Alumni Turned Authors

The move from reporter to journalist was not a huge leap for these five Cal Poly alumni who have recently published or plan to publish their new books.

The topics of these works range from a media training guide to a self-help book by a determined author relying on crowdfunding to publish.

By Ellie Spink

Rick DeBruhl
Rick DeBruhl (1977)

Veteran broadcasters Rick DeBruhl (1977) and Kevin Riggs (1978) self published The Insider’s Guide to Media Training: 99 tips to Survive your Interview in the Digital Age in October 2020 in order to demystify the media interview.

Dedicated to former journalism professor and department chair Jim Hayes, The Insiders Guide uses the authors’ 30 years of broadcast experience to help people understand the media and reporters’ motivations.

“For almost every journalist I’ve worked with over 30-something years, their agenda was to meet their deadline and to stay out of trouble with their editor and just to do a fair and thorough job,” Riggs said.

Riggs and DeBruhl tell their readers to answer the reporter’s questions but always be prepared and know what their talking points are.

Carolyn Nielsen
Carolyn Nielsen (1994)

Carolyn Nielsen (1994), a journalism professor at Western Washington University, wrote Reporting on Race in a Digital Era, after studying the racial disparities she viewed in the reporting in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in Fergurson, MO, in 2014.

Published in March 2020 by Palgrave Macmillan, Nielsen’s book examines 1,700 pieces of journalism from five different publications and documents first-hand experiences of journalists of color.

Early on in the coverage of the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Nielsen said she came across something that she had not encountered in the coverage of Ferguson. She remembers turning on MSNBC and hearing reporter Ali Velshi use the words “systemic racism,” a phrase she had not seen in the 1,700 articles she analyzed in the Fergurson coverage. But has anything else changed?

“Having watched and read several more days worth of coverage,” Nielsen said, “I will strongly say that news coverage has, again, like Ferguson, focused too much on property damage and the protests themselves as events rather than foregrounding why the protesters are in the streets and interrogating the systems of oppression that have driven the frustration and inequity.”

Cal Poly alumna Kathryn McKenzie (1981) and her husband Glenn Church researched the 1950s fight between Humble Oil and Monterey Bay locals who were trying to prevent the construction of a refinery.

The couple were inspired to write Humbled: How California’s Monterey Bay Escaped Industrial Ruin, after her father-in-law, a Monterey county supervisor in the 1960s and 1970s, passed away in 2017. He had taken copious notes about the controversy.

“It was really one of the first environmental battles of the modern era,” McKenzie said. “It had been written up in The New York Times when Humble Oil pulled out of marsh landing in 1966. It wasn’t just a little project in a remote fishing port. ... It was a pivotal moment for local history.

“The big takeaway, “ McKenzie said, “is just that the people do have power when they can come together for a common goal.”

The final author, Alyssa Mavor (2019), has successfully gathered funding for her new book The Archimedes Lever: The Hidden Factors of Exponential Success, with New Degree Press. Her goal was to pre sell at least 120 copies in order to publish. The book is planned to be released for general sale in Barnes and Noble and Amazon at the end of April 2021.

“Finding your Archimedes Lever is a metaphor I use for cultivating a lifestyle that has compounding benefits,” Mavor said, “Whether you're hoping to do extremely well in business or achieve a lifelong goal, the framework I present in this book helps people acquire the leverage they need.”


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