About Us

"SoCal Connected" is KCET's award-winning signature news series. This half-hour local news magazine offers viewers substantive, in-depth reporting on vital issues that impact Southern Californians.

Since its debut in September 2008, "SoCal Connected" has been honored with prestigious journalism awards, including 17 L.A. Area Emmy Awards, 26 Golden Mikes, a George Foster Peabody Award, three Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Journalism.

The show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

Our Team

SoCal Connected on KCET

Val Zavala is anchor and executive producer of "SoCal Connected." Since joining KCET in 1987
she has won 15 L.A. Emmy awards. She has covered major issues in southern California politics,
education, government, demographics, healthcare, environment, economy, and arts and culture.
She has been honored for her community service by numerous organizations including the
California Chicano News Media Association, and Hispanic Americans for Fairness in Media
among others. She was a John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University in 1993. She received her M.A. in journalism from American University and her B.A. in Latin American
Studies from Yale University.

Senior Producer
Linda Burns

Segment Producers

Adam Hyman
Adam Hyman has been a documentary filmmaker for the past eighteen years, producing and/or writing a variety of historical and archaeological documentaries that have aired on the PBS, the History Channel, the Learning Channel, and others. He co-produced the feature documentaries Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (which was Oscar nominated) and Worse Than War. He is also Executive Director and Programmer for Los Angeles Filmforum.

Jon Kaplan
Jon Kaplan is a TV news segment writer and producer who has won more than 40 awards, including eight Emmy Awards and three Writers Guild of America Awards. As a news executive, he helped lead daily news operations at ABC, CBS and NBC stations across the country, including Oklahoma City, Charlotte, New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago. Jon is a member of the Writers Guild and his play, "Hit Man: The Hack Wilson" was produced on the Chicago stage. He received his bachelor's degree, with honors, from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Lata Pandya

Lata Pandya has worked with "SoCal Connected" since 2009. She has won three L.A. Area Emmy Awards and was part of the "SoCal Connected" investigative team that won a 2011 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Journalism for a series of investigative stories holding CAL OSHA and FEMA officials accountable. She freelances with several news organizations in the Los Angeles Area. Lata holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a M.A. from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC. She is known to be notorious about watching sports while logging tape.

Nihar Patel


Dija Dowling

An actor, filmmaker, and journalist, Dija Dowling was born on the outskirts of Texas and raised in sunny Southern California. She divides her time between work, travel, and time with her family and dog, Oliver. An avid consumer of Nutella and watcher of films, she hopes to contribute to all the wonderment the world has to offer. Dija can currently be found meandering through the streets of Los Angeles.

SoCal Connected on KCET

Nic Cha Kim

Nic Cha Kim is a reporter for "SoCal Connected" and filmmaker for "Artbound." Since 2012, Nic's documentaries "The Spirit of North Shore," "Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras," "Songs in the Key of L.A.: The Bedrock Sessions," "Thank You For Coming" and "Art Battle L.A." have all premiered on KCET. Recipient of the NAEJ Award in 2015 for his segment "Radio Personality Art Laboe." Also a writer and activist, Nic blogs about digital art at Niche.LA Video Art and founded arts district Gallery Row in downtown Los Angeles.
SoCal Connected on KCET

Conor Knighton

Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria is a Los Angeles Area Emmy and Knight Foundation Award winning journalist, science communicator, television personality, producer, and podcaster. Cara currently cohosts/coproduces the Saturday morning television show "FabLab" on Fox and reports on local issues for "SoCal Connected" on KCET. She is a regular contributor to "TechKnow" on Al Jazeera America and "Real Future" on Fusion.

Cara also hosts a weekly science podcast called "Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria" and co-hosts the popular "Skeptics' Guide to the Universe" podcast. Previously, Cara co-hosted "Brain Surgery Live" on National Geographic Channel as well as "TakePart Live" on Pivot TV (she was also a producer on the series). Before that, she was the Senior Science Correspondent for The Huffington Post and costarred in "Hacking the Planet" and "The Truth About Twisters" on The Weather Channel. Cara has made appearances on BBC America, CBS, CNN, Current TV, Fox, Fox News, G4tv, Nat Geo WILD, Science Channel, SundanceTV, and the Travel Channel. She is also a regular contributor to The Young Turks. Prior to her career in media, Cara taught biology and psychology courses to university undergraduates and high school students in Texas and New York. Her published research has spanned various topics, including clinical psychological assessment, the neuropsychology of blindness, neuronal cell culture techniques, and computational neurophysiology.

