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Laurel Rosenhall named Sacramento bureau chief; Phil Willon promoted to assistant editor

Portraits of Laurel Rosenhall and Phil Willon
Laurel Rosenhall moves from The Times editorial board to her new role. Longtime reporter Phil Willon served the last six months as the interim California politics editor before his promotion.
(Ricardo DeAratanha, Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The following announcement was sent on behalf of Deputy Managing Editor Hector Becerra:

I am delighted to announce two key leadership positions in our Sacramento bureau: Laurel Rosenhall has been named Sacramento bureau chief, and Phil Willon has been named assistant editor. Together, they will oversee The Times’ coverage of the California Capitol and state politics.

Rosenhall joined The Times editorial board in 2021 as a writer focusing on California politics, policy and power. Before coming to The Times, she was a founding reporter at CalMatters, the nonprofit digital news venture that launched in 2015. Previously, she spent more than a dozen years covering politics and education at the Sacramento Bee.

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Rosenhall has been included in the Washington Post’s list of outstanding state politics reporters. She received a National Headliner Award for online beat coverage and an enterprise reporting award from the California News Publishers Assn.

The Sacramento Press Club named Rosenhall its Journalist of the Year in 2021, noting several stories in particular. Her data-rich work covering how politicians circumvent finance disclosure laws resulted in an ethics investigation. After she reported on the NAACP’s California chapter endorsing propositions that were criticized for being particularly onerous for Black communities, the organization’s longtime leader resigned.

In bestowing the award, the press club had this to say: “Laurel sometimes was at the center of news surrounding the Legislature but also drove the news with stories that revealed what was going on outside the spotlight. Her reporting served readers while also keeping competitors on their toes. Such journalism is in the best interest of the public and a strong democracy.”

A lifelong Californian, Rosenhall grew up in San Francisco and graduated from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Sacramento with her husband, Jeff, and their two children. She starts in her new role Nov. 27.

The position of assistant editor is a job Willon is particularly suited for and one he greatly deserves. For the last six months, he has served as the interim Sacramento bureau chief/California politics editor, overseeing the newsroom’s coverage of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state Legislature and California’s 2022 election.

He has covered Newsom for six years, first as a gubernatorial candidate and then as California’s chief executive. Willon helped chronicle Newsom’s struggles addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and a recall attempt, as well as his responses to a string of natural disasters and a recalcitrant Donald Trump.

Before heading north, Willon spent three years in the mountains, deserts and out-of-the-way nooks of Southern California’s Inland Empire reporting on stories including the Christopher Dorner manhunt and San Bernardino’s financial meltdown. He covered Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and was the one, and only, editor of the Los Angeles Times’ Inland Empire edition.

Willon wrote for the Tampa Tribune before coming to The Times. There he covered Florida’s water wars, serial killers, hurricanes, death-row executions and Gov. “Walkin’ Lawton” Chiles. He eventually became the paper’s Washington correspondent and covered the Clinton-Dole presidential campaign in 1996. He started his newspaper career as the Kent Island reporter for the capital in Annapolis, Md.

Willon was born in Philadelphia and raised in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of UC San Diego and lives in the Sacramento area with his wife, Rosalva. Their two daughters are away at college. He also starts in his new position Nov. 27.


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