San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Member: Luke Stangel

AAJA runs in the family for Luke Stangel. Stangel’s uncle is longtime AAJA member and AP photographer Paul Sakuma, one of his inspirations growing up.

The 29-year-old from Palo Alto spent several years as a journalist for the Palo Alto Daily News, Contra Costa Times and a CNN Radio affiliate.

Now he’s on the forefront as our industry reshapes itself. Stangel co-founded Tackable in 2010, which developed a location-aware news iPhone and iPad app called Tapin Bay Area. It raised funding from the California Newspapers Partnership and MediaNews and incubated inside the San Jose Mercury News. Now Tackable is building more news-related software for a number of news organizations.


What’s your life motto?
I’m probably too young to have a life motto, but my guiding principle has been: Am I making a difference? Do I believe in what I do? Be happy in work and life.

What advice would you give for up-and-coming journalists?
If I could go back in time and give some practical advice to my 20-year-old self, it would be to develop a really good system of organizing names and phone numbers. Focus on taking better notes. Buy a digital recorder and use software to transcribe it when you get back to the office. Get serious about Twitter. Try to manage your stress. Enjoy the process. … In no time, you’ll be an editor, and long for the days you were in the trenches.

Why did you decide to become a journalist? What inspired you?
I’m really lucky to have such a great role model in my uncle, Paul Sakuma. He’s always been larger-than-life. When I was a kid, he’d take me out on assignment. I remember one day, he shot the CEO of Palm Pilot, heard a fire on the scanner and went to that, and ended the day shooting from the sidelines of an Oakland Raiders game. I thought he had the coolest job in the whole world (and I still do). When I got into j-school and needed to get my first internship, he marched me into the Palo Alto Daily News, and introduced me to the editor. I ended up working there for the first four years of my career. Professionally, he was great. Personally, he’s an awesome uncle, and I’m fortunate to have him in my life.

Why is media diversity important to you?
Diverse newsrooms uncover a greater range of stories, and produce better news. That said, I’d like to see more socioeconomic diversity in our ranks. The average journalist (middle-class upbringing, graduated from college) may have trouble understanding the problems affecting the poorest 25 percent of the nation. There are important stories there that aren’t being told.

What do you love most about being Asian American?
The hapa experience is unique. We straddle two cultures. In my case, I grew up seeing my Japanese grandparents every day. They demonstrated the value of hard work, respect for elders and the importance of tact. These were all immensely valuable to me later in life. I enjoy experiencing my Japanese traditions, and look forward to passing those down to my kids.

Why did you decide to start Tackable?
In 2003, I was working as a cub reporter at the Palo Alto Daily News, covering crime and courts. I was so focused on scooping my competition that I’d take my police scanner home with me, and listen to it 24/7. It was totally unsustainable. I wanted a way for the public to tell me, “News is happening here right now.” That idea nibbled at me until 2010, when I decided I’d try and build it myself. We think information on a map is super interesting, and it drives our entire product philosophy.

Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.