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 Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Our Team

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

Linda Burns is SoCal Connected's Senior Producer. She has been with the show since its premiere in 2008 -- part of the news team responsible for winning nearly every major journalism award. Prior to that she was supervising producer of Life & Times, KCET's long-running news and public affairs show. She free-lanced as a special projects producer at NBC-LA and has written and produced news and specials for CBS stations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She received an MA in Broadcast Communications from San Francisco State University, and achieves zen by gazing at the photo of her dog next to her computer screen.


Segment Producers

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.



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.

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.



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. 


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.


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.


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

Executive Producer

Val Zavala



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


Contact Us

Questions, comments, story ideas? Send us an email at socalconnected@kcet.org.

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