Ryan P. Cruz’s 2021 in Review

Our ‘Rookie’ Reporter Racks Up a Series of Firsts

The celebration was both solemn and joyful during the “danza Azteca” ceremony. | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz

A Grisly Crime: Recap of the Pierre Haobsh Trial

I had never covered a murder trial before, and learning the grim details of the triple-murder of respected local herbalist Dr. Henry Han and his family is definitely something that sticks with you. Writing about the crime and the mysterious Pierre Haobsh was difficult, but I felt that it was important to try to bring some sense of closure to the case that raised so many questions in the community.

Early Results Go for Rowse in Santa Barbara City Election

In another first of my rookie year here at the Independent, I was able to tag along with Jun Starkey and run around downtown Santa Barbara on election night as we found out in real time who would be our next elected leaders. I was tasked with grabbing photos of the candidates and taking down quotes while Jun wrote updates from the road via her cell phone. It was a very exciting but exhausting night.

Ortega Park Comes Alive for Día de los Muertos

One of my favorite parts of working for the Independent, and in Santa Barbara, is getting to know and celebrate some of the amazing people in the community. Ortega Park has experienced a true revival with a series of “Occupy Ortega Park” events, and I was glad to cover some of these events along with other stories like the Youth Makers Market and La Casa de la Raza.


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Family & Football: A Santa Barbara Family Bonds Through Sports

This story was close to my heart, as I got to tell a little about my family history while also shining a light on my two cousins who helped lead Santa Barbara back to the playoffs this year. I love sports, my family, and journalism, so this cover story was a joy all-around to write.

Inside the Alisal Fire Command Center at Earl Warren

The reason I chose this story was because it was sort of an accident. I was sent by one of our editors to cover a press conference at Earl Warren Showgrounds during the Alisal Fire, but when I arrived, I found there was no event at all. I was struck by the really decorative desk set up by staffer Ariana Rivera, and after talking to her, I realized she had an amazing story. It was nice to show the people who are behind these emergency command centers.

Wheels Up: Santa Barbara’s Wheelie Generation

I would always see these kids riding their big-wheeled bikes and whipping wheelies all around downtown, and I was so excited when I got to share their stories in the Independent. It’s so important that young people — especially young people of color — are represented and get a chance to see themselves in newspapers and online. There’s often a stigma behind these bikers, and I feel like I was able to shed some light on them and show they are just kids having fun.


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