Gil Durán, a former journalist and communications director for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and press secretary for Gov. Jerry Brown, has been named as California opinion editor for The Sacramento Bee.
Durán will oversee strategy for McClatchy’s five California news organizations: The Sacramento Bee, The Fresno Bee, The Modesto Bee, The Merced Sun-Star and The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, while each paper will continue to write local editorials. Duran will work out of The Bee and his first day is Dec. 10.
Durán, 42, brings a broad set of skills to the new role. In addition to his experience with Brown and Feinstein, he also worked with then-Attorney General Kamala Harris and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
In 2015, he co-founded FrameLab, a communications firm driven by the work of George Lakoff, director of The Center for the Neural Mind and Society at UC Berkeley. He launched a podcast, also called FrameLab, on language, politics and the brain.
Durán’s journalism career began with an internship at a McClatchy paper, The Lexington Herald-Leader, and he interned at the McClatchy-owned Miami Herald before working as a San Jose Mercury News writer from 1998 to 2001.
He has also held jobs as a farmworker, a cook, a wildland firefighter, a warehouseman and a property manager.
“My life plan had always been to write for the opinion pages but, in a twist of fate, I ended up working in politics — mostly because it was the opportunity that came my way when I couldn’t find a newspaper job during the recession of 2003,” Durán said. “I rode the wave as far as I could, had many adventures and witnessed some history.”
He said a friend introduced him to Jerry Brown, for whom he worked as a press secretary from 2003 to 2007, when Brown was mayor of Oakland. He did another stint for Gov. Brown from 2011 to 2013.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Gil to this key position in our organization. His extensive experience in California politics along with his work in journalism are the perfect combination,” Sacramento Bee and McClatchy West Region Publisher Gary Wortel said in a statement. “We look forward to his leadership as The Bee continues to serve as a guide for readers in Sacramento and across the state.”
Durán, whose grandparents were Mexican farmworkers, was born in Tulare and lived all over the Central Valley, including Bakersfield, Oildale, Visalia and Exeter.
He plans to incorporate those places into his work.
“The Central Valley is the future of California, yet it’s a place that our state’s most powerful politicians have traditionally preferred to avoid and neglect,” he said. “This must change, and as a son of central California, I’m glad to have the opportunity to help give voice to the people, the places and the issues found here in the great Central Valley.”
He graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1998 with a degree in English.
Durán, who lives in Oakland but plans to relocate, said the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi contributed to his decision to return to journalism now.
“We live at a time when both democracy and the free press have come under sustained attack from powerful forces around the globe that have no respect for either institution,” he said. “(Khashoggi’s death) reminded me that the pen is mightier than the sword, and it’s a journalist’s purpose to ‘print the news and raise hell’ — and hold the powerful to account. When I got the chance to return to newspapers, I didn’t hesitate.”