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Mariela Gomez joins Highway 29 news staff

For the past month, a new reporter has been exploring Napa Valley, showing up everywhere from BottleRock town hall meetings to the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot.

Mariela Gomez joined the staff of Highway 29 in November.

For the past month, a new reporter has been exploring Napa Valley, showing up everywhere from BottleRock town hall meetings to the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot.

It’s all part of getting to know a community that is new to Mariela Gomez as a journalist but is, all the same, a familiar place from her youth and childhood.

“I call myself a child of California,” said Gomez, who moved from Los Angeles to Napa to become a bilingual/bicultural reporter for Highway 29 Media at the beginning of November.

The great-granddaughter of braceros, agricultural workers who came from Mexico to the U.S. under a special government program to provide much-needed help during World War II, Gomez was born in Salinas but remembers coming to Napa Valley during summers with her grandparents who also had worked in the vineyards here. “They told me ‘This is where you came from,’” she said.

Growing up in Salinas, Gomez said became interested in journalism from reading the local newspaper. “I didn’t feel inspired to think of what I could be until I began reading the paper and I realized I could be something too.”

She decided what she wanted to be was one of these journalists telling stories of other people and places.

“Journalists provided a roadmap for me to dream big dreams,” she said. “I was thankful for these people. I was able to believe in myself as a kid because of their work. Now, as a journalist, I want to do the same for other people,”

Gomez studied communications at California State University at Long Beach and during that time worked as a volunteer at 22 West Media radio station. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she returned to Salinas for a few months. In 2021, she returned to Los Angeles to study at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism where she earned her master’s degree in journalism.

At the 16th National  Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, Gomez won a Los Angeles Press Club Award for Best Arts/Entertainment Profile in the student section for a story she produced for USC Annenberg TV News.

After graduating from USC in May[BT1] , she went to work for KTLA television in Los Angeles.

“It was fast-paced and it solidified for me that I am going to be a journalist,” she said, “Nothing compares to it.”

Even in the heady news world of LA, her mentors told her that her next step would be to find a job where she could immerse herself in community news reporting.

She read about an opening for a journalist in Napa Valley, funded by a grant from the Napa Valley Community Foundation with a special emphasis on reaching out to the Latinx community. She applied and got the job. After finding a place to live in American Canyon, she set out to learn about her new home.

“This is a resilient community,” she said. “There is a sense of pride that’s contagious in the sense of community. And there are amazing stories that aren’t being told.”

As part of the Highway 29 Media team, she said, “We are all bringing our synergies together to create something new in the media landscape here in Napa.”

Highway 29 was formed in fall 2022 to purchase The Calistoga Tribune and The Yountville Sun, two weekly community papers in danger of closing as their respective founders decided to retire. The group has since purchased Napa Life, the weekly newsletter created and published by Paul Franson. Napa Life Extra is a first step in reporting county-wide stories. 

For now, Gomez’s stories will be found in Napa Life Extra as well as the Tribune and the Sun, and online, where plans are moving forward to launch a Spanish version of the publications.

“I want to hear from people,” Gomez said. “I want to hear the ideas. I want to know what stories I should be telling.”

As for herself, she said, “I feel like I am home.”

Contact Mariela Gomez at