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Hire brings political acumen, web experience to COURIER

Last week, the COURIER welcomed Matthew Bramlett as the paper’s newest employee. The 27-year-old reporter brings to the city desk the enthusiasm of youth—one somewhat more jaded reporter overheard him saying he was “tickled” to get the job—and an abiding interest in politics.

Mr. Bramlett expressed regret that he had to miss the second GOP presidential debate, as it conflicted with the September 16 meeting of the city’s planning commission. And as of press time, he is eagerly looking forward to a Thursday afternoon talk at Pitzer—with the faint possibility of an accompanying interview—delivered by Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley.

“I’m kind of a political junkie and Martin O’Malley is someone I’m aware of and respect,” Mr. Bramlett said, noting that the governor of Maryland has some good ideas and strikes a nice balance between progressive values and a more establishment-based ethos.

“Before the whole Bernie Sanders #FeelTheBern [viral campaign] happened, O’Malley was seen as a main contender to Hillary Clinton,” he continued. “He’s been pushed aside to a distant third, but it’s always nice to talk to a high-ranking political figure.”

Mr. Bramlett also has a healthy admiration for local politics.

“In the city, for example, there are people in the public sector who directly deal with residents—as opposed to someone who is off in Washington or in Sacramento,” he said. “I feel like that’s unique. I respect that closeness with the community.”

In Claremont, involvement is a two-way street, as evidenced by the inaugural city council meeting Mr. Bramlett attended as COURIER city reporter.

“The council chamber was full of people. These weren’t just people looking to comment on the agenda,” he said. “They were just there.”

Of course, being a self-professed “political geek” does not a reporter make. Mr. Bramlett comes with an educational background and a growing resume of journalism experience that indicates he will be at ease reporting on the City of Trees.

Mr. Bramlett was born in Norfolk, Virginia but spent his earliest school years in Upland, attending Peppertree Elementary School and then Pioneer Junior High before moving to Yucaipa for his high school years. It was like Upland, just more rural, the journalist reports. “There was more of an assortment of lifted Silverado trucks,” he joked.

At Yucaipa High, he joined the staff of the school news magazine The Epigraph. Young Matt was, and remains, passionate about music and film. He even played drums for a time, commuting to Orange County to keep the beat for a screamo band called Lachance. He began to think he might enjoy a career as an entertainment writer.

A three-hour round-trip commute made late on school nights doesn’t lend itself to a stellar academic career. Mr. Bramlett admits he wasn’t much of a student when he was younger. Upon graduation, he took a job at a video store, balancing late shifts with occasional classes at Chaffey College. 

After about a year of “soul searching,” he started to get more serious about college and career. Mr. Bramlett began to take a full course-load with an emphasis on general ed. In the fall of 2009, he transferred to Cal State San Bernardino. He became a communication studies major and was managing editor of the college’s newspaper, the Coyote Chronicle.  

Upon graduation, he embarked on an internship with LAist.com, a one-stop site focusing on news, culture, entertainment and restaurants of interest to Angelinos. The internship turned into a job and he briefly served as an associate editor. He then found a writing job as a blogger for the Hollywood trade site The Wrap. The position included aggregating content about the entertainment industry as well as writing original stories.

One notable assignment for The Wrap included a story about two “Real Housewives” who neglected to make donations to Detroit schools after boasting about their charitable contributions. Another was following the “Kasem Beat,” covering the struggle of the children of legendary DJ and voiceover artist Casey Kasem to see their dying father, who was under the care of his wife Jean Kasem.

After his gig at The Wrap ended, Mr. Bramlett began stringing for the Redlands Daily Facts, writing articles about interesting residents. Mr. Bramlett, an ardent baseball fan with a penchant for the Angels and a bit of an obsession with stats, especially enjoyed writing a piece about a 13-year-old kid who threw a no-hitter. 

Mr. Bramlett is used to serving the Claremont community, albeit in a different capacity. Along with his writing jobs, he spent nearly two years working at Claremont restaurants Union on Yale and Tutti Mangia before taking on a post with the local newspaper. After a Tutti manager mentioned that the COURIER was hiring, he applied and the rest is history. 

After the previous city reporter Angela Bailey left, there was a handful of qualified candidates vying for her post. Mr. Bramlett just felt like the best choice, according to editor Kathryn Dunn.

“Matt struck me as eager. I knew he could turn stories around quickly because of his experience with the blog,” she said. “I thought his website experience would lend itself really well to the COURIER, that and his interest in politics. Plus, he just seems like a nice guy. I think he’ll fit in well with the community.”

Mr. Bramlett makes his home in Upland but he still spends quite a lot of time in Redlands. His partner of five years, Jacobe Varela, lives in the “Jewel of the Inland Empire” and also works there. Mr. Varela is a barista and baker at Olive Avenue Market and a pastry chef at Bricks and Birch.

Dating a chef means that Mr. Bramlett gets treated to good homemade foods and is forced to binge-watch cooking shows like Chopped. His television tastes lean more to comedy, and he has recently powered through Netflix and Hulu collections of shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation.

He may have to put aside the remote for a while, though, because his plate is full with stories about Claremont. These aren’t the kind of articles you dash off but ones involving history, context and, in some cases, controversy.

He cites the following stories among coverage priorities: eminent domain; Measure PS, which proponents hope voters will support in order to fund a new $50 million police station; the Wilderness Park Master Plan, and the reclamation and beautification of Claremont’s portion of Route 66.

And Mr. Bramlett wants to do right by a city he has come to love.

“ I like how close-knit the community is, and I like how involved the citizens are with everything happening with the city,” he said. “It’s a great city with a lot of interesting people and places to go. It just has a quaint sort of feel to it that I really appreciate.”

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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