coverage in every issue of Wrangler News.

Chelsea Martin, another Corona success story, graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in journalism and will be returning to the Valley soon to pursue her future as a working mom, again as a writer for us.

Corona grad Ilan Brat has been a reporter for the Wall Street Journal since graduating from college. He was married in 2011 in Chicago, where he is assigned to one of the Journal’s major beats.

Jonathan Cooper, also one of our talented freelance writers, has worked for several years for The Associated Press in Portland, Ore.

Billy Hardiman, unquestionably one of the most creative, dedicated young people ever to be on our payroll—he was still a junior in high school when he started with us— enters his sophomore year at ASU’s Ira Fulton School of Engineering this month, aiming his studies toward a future in electrical engineering. We know Billy will be one of the bright stars of tomorrow in his chosen profession. 

Kody Acevedo, who will start his final year this month at ASU’s prestigious Cronkite School of Journalism, competed for and won a highly coveted internship with Fox Sports this summer, and Jonathan Coronel is completing a rigorous six-week officer-candidate course at the Marine Corps’ training center in Quantico, Va.

ASU photojournalism graduate and prizewinning photographer Ana Ramirez moved to a thriving Texas city recently to join the staff of its daily newspaper. Her remarkable photo skills can be seen regularly on Instagram.

David Elkanich, who performed a variety of vital jobs for us in our formative days, is a Portland, Ore. attorney who focuses his practice on litigation involving legal ethics and risk management.

And Corry Slama, also one of those diligent, determined co-founders of our original company, now is among the overseers of a two-year initiative by Maricopa County to update its massive network of financial systems, at the same time managing contractual relationships with such professional-services providers as architects, engineers and others.

Although this column ends here, the list of success stories surely doesn’t. We know there are many, many others who have spent varying degrees of time at Wrangler News, leaving us fulfilled and more successful because of their contributions.

To all of those young people we’ve had the pleasure of working and growing with, we offer our sincere appreciation for allowing us to have benefitted as much from our relationship with you
as we hope you have from us.

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