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Posted on February 19, 2013 | 7:50 p.m.

Santa Barbara Professionals Join Mission and State Journalism Initiative

Source: Joe Donnelly for Mission and State

Yvette Cabrera, former columnist and investigative reporter for the Orange County Register, will join a dynamic team of reporters being assembled by executive editor Joe Donnelly for a start-up journalism project called Mission and State, formerly known as the Santa Barbara Investigative Journalism Initiative.

The project was created late last year through a Knight Foundation grant awarded to the Santa Barbara Foundation and supported by matching grants from several local foundations and individuals. Mission and State will operate under the umbrella of the nonprofit Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy.

Cabrera is an award-winning investigative journalist who worked as a staff writer and news columnist for the Orange County Register from 1999 to 2012, specializing in social issues and Latino affairs. Her eight-part series on the disappearance of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ 2005 Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Latin American reporting.

Cabrera was also a runner-up for the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for her series on a Latino immigrant enclave in Orange County dealing with the impacts of the financial crisis. She has also been a finalist for the prestigious Livingston Awards for Young Journalists.

Her post with Mission and State marks Cabrera’s return to Santa Barbara, where she grew up.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to get Yvette,” says Donnelly, who came on board late last year after a long run as deputy editor of the LA Weekly and the founding publisher and co-editor of Slake: Los Angeles, the award-winning journal of narrative nonfiction, fiction and art. “Aside from being a fantastic reporter in her own right, she’s a hometown gal who knows this area and its issues, particularly issues of economic and social justice that Latino, immigrant and working-class families here deal with everyday.”

Cabrera will join the project in early March when she finishes up a stint as an investigative producer with KCBS Television in Los Angeles.

“I’m thrilled to return to my hometown and do what I love best — watchdog journalism focusing on the issues of our day in a community I care about deeply,” says Cabrera, who was born at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Cabrera is the latest addition to a newly formed staff at Mission and State that includes Sam Slovick, whose series on Los Angeles’ skid row for the LA Weekly won a Western Publishing magazine award and was submitted for a Pulitzer. Slovick joined the team earlier this month after spending the past year working on a documentary about foreclosures and homelessness in Los Angeles.

Phuong-Cac Nguyen, a journalist, author, filmmaker and brand strategist who returned to the area after spending the past 10 years in Brazil working for the cutting-edge branding agency box1824.com, is on board as the managing editor, in charge of production and strategy. Donnelly also tapped Santa Barbara’s Alex Kacik, who has worked for Noozhawk and the Pacific Coast Business Times.

“A close-knit, civic-minded community such as Santa Barbara that also faces serious questions about wealth disparity, services, environmental issues, immigration and education is a perfect place to explore how to deliver nuanced, narrative journalism digitally,” Donnelly said. “We’re hoping we can be at the forefront of forging an enhanced online journalism experience. But you have to get great stories first, and I’m confident this team is more than up to the task. I am particularly pleased to have two of our four staffers with Santa Barbara roots and that all are from this region.”

— Joe Donnelly is executive editor of Mission and State.

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