California State University, Los Angeles alumnus Hector Becerra delivered a heartfelt address Tuesday, recounting how his experience at the University prepared him for a successful career as a journalist.
Becerra is an editor who helps oversee coverage for the City Desk of the Los Angeles Times. He was part of a team of Times reporters awarded journalism's highest honor in 2011: the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service. The paper’s coverage of a corruption scandal in the City of Bell resulted in convictions of former top city officials and reforms that led to greater government transparency.
Becerra was introduced to journalism as a student reporter and editor for Cal State LA's University Times.
“Cal State LA provided the greatest education I could have. It prepared me for the world of journalism,” Becerra said at the 4th annual Academic Senate Distinguished Lecture on Engagement, Service, and the Public Good.
He recalled having a number of outstanding professors and mentors at the University, including English Professor Michael Calabrese. “I’m eternally thankful for Cal State LA,” Becerra told students, faculty and staff at the April 25 event in the Golden Eagle Ballroom.
Becerra was raised near Hazard Park, a short distance from Cal State LA. He began his career at the Los Angeles Times as an intern in the late 1990s, a position that he landed because of his experience at the University Times. He has written about topics including urban affairs, Latino communities, wildfires, and crime. For one story, he worked in the fields picking strawberries, a back-breaking assignment; he lasted for only a few hours.
In 2014, Becerra was promoted to morning assignment editor on the City Desk. He directs more than a half dozen reporters who cover a range of topics across Southern California.
Academic Senate Chair Veena Prabhu said Becerra’s remarks were inspiring. “It was a very engaging talk, straight from the heart,” she said. “Hector instilled a sense of great pride among all of us as he shared how his education and rich experiences at Cal State LA have been his very foundation and helped him become `fully human.’”
Becerra was introduced by Rita Ledesma, associate dean of the Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services, who invited the journalist to speak at the lecture. She recounted first meeting Becerra while he was working on a story as a student reporter.
Guests were welcomed to the event by Cal State LA President William A. Covino, who noted that it was timely for the annual lecture to feature a journalist.
“This lecture comes at a time when true journalism—journalism that aims for the highest ideals of the profession—are under siege in this country,” Covino told the gathering. “Yet, we know that democracy and a free press go hand in hand. Journalists contribute greatly to our society and we are pleased to have one of this city’s finest editors with us today.”
Photo: L.A. Times City Desk editor Hector Becerra speaks at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)
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Cal State LA is ranked number one in the nation based on the upward mobility of its students. Founded in 1947, Cal State LA is the premier public comprehensive university in the heart of Los Angeles and is dedicated to the mission of engagement, service, and the public good. The University serves more than 27,000 students and more than 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the region we serve. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.