Lookout Local names key members of its founding team
Sept. 23, 2020 — As Lookout Local heads to its first launch with Lookout Santa Cruz this fall, it has named Chris Fusco its founding executive editor. Fusco, an award-winning journalist, comes to Lookout after three years as top editor for the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We’ve said we’re dedicated to building a renewed standard of lively, trustworthy, high-quality, non-partisan journalism, and we are thrilled to have found the ideal editorial leader to shape that vision,” said Ken Doctor, CEO and founder of Lookout.
“Chris’ work at the Sun-Times has justly earned national recognition. His ability to both deliver the goods every day to readers, while building and mentoring a staff, matches the ambition of Lookout.”
Fusco will lead an initial editorial team of 10, a number of whom have been hired in recent weeks, as detailed below. The company continues to seek applicants for a variety of roles. To see a list of available jobs, go to lookoutlocal.com/jobs.
Twinned to its editorial and reader-centric business model is Lookout’s commitment to community betterment and engagement.
“Alex Sibille is a consummate Santa Cruz connector and outstanding relationship builder who is able to work with a diverse array of Santa Cruz County businesses and civic leaders. She intuitively understands Lookout’s mission and will immediately provide us with experienced direction,” said founding chief revenue officer Jed Williams.
Sibille, now the assistant director of business development at UC Santa Cruz, joins Lookout’s Revenue and Community group.
The Editorial Team
Fusco has named Tulsi Kamath as Lookout’s managing editor and Mark Conley as its deputy managing editor. “Tulsi and Mark share a commitment to our mission, and their combined experience — Tulsi’s nationally and Mark’s locally — provides us with trusted at-launch leadership,” Fusco said.
Among the first correspondents to join Lookout are Isabella Cueto and Nick Ibarra. Each has distinguished themselves in connect-the-dots reporting, a key component of Lookout’s service to its readers.
“This emerging team is made up of both top local journalists and those who will bring fresh eyes to Santa Cruz County,” Fusco said. “It shows how serious we are about attracting more top talent and eventually bringing quality journalism to communities nationwide.”
The Lookout newsroom will work closely with Sherene Tagharobi of the California-based First Amendment Coalition. As part of Access Democracy — a partnership
between FAC and Lookout — Tagharobi will work side-by-side with Lookout to help journalists navigate open-government laws to strengthen their reporting, thereby helping readers stay engaged with civic affairs.
Chris Fusco, Executive Editor
Fusco brings to Lookout the know-how of a big city newspaper editor with deep roots in community journalism. He began his career covering towns and schools in suburban Chicago for two newspapers, Shaw Media’s Northwest Herald and Paddock Publications’ Daily Herald, before joining the Chicago Sun-Times, where he’s spent the past 20 years in a variety of roles, including state government reporter, Watchdogs reporter, managing editor and, most recently, executive editor.
As a reporter, he and two colleagues won a George Polk Award in 2014 for their yearslong investigation that led to the conviction of a member of Chicago’s politically powerful Daley family in a 10-year-old homicide case. Under his leadership as editor, the Sun-Times was named one of Editor & Publisher’s “10 That Do It Right 2020,” reflecting the paper’s transition from a print-focused operation to one with a digital future.
As a member of the Illinois Press Association board of directors, Fusco has seen the challenges that media companies big and small are facing.
“For me, Lookout is an opportunity to take everything I’ve learned in 26 years in the business and work alongside a talented and diverse team to right local journalism’s ship,” he said. “And the beauty of it is, I’ll get to learn a lot more in a place like Santa Cruz, a community hungry for news in a state where there’s no shortage of it.”
Tulsi Kamath, Managing Editor
Kamath comes to Lookout with several years of experience in serving communities with in-depth local journalism. She cut her teeth in Anchorage, Alaska, covering everything from wildfires and earthquakes to domestic violence trends in the state and an active serial killer. She started working at the Houston Chronicle in 2017 and was a member of the Pulitzer finalist team for coverage of Hurricane Harvey. In 2019, she received a grant to cover immigration issues faced by South Asian women in Texas. With the help of that grant, she published a 12-part series profiling local women impacted by restrictive U.S. immigration laws.
At Houston’s KPRC, Kamath has helped shape coverage that focused on serving the hardest-hit communities during the coronavirus pandemic, police brutality protests and the digital divide in schools.
She is fluent in four languages, including Hindi, Marathi and Konkani.
Having worked in multiple cities in the U.S., Kamath has learned the importance of good local journalism in order for a community to thrive.
”The exciting thing about Lookout is the chance to serve a community that doesn’t have many high-quality, trustworthy sources of local news,” she said. “The team that Ken has assembled brings diverse perspectives, a wide range of expertise and a hunger to seek out the truth for the Santa Cruz community.”
Mark Conley, Deputy Managing Editor
Conley joins Lookout after 14 years at the Mercury News and Bay Area News Group, where he served as Deputy Sports Editor on a staff that covered three World Series, three Super Bowls, five NBA Finals, a Stanley Cup Final, six Olympic Games and three U.S. Opens over that span. He led enterprise coverage and special projects, and guided the Merc’s premium NFL and MLB magazines to five straight years of top APSE honors.
