"My heart belongs to journalism; I just happen to do journalism with code."
Titan alumnus Lucio Villa '12 (B.A. communications-photocommunications) stands out in today's newspaper industry for his expertise in blending solid journalism with technological prowess to create interactive elements that enhance storytelling and encourage reader engagement.
Villa, an interactive producer at the San Francisco Chronicle, was recently named as one of Editor & Publisher's 25 newsroom leaders under age 35. The annual list highlights young newspaper professionals moving the industry forward.
Why do you think you received this "25 under 35" distinction and how do you feel about it?
My supervisor nominated me, and I feel honored to be on the list. I think I received this distinction because I've taken a lead on projects, design and workflows, and my recent projects have won awards.
How did Cal State Fullerton prepare you for success?
Learning about visual communications — TUSK Magazine design and workflow with Jeff Brody, professor emeritus of communications; design and photojournalism with former CSUF faculty Xtine Burrough and Mark Boster; and especially being part of the Daily Titan — prepared me for the work that I do now. With my visual background and web design experience, I know how a visual content creator thinks, and I collaborate with them to help visualize stories in the best way possible on all platforms.
Where do you see journalism going?
I see journalism adapting to technology much more quickly and using design thinking — a process for creative problem solving — to develop projects. Newsrooms are not only hiring journalists, but also cartographers, animators, virtual reality and augmented reality developers, vertical video creators and artificial intelligence reporters. They're also using machine learning to help report.
What advice do you have for current CSUF students interested in journalism?
Explore all aspects of a newsroom. It helps you understand how a newsroom works and you'll learn what you like doing best and pick up skills along the way. I didn't know that web design and development were useful in journalism until I shadowed the investigative reporters, print designers and editors at my internship at the Chicago Reporter. I then started attending tech events and journalism conferences, like the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, and increased my skills in that area.
Also, think about how your story is going to look online and on mobile. More and more readers are getting their news on mobile devices, and if you can create an interactive and engaging experience, analytics show that readers stay longer to read, engage, subscribe and send great feedback.
Where do you go from here?
I see myself as a leader in a newsroom, in charge of a projects team composed of engagement reporters, photographers, videographers, animators, illustrators, web designers and web developers. The team would work on long-form interactive stories where we explore different ways of telling stories, build newsroom tools, design collaborative workflows and understand our reader's experience, all while being the best journalists we can be and impacting the communities we cover.