SoCal Connected on KCET

Derrick Shore

Derrick is a three-time Emmy® nominee and winner of two LA Press Club Awards and a Golden Mike Award for his work on SoCal Connected. His reporting assignments have taken him from the red carpet at the Oscars® to LA's skid row to the White House as well as international destinations in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and Australia to cover breaking news and features. Derrick graduated at the top of his class from UCLA's School of the Arts & Architecture.

SoCal Connected on KCET

Alex Stapleton

Alex is a filmmaker and journalist. Recently she worked with the Gates Foundation to create the Webby nominated series, Take Part World. Her critically acclaimed films, "Just For Kicks, Outside In: The Story of Art in the Streets" and "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel" have competed at Sundance, Tribeca, and the Cannes Film Festival where she was nominated for the prestigious Camera d'Or Award. She's produced docuseries projects for A&E, NatGeo, MTV, Spike, Canal + , Pivot, Yahoo and Glamour. This is her first season with "Socal Connected." Previously Stapleton has hosted Docwatch on Pivot andThe American Revolutionaries, on The Ovation Network. Originally from Houston, Texas, she now calls L.A. home.

SoCal Connected on KCET

Associate Producer
Amanda Garcia

Amanda Garcia is the Associate Producer for "SoCal Connected." Prior to joining the team, Amanda worked for NBCUniversal at 30 Rock in NYC, first as a Page working with CNBC, Saturday Night Live, MSNBC and the TODAY show, then as a Production Assistant for MSNBC's "UP with Steve Kornacki." Amanda received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is a native of the San Fernando Valley. Follow her on Twitter: @AmandaG_SoCal.

Site Editor
Monica Luhar

Monica Luhar is the site and social media editor for "SoCal Connected." Her bylines have appeared in NBC News Asian America, KPCC, KCET, New America Media, Alhambra Source, OC Weekly, India-West, among various other national, weekly, and hyperlocal media outlets. Prior to joining the SoCal Connected team, Monica worked as a digital news assistant for KPCC and a general assignment reporter for India-West newspaper in Northern California. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in literary journalism.

Digital Producer
Albert Sabaté

Albert Sabaté is a journalist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Before joining KCET, he was on staff at the Center for Health Journalism and ABC News/Univision's Fusion. He has freelanced for the Associated Press, Reuters, PRI's The World, KQED's California Report, Religion News Service and others. Born and raised in Southern California, he earned a M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Social Sciences from California State University, San Bernardino.

Production Manager
Kathy Kasaba

Kathy Kasaba is the Production Manager for "SoCal Connected." She has been with KCETLink since 1981 and has worked on a variety of KCETLink projects such as "Departures," "LinkAsia," Pledge specials, Huell Howser's "Visiting" and "California Gold," as well as national PTV shows including "American Playhouse," "Tavis Smiley," "Puzzle Place" and "Your Turn to Care." Kathy is a native Californian and received her B.A. in Television Production from Pepperdine University.

Production Supervisor
Robert McDonnell

Winner of two LA Emmys, Robert McDonnell has been Production Supervisor of "SoCal Connected" since 2012. Since first joining KCET in 1993, Robert's worked in program development, production and post-production on a wide range of award-winning KCET television programs including: historical documentaries ("American Experience: Woodrow Wilson," "Chasing the Sun," "Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State"); drama series ("PBS Hollywood Presents," "American Family"); animation series ("Jim Henson's Sid the Science Kid"); arts specials ("Craft in America," "LA County Holiday Celebration"); science series ("Wired Science"); informational series ("Your Turn to Care"); and daily talk shows ("A Place of Our Own," "Los Niños en Su Casa"). Robert graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Broadcast Journalism, Political Science, and Film.

Michael Bloecher
Michael Kelly
Xiao Niu

Executive Producer
Val Zavala

"SoCal Connected" has received various awards since it began airing in 2008, including numerous Peabody, Emmy and Golden Mike awards. Click here to see a complete list.

Questions, comments, story ideas? Send us an E-mail at socalconnected@kcet.org.