Pioneers of student journalism
For Women’s History Month, we look at the leaders of the New University campus newspaper
Sixteen women have served as editor-in-chief throughout the 55-year history of the New University. As leaders of UCI’s official campus newspaper, they have all been pioneers in the ever-evolving culture of student journalism at UCI.
For the first 37 years, female editors were few, with one taking up the mantle every five years or so. In 2012, the gap between years of women in leadership at the publication all but disappeared; for the past seven years, each editor-in-chief at the New U (as it’s called) has been a woman – including me, its current top editor.
Amanda Spake ’70 was the first female editor of the New U, in 1969-70, leading the paper through its second year of existence. After her time at UCI, she went on to a successful career in journalism and held positions at U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post and Mother Jones magazine. Spake died on Jan. 23, 2022, but her legacy of opening the door for all subsequent female New U editors lives on.
Here are the stories of seven former editors-in-chief and two managing editors.
Beth Blenz-Clucas ’80, editor-in-chief, 1979-80
“I wanted to do hard news, but women were sort of herded toward the more lighthearted side, like features and arts, which are still very important but not what I really wanted to do. But I kept pushing and eventually did all sorts of work with sports, features and news – finally becoming the editor. I proved to myself that a woman could handle all these roles even when I hadn’t seen it so often before.” – Beth Blenz-Clucas
Blenz-Clucas took the New U helm right after the tenure of her then-friend and now-husband Richard Clucas. She remembers the newsroom as a tightknit community where she made lifelong friends. During her term, it was the responsibility of the editor-in-chief to introduce any guest speakers and lecturers who came to campus. She recalls meeting influential economist John Kenneth Galbraith and political activist Ralph Nader. She also attended monthly media lunches with UCI’s founding chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich Jr.
Now Blenz-Clucas works in public relations and has her own company, Sugar Mountain PR, in Portland, Oregon. She is also on the publicity team at EBComs, an entertainment, media and arts-industry communications firm.
Jill Bradbury ’93, editor-in-chief, and Melissa Gunning ’93, managing editor, 1992-93
“The big issue for me was that one of the writers who was an older guy had a crush on me and was leaving me flowers and notes, but I wasn’t interested. I think the rejection made him angry, and he riled up the other male editors to ask me to leave. You can be making all the right choices as a leader, the best decisions for the situation, but not everyone is going to agree with them. Seek out help from people you trust, and have confidence in yourself and your decisions. Build your support network and your community.” – Jill Bradbury
The editors who asked Bradbury to resign also asked the managing editor, Melissa Gunning, to fill her place. The two were working closely together, so when Bradbury stepped down, Gunning did too. Within a week, they were asked to return. Though Bradbury was scarred by the situation and said she found it difficult to trust people for a while after that, she came back and led the newsroom through a year of revolutionary coverage, including the on-campus protests after the Rodney King verdict.
After graduating from UCI, Bradbury went on to complete a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at Brown University. Today she’s chair of the Department for Performing Arts at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. Her network of women supporting women is strong and still includes Gunning.
“From being in that position of leadership at a young age, I learned that leadership is a lot of the invisible pieces that people don’t see, but there’s also a big piece of it that’s an emotional connection to what you’re leading. It’s not just getting the pieces and moving forward but getting everyone else to come along with you.” – Melissa Gunning
After media and magazine work with YM, Conde Nast, Yahoo and Meta, Gunning is now freelancing and contract writing in the San Francisco Bay area. To women pursuing a career in media today, Gunning emphasizes the importance of finding a specialty while also expanding your capabilities.
Sarah Menendez ’15, editor-in-chief, 2014-15
“At the time, I didn’t see a lot of representation, especially as a woman of color, in many pathways to leadership levels, so it was really hard for me to envision what my career would look like. Being editor taught me how to look at the big picture, how to zoom out and think about what I was doing in terms of purpose, mission, process.” – Sarah Menendez
During her tenure, Menendez was focused on accountability journalism. She wanted to provide the type of coverage that promotes change, and she was able to accomplish that in big and small ways. A particular memory of hers is publishing an editorial about the newsroom’s favorite eatery, the Veggie Grill in University Town Center, removing its student discount. The editorial picked up enough traction that the restaurant reinstated it.
After graduating from the literary journalism program, Menendez did not have a clear picture of her future – which, she emphasizes, is fine. Today she’s based in Los Angeles as the head of operations at City Cast, a national podcast production company. Menendez found that she’s drawn to the technical side of journalism, where she can support others from behind the scenes. One of her favorite things about working in the New U newsroom was how collaborative and supportive it was. She always finds herself looking for a version of that wherever she goes.
