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Wannabe rock ‘star’ finds a home with the LA Times

by Micole Alfaro, Journalism ‘03

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Brady MacDonald (Journalism ’92) came to California to be a rock star. But when he needed a job, he turned to journalism. However, he quickly came to two sobering conclusions: “No paper will hire a 40-year old rock star wannabe,” and, “Kurt Kobain is to blame.”

So while living in Whittier delivering flowers and checking out books, he occasionally wrote for The Daily News – until one day his editor said he should go back to school.

Unfortunately for the Virginia Commonwealth University grad, nothing could prepare him for The Daily Titan, where eventually as an executive editor he worked from 6 a.m. until midnight, five days a week.

He came to Cal State Fullerton as a first-semester reporter and graduate student and got the bigger beats.

“The paper was my entire existence that semester,” said MacDonald, who won an award from the California Scholastic Newspaper Association for his achievements. “The first semester I was all gung-ho.”

By his third semester, he was the executive editor. And while he recalls actually taking another class, he admits to never actually attending it. “I was going there to get a job,” he said. That’s where he met former alumnus and future wife Nancy Luna.

From the Titan, he went to the The Orange Country Register as a copy clerk. He did some reporting, once covering a plane crash that was the news of the day. When he arrived at the scene, he sketched the crash and the plane’s path before it crash-landed. He also included how the wings were clipped off when they hit the telephone poles.

Two hours later the Register graphics team showed up, but their work was already done, prompting the graphics editor to ask, “Did you do this?”

That was former CSUF alumnus Tia Lai, who hired MacDonald for a graphics position, but not before assuring him that he’d still have the opportunity to write. He credits her for the opportunity that changed his life.

For three or four years, he successfully fulfilled this role before joining The Los Angeles Times, and that’s where he’s been for the past 10 years as an assistant graphics editor drawing maps, charts and diagrams; even writing a theme park blog titled, “Funland” for the Travel section.

“I really enjoy the work I do. It’s a way to tell the story visually,” said MacDonald, who has received numerous awards for his work from, among others, the LA Newspaper Publishers Association, AP News Executives Council, Society of Newspaper Design, LA Press Club and the OC Press Club.

“I have been able to do a lot of fun, interesting and serious things,” said MacDonald, who when California Adventure opened its doors drew the entire park as part of a two-page graphic. That was in between landing on an aircraft carrier, and sketching Disney Concert Hall.

Fortunately for the rock star, he landed in a place where dreams do come true.


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