Conley chaired a digital innovation committee and partook in the Table Stakes program that led to the newsroom’s establishment of a digital subscription team and a product development approach to coverage. He helped build brands around Pac-12 and high schools coverage via robust newsletters, social engagement, promotional deals and targeted audience content. Both coverage areas became top digital subscription drivers in the sports department — and the newsroom as a whole.
Conley has lived in Santa Cruz County — Westside, Eastside, Midtown and now Capitola — for more than 20 years and has a passion for seeing journalism restored in the place he lives and loves.
“This county is such a special place, and it’s as much about the people who choose to live here as the magical geography,” he said. “I’m looking forward to helping tell the stories of Santa Cruz County.”
Isabella Cueto, Correspondent
Cueto joins the Lookout team as a government accountability reporter, building on her experience covering local government for The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
Before joining The State, she was in her hometown, editing the University of Miami’s student newspaper, interning for WLRN public radio and reporting for Northwestern University’s Medill Justice Project.
Cueto’s work has been recognized by the S.C. Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Florida Society of News Editors.
She is bilingual, fluent in Spanish.
Cueto understands the power of high-quality local journalism, and knows it’s imperative that we safeguard its future. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this visionary team and to build something special for the people of Santa Cruz,” she said. “But what most drew me to Lookout was its mission — finding creative solutions to dire problems news outlets face — because every community deserves a robust local press corps.”
Nick Ibarra, Correspondent
Ibarra has a track record of reporting that has shone light into almost every corner of Santa Cruz County. Raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he came to journalism from an early background in the tech industry — working in systems administration and developing software. Before returning to his roots to report for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, he held an editorial role with Bay Area News Group and contributed reporting to publications such as Scientific American, Sierra Magazine and KQED Radio. His work has earned several statewide awards and appeared in newspapers across California, including the Mercury News, East Bay Times and Orange County Register.
He is proficient in Spanish.
“Bringing Santa Cruz County the depth and quality of coverage it deserves is personal to me,” he said. “Lookout has the talent, the resources and the vision to do exactly that — and I couldn’t be happier to join this team.”
Sherene Tagharobi, Attorney
Tagharobi joined the First Amendment Coalition as a legal fellow in June 2020. An attorney and Emmy-nominated former journalist, she is passionate about FAC’s mission of promoting and defending the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press.
Tagharobi previously worked for the law firm Nixon Peabody, where she represented individuals and businesses in complex litigation and government investigation matters. She earned her J.D. from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and a dual B.A. from the University of Southern California in Broadcast Journalism and International Relations, as well as a minor certificate in Spanish. During law school, she served as a judicial extern for U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California.
Before law school, Tagharobi spent six years working as an on-air television news reporter and producer, starting at WILX-TV in Lansing, Michigan, before stints at WWMT-TV in West Michigan and KNSD-TV in San Diego. She then worked as a field producer for ABC News, covering the San Bernardino terrorist attack, the 2016 killing of five Dallas police officers, and the “Stairway to Heaven” copyright trial. Her reporting earned an Emmy nomination and a first place award in the investigative/enterprise category from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Pro Chapter.
She speaks Spanish and Farsi and is a member of the Iranian American Bar Association.
The Revenue and Community Group
Alex Sibille, Director of Community Partnerships
Sibille brings to Lookout nearly a decade’s worth of experience in various external relations and community-centered roles, starting with her work in a State Assembly district office in her hometown.
After coming to Santa Cruz in 2015, she immediately integrated herself into the community. She was an appointed Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commissioner, a Steering Committee Member of the United Way’s Emerging Leaders Circle and worked as a Policy Analyst for the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz. She also is a graduate of Leadership Santa Cruz County, Class 32.
In her most recent job, a corporate relations role at UC Santa Cruz, she established, developed and cultivated relationships and partnerships with Fortune-list companies, mid-sized, small and start-up businesses, and local alumni-owned businesses.
“What inspires me about Lookout Local is that the mission is community-focused,” Sibille said. “Personally, Lookout is an exciting opportunity for me to partner with leaders in non-profit, community groups and local businesses to engage with our readers through a modern platform that provides a new standard of interaction that I believe is the future of local news.”
About Lookout Local, Inc.
Lookout Local is a for-profit, public benefit company. Its mission, built into its incorporation, is crystal clear: To serve the news and information needs of its communities. Lookout Santa Cruz is the first of Lookout Local’s emerging network of local sites, with the intention of repopulating news deserts with a higher standard of journalism and a commitment to community betterment.
Knight Foundation, Google News Innovation Challenge, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation have all supported the founding of Lookout Local. In addition, the robustness of its staff building has been made possible through the local generosity of Meadow Fund and individuals, including Carol and Doug Melamed, Rowland and Pat Rebele, and Linda Peterson.
Both in its product creation and more widely, The Los Angeles Times is a strategic partner of Lookout.
For updated information about the Lookout Santa Cruz launch, please sign up for the Friends of Lookout newsletter.
Learn More: Lookoutlocal.com
Lookout Local Inc.