Megan Cole ’18, editor-in-chief, 2016-18
“The majority of writers and editors in my newsroom happened to be women, so on a personal level, being a woman in journalism didn’t seem unusual at all. I was working alongside all these brilliant and tenacious women who were pursuing careers in media and who were eager to revolutionize a historically male-dominated field. Many of the New U editors I worked with have been upping those numbers by establishing careers in newsrooms across the country, and their presence in the field makes me hopeful that women going into journalism today will be represented and supported in ways that their predecessors often weren’t.” – Megan Cole
Cole is the only woman in New U history to be editor-in-chief for two years. Her term marked the final two years of the newspaper appearing in print weekly after losing funding from student fees. She’s now back at UCI, completing a Ph.D. in English.
Caitlin Antonios ’19, editor-in-chief, and Ashley Duong ’19, managing editor, 2018-19
“Being editor-in-chief shaped how I conduct myself, how I want to be treated and how I treat others. I formed some of my strongest bonds in that newsroom. With the stress of school and classes, the New U was a place of refuge, and I found comfort in that camaraderie. Being a woman in any professional space can be tricky, but don’t let anything stop you and don’t think too much about the challenges you might face, because your merit, hard work and determination will break through [them] and you will land in a place that embraces and supports you.” – Caitlin Antonios
Antonios’ tenure coincided with one of the greatest periods of change for the newspaper. It was the first year the publication appeared online only and the first year that New U staff members were unpaid. During these stressful transitions, Antonios helped create a successful online model of the paper and maintained a spirit of camaraderie that has kept the New U together to this day.
After graduating from UCI, she attended the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. Following years as a crime and public safety reporter, Antonios is now a dining and food reporter for the Orange County Register. She remains in close contact with Ashley Duong.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with many women editors throughout my professional career so far. I think it’s important to find your people – mentors, colleagues and friends who really support you. Women in journalism and media tend to be pretty supportive of each other. Caitlin and I worked together all those years ago, and we’re still friends and support each other to this day. Relationships like that are important.” – Ashley Duong
Duong worked as a news associate with the Associated Press and is now an associate producer at the CBS News Network Service.
Oriana Gonzalez ’20, editor-in-chief, 2019-20
“I was very fortunate that when I was editor-in-chief, the position had been held by women years prior, so I felt very empowered. As a [Venezuelan] woman who did not grow up in the U.S. and had English as a second language, it was also very empowering to be elected and see that these people trusted me to do it.” – Oriana Gonzalez
With her managing editor and immediate successor, Jane Hagen ’21, Gonzalez initiated a complete New U website redesign – still used today – to establish a stronger presence online. During the late winter quarter of her tenure, the COVID-19 pandemic began. She led the newsroom through a difficult transition to fully remote operations while continuing to cover the major changes the pandemic brought to the world and UCI students.
Gonzalez, who majored in literary journalism and minored in gender studies, is currently a healthcare reporter at Axios covering reproductive health, especially from a policy standpoint.
Ryan Mikeala Nguyen ’22, editor-in-chief, 2021-22
“To women interested in pursuing a career in media: Never give up, and continue your path regardless of any internal/external doubts. There will be moments when you may potentially question whether you deserve to be in a leadership role. During these moments, just be grateful for the opportunity and appreciative of your support network. When you finally see all your hard work and sacrifices turn into positive forces for good, you’ll feel extremely proud of yourself for not giving up. Trust your own judgment, and don’t let others divert you from who you are, fundamentally, as a person.” – Ryan Mikeala Nguyen
Nguyen led the paper through the transitional period of reestablishing an in-person newsroom after 18 months of remote operations. During her tenure, she also spearheaded the return to limited print editions after a four-year hiatus, funded through online ad revenue and past reserves. Yet going “old school” with a physical paper was not a setback to the New U’s progress in the digital sphere; Nguyen created a video team to promote multimedia journalism.
She graduated from UCI in spring 2022 with a B.S. in chemistry; she was the first and, so far, only female editor-in-chief with a major in STEM. Nguyen is now studying at USC and plans to graduate in 2024 with a master’s degree in public health.
Other female New U editors-in-chief could not be reached for comment. They are:
- Vicki Lanza Hines ’76, 1975-76
- Karen Quon ’88, 1987-88
- Meghan Sweeney ’97, 1996-97
- Beth Trinchero ’99, 1998-99
- Sona Patel ’06, 2005-06
- Jessica Pratt ’13, 2012-13
- Jane Hagen ’21, 2020-21
Dhanika Pineda is a fourth-year literary journalism major and editor-in-chief of the New University for the 2022-23 academic year.