Posted on by Dylan Tran

Alumnus Randy Hagihara, journalism advocate, mentor and Journalism Department honoree, dies at age 72

January 27, 2023

K.W. Lee and Randy Hagihara pose with Prof. Tae Kim after visiting campus on April 27, 2017 to speak to students about their careers and the 1992 Los Angeles riots

The CSUN Journalism Department mourns the passing of alumnus Randy Hagihara, 2006 recipient of the department’s Kappa Tau Alpha (KTA) Outstanding Service Award and a staunch advocate for newsroom diversity and a mentor to aspiring high school and college journalists. 

For nearly a decade, Hagihara was a regular guest speaker at the department’s career development and related events where he shared what has been described as his “no-nonsense” style of advice with hundreds of students.  

“In his role as senior editor for recruitment at the Los Angeles Times,” said Linda Bowen, former Journalism Department chair, “Randy made significant contributions to our students and program for many years. He never said, ‘No’ to any request for help or advice.” 

Hagihara served as panelist for the annual Spring Career Day for several years in the early 2000s, Bowen said. He also frequently interacted with students and faculty in skills classes as guest speaker and annually enlisted several top Times’ reporters and editors to lead workshops at the Fall CSUN High School Journalism Day. He led workshops there, as well. 

A sansei or “third generation” Japanese-American, he was born and raised in L.A. and graduated from Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. Hagihara served four years in the Air Force then attended Los Angeles Trade-Technical College and CSUN, according to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times

He embarked on his journalistic career in 1979 as a reporter and photographer at the Koreatown Weekly, which was the first English-language newspaper for Korean American audiences aimed at bridging language and cultural divide. 

Under the tutelage of the editor-publisher K.W. Lee, the first Korean-born investigative reporter to work for a mainstream daily newspaper, Hagihara excelled not only as a writer and photographer, but also honing important mentoring skills that he would use throughout his journalism career.  

Hagihara also worked at small newspapers in California – including the Valley Pictorial & News in Hemet, the Delano Record and the Glendale News-Press – before going on to pursue a full mainstream media career with stints at the Peninsula Times Tribune, the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News. 

He started at the Los Angeles Times in 1990 and served as deputy city editor, city editor and night city editor for the Times’ Orange County Regional edition. During his years there, the edition grew to 165 editorial staff members as the Times battled the Orange County Register for local subscribers. 

That early experience of mentorship by K.W. Lee laid the groundwork for Hagihara’s acclaimed career as a reporter/editor/minority role model for numerous minority journalists.  

He went on to spend two decades as director and senior editor for recruitment for the Los Angeles Times’ Minority Editorial Training Program (METPRO) before retiring in 2011.Wall Street Journal reporter and CSUN Journalism alumnus Adolfo Flores was among those recruited by Hagihara for the highly sought-after fellowship program. 

Hagihara was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2021 and died Jan. 7 at the age of 72. He is survived by his stepson, Sean Kawata, and a granddaughter. His wife of more than 40 years, Janet, died in 2021, as did a stepson, Ian Kawata. 

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