CalMatters Expands Staff with Support from Members and Foundations

In summary

CalMatters continues to hire the best and brightest people to deliver more unbiased California news you can count on.

With support from funders, donors and individual members, CalMatters has hired new people to bring readers more California news you can trust.


Denise Zapata is our new associate editor. Previously, she was an editor at EdSource for eight years. As deputy editor of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Denise was part of a team that won a George Polk Prize and another that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She began her career as a journalist at Bakersfield Californian, where she covered several topics, including higher education, and later became an editor. She also worked as an editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Denise Smith Amos is our new California Divide publisher. Previously, she was editor of the Watchdog and Accountability team at the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she managed nine reporters. She brings nearly 35 years of editing and reporting experience to CalMatters as well as a passion for accountability journalism and a perspective on Divide stories that she attributes to her personal background. She has worked as an educational reporter at the Florida Times Union and the Cincinnati Enquirer; editor of the Kentucky Enquirer and deputy underground editor at the St Louis Post Dispatch. She graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern.


Lil Kalish is our new California Divide reporter based in Los Angeles. As a senior researcher at Mother Jones magazine, they produced investigative articles with a fresh, lively writing style and verified company stories. Lil has also freelanced for The Guardian and LAist and worked at the Bail Project writing a history of US bail funds for the UCLA Law Review. Lil earned a degree in political science and Chinese language at Vassar as well as an MA in postcolonial studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. After the undergraduate, they worked for a year as a reporter for the Myanmar Times during a government crackdown in Burma.

Nadia Lopez, our new environmental reporter, was previously the Latin American Communities reporter at the Fresno Bee, where she wrote in English and Spanish. She also co-launched a newsletter on Latino issues and appears regularly on a national Spanish-language talk show. Previously, she was a reporter at the San Jose Spotlight City Hall. Nadia graduated from San Francisco State with a degree in professional writing and rhetoric.

And Jeanne Kuang is our new California Divide reporter based in Sacramento. Previously, she was the Missouri State House correspondent for the Kansas City Star. Originally from the San Gabriel Valley, she left California to pursue a journalism degree at Northwestern University, then reported on criminal justice in Chicago and government, housing, gun violence and poverty in Wilmington, Delaware.

Revenue team

Sonya Fast joined us as Membership Manager after working at Voice of OC, a nonprofit news and investigative organization in Orange County, California. There, she spent nearly six years growing reader revenue, increasing engagement around news, and fine-tuning web, social media, and app channel presences. . Quick describes itself as “fiercely committed to better serving communities, especially those who are marginalized, underserved and most at risk.” Earlier in her career, she was a reporter, web editor, mobile editor, and graphics reporter at the Orange County Register. She was also an adjunct professor at Chapman University for nine semesters, teaching courses in digital media with a focus on marketing and engagement. Quick is a former regional director of the SPJ and current board member of the Orange County Press Club.

Kelly Mackey is our newest Development Associate supporting the team’s work on growing reader support to build a sustainable business model. Mackey has worked with various nonprofit organizations, including the California State Library and the Sacramento County Library. Kellie honed her skills as a development associate while working at Friends of the River, where she curated the first Sustainable Water Solutions Expo on the grounds of the State Capitol.

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