Our newsroom is growing so fast we may need nametags. Today we’re announcing another hire – our first public engagement manager. She’s Ashley Alvarado, a talented young journalist who has been working at Los Angeles and Los Cabos magazines.

Ashley is set to start July 6. She joins other recent hires, Susanne Rust and Joanna Lin, who will be joining us a in few weeks. We also landed Pulitzer Prize winner Ryan Gabrielson, who won’t officially start until Sept. 1.

This wave of hiring brings our California Watch newsroom to 16 people, including 11 reporters. That doesn’t even count support, administrative and leadership staff we share with the Center for Investigative Reporting.

So what exactly is a public engagement manager? It’s an innovative, new job that combines the skills of a reporter, editor, web producer and community manager. And Ashley is the perfect person to fill that role.

Since it’s a new job, we expect it to evolve, and Ashley will play a key role helping to shape it. The main aim of the public engagement manager will be to help identify stories in neglected, forgotten and voiceless communities throughout California. Once we tell these stories, Ashley’s job will be to make sure we’re reaching the people who need to know about our work – both the affected parties and those who can make a difference.

We expect that Ashley also will help bring community stakeholders together for town hall-style round table forums or live chats online. She will work collaboratively with reporters and multimedia producers inside our newsroom while building relationships and networks with other news organizations and community stakeholders.

Ultimately we want to make sure our stories make a difference. Ashley will help us meet that goal.

Here’s a little more about her:

Ashley is a graduate of USC where she earned degrees in print journalism and Spanish. She most recently served as a researcher/proof reader at Los Angeles Magazine, where she also contributed stories. She also serves as managing editor of Los Cabos Magazine in Mexico.

Ashley has freelanced for Bon Appetit, the Contra Costa Times, Latina, the Los Angeles Times Magazine and Entrepreneur. She also previously worked as a researcher and copy editor at Tu Ciudad Los Angeles until the magazine folded in 2008. She is a native of Eugene, Oregon.

California Watch is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting and is now the largest investigative reporting team operating in the state. Visit the Web site at www.californiawatch.org for in-depth coverage of K-12 schools, higher education, money and politics, health and welfare, public safety and the environment.

Mark Katches is a past editorial director for The Center for Investigative Reporting. He is currently editor of the Oregonian and vice president of content for the Oregonian Media Group. Previously, he built and ran investigative teams at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Orange County Register. Mark was the primary editor of Pulitzer Prize-winning projects in both 2008 and 2010 and edited or managed five other stories that were Pulitzer finalists. Projects he edited or directed also have won the George Polk Award, the IRE award and the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award as well as the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize, the Sigma Delta Chi Award and the National Headliner Award. Multiplatform projects produced by CIR staff under Mark's guidance won a national News & Documentary Emmy, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award. He has overseen projects or websites that have won four Online Journalism Awards in the last decade, in addition to logging more than a dozen OJA finalists. In 2001, he was part of a reporting team that won the Gerald Loeb and IRE awards for a series of stories detailing the rising profits from the human tissue trade. He completed a Punch Sulzberger Fellowship at Columbia University in 2013 and has taught reporting classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University. Mark served on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors for four years and oversaw the IRE mentorship program for six years.