The Valley’s ‘scoop queen’: Brianna Vaccari


Brianna Vaccari was named the accountability/watchdog reporter of the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative on Jan. 23. (Courtesy of the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative.)

By Dylan Gonzales, Reporter

Before becoming the “scoop queen” and a successful journalist at several different publications in the Central Valley, Brianna Vaccari was like several other college students, unsure of what she wanted to do with her career. 


Vaccari, a 2014 Fresno State graduate, chose to major in Media, Communications and Journalism (MCJ) due to her excelling as a writer and wanting to pursue a career where she was able to frequently interact with people.


When she first started taking MCJ classes, Gary Rice, a journalism adviser, encouraged Vaccari to pursue it as a career if she was serious about it. Even though Vaccari still wasn’t sure if she wanted to stick with journalism after meeting with Rice, she gave it a chance and is very thankful that she did. 


As a student, Vaccari was the assistant news editor for The Collegian, a student writer for The Fresno Bee and a full-time student. This led to some overwhelming days with heavy workloads.


“When I look back, I’m not sure how I did it,” Vaccari told The Collegian. 


After graduating in 2014, Vaccari was The Parlier Post Editor for Mid Valley Publishing in Reedley for 10 months. 


After that stint, Vaccari spent two years as a reporter for the Merced Sun-Star.


As a previous student writer at The Fresno Bee, Vaccari was eager to work her way back to The Bee as a full-time reporter. She spoke with editor Tad Weber, and he gave her a career path on how she could end up at The Bee full-time. 


Weber spoke highly of the Sun-Star and told Vaccari it would be a great place to learn and grow as a journalist. 


During her time at Sun-Star, Vaccari met Monica Velez. They first met in 2016 and have been close friends ever since. 


Velez grew up in the Bay Area and was unfamiliar with the Central Valley. Even though Vaccari was a young reporter, still searching for her niche, Vaccari took Velez under her wing and taught her what she needed to know about the issues in the Central Valley and how to hold elected officials accountable. 


“Sitting across from her was invaluable. She’s the type of journalist that uplifts other reporters. Even when we weren’t working in the same newsroom, I could always count on her to help me out,” Velez said. 


Even though she only spent two years at the Sun-Star, Vaccari made a lot of memories.


“I had a lot of fun working and doing journalism in that community,” said Vaccari.


In 2017, Vaccari returned to The Fresno Bee where she covered a variety of topics. However, Vaccari’s most covered subject was Fresno City Hall.


Vaccari wrote many polarizing articles during her tenure at The Bee. 


The article she remembers the most was one headlined “Is Fresno run by ‘mediocre white guys’? Some think so. Here’s what numbers show.” This article led to significant backlash against Vaccari, who went as far as filing a police report due to comments she received on Twitter. 


“Are you really doing your job if you’re not pissing people off,” Vaccari said laughingly. 


Over the past few years following that story being published, several city council members told Vaccari that her story made a significant impact on the demographics in Fresno City Hall.


After five years at The Bee, Vaccari once again found another job of interest. In January of this year, Vaccari began with the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative (CVJC), a nonprofit journalism organization. 


CVJC emphasizes more enterprise stories compared with the typical one-story-per-day focus that the other publications Vaccari has worked for. 


“I’m excited for a different kind of journalism model,” said Vaccari. 


The CVJC is run by the James B. McClatchy Foundation. As of right now, the CVJC has only three reporters: Vaccari, Nancy Moya and Michelle Morgante. 


The CEO of the foundation, Priscilla Enriquez, was impressed with Vaccari’s knowledge of all the local issues taking place in the Valley. 


“(Vaccari) brings great energy and a perspective about local accountability reporting for the Valley that is unparalleled.  She also reflects the next generation of reporters and it is vital to CVJC to lift up young reporters and surround them with quality editorial mentorship and an environment where they can hone their skills and grow as a reporter,” Enriquez said.


 “We appreciate (Vaccari’s) enthusiasm to join CVJC and be a part of our groundbreaking team to learn and do, inquire and discover facts and report quality, hard-hitting news from a new model of nonprofit journalism where community, and nonprofits, are at the heart of what CVJC does.”


While some journalists who have achieved great success in the Central Valley would look for opportunities in bigger markets such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, Vaccari is committed to staying in the Valley for the foreseeable future.


“There’s so many stories to be told here. I grew up in the Valley, so it’s very important for me to stay here and continue doing journalism here,” Vaccari said. 


With about 10 years of journalism experience, Vaccari has gained a lot of respect from her peers for building connections with sources and her commitment to giving the Central Valley impactful stories that make differences in communities.


“People trust her because she’s excellent at her job and she cares deeply for the communities in the Valley. She is the scoop queen,” said Velez.