City Times reporter earns writing contest award

Brian Mohler
Brian Mohler earned honorable mention for on-the-spot newswriting at the SoCal JACC Conference in Fullerton in September. Photo by a freaking out Nicole Vargas.

Editor’s note: The City Times was represented at the 2018 Journalism Association of Community Colleges Southern California Conference by Editor-in-Chief Jonny Rico and A&E Editor Brian Mohler. Both sat in on panels and discussions on writing, reporting and collaboration, as well as tried their hand at the on-the-spot writing contests.

As the awards wrapped up for the day, the speaker came back to the podium to announce a few more that had been missed in the first round of announcements. It was in that group that we learned Mohler had earned honorable mention for newswriting — not bad for a student just weeks into his first experience in journalism!

Below is the final version of the award-winning article written by Mohler.

Scarier than fiction

Investigative storyteller thrills and advises student journalists

Jason Kandel loves Stephen King. Kandel also writes horror, but his stories are non-fiction.

During the keynote at the 2018 SoCal Conference of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, Kandel, the author of the six part story “Twisted,” gave students straightforward advice: read, write, conversate, follow-up and be persistent!

Before Kandel found his journalistic calling, he was working in kitchen. After read Hemingway got his start writing for a newspaper he figured what the hell and threw in his apron.

“My first assignment covered an Eagle Scout’s project,” he said. “After I knocked on that first door other doors began to open.”

Kendal worked his way up from the Long Beach Press-Telegram to the Los Angeles Daily News. He “cut his teeth” following crimes, telling the stories of the police and the victims. He studied crime scenes like a gumshoe, combing over details with the objectivity of an “automaton,” while maintaining his humanity through an important mantra: “comfort the afflicted.”

After Kendal solidified a reputation and gained the trust of detectives and captains, ride-a-longs became part of his modus operandi to gain a raw edge to his stories. “The moment it became real for me was when I was handed a bulletproof vest,” said Kandel about an early career narcotics raid he went on in the San Fernando Valley.

A Memorial Day weekend double homicide became another day on the job.

Kandel’s investigations into the Russian and Armenian mobs caught the eye of the US Department of State. This lead to Kandel working with reporters in Albania and teaching them journalism techniques. Kandel also learned techniques being used in the post-Soviet sphere. “Sometimes these reporters would have to resort to bribes just to access information,” he said.

Kandel was an early blogger, his Mean Streets covered police and fire news in San Fernando Valley, which lead to a job with KPCC, a member of National Public Radio. He now works as a Digital News Producer at NBC4 Southern California.

Kandel’s 60-minute talk at his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton, was packed with exciting stories and advice. The most stressed point was to follow up on leads and don’t be afraid to contact someone again for more information. “You never know how the dice rolls,” said Kandel. “One thing leads to another.”

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