On the Move
A clutch McClatchy performer
On her way up the corporate ladder at one of the leading newspaper companies in the nation, Karole Morgan-Prager has always remembered the encouragement and advice given by her mentors.
"It is so important to find a mentor," says Morgan-Prager, a 1984 graduate of Nevada, with a dual major in journalism and political science. "Someone who supports you, is willing to teach you and will let you shine."
Throughout her distinguished career in the newspaper industry, Morgan-Prager has certainly made her mentors proud.
The Reno High School graduate was always interested in the legal aspects of journalism, so she decided to attend law school at UCLA after graduation from Nevada. She is the vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at the McClatchy Company in Sacramento, Calif. McClatchy is among the top 10 newspaper companies in the nation, publishing 11 daily and 13 weekly newspapers including the Sacramento Bee.
Her inspiration for her career in law/newspapers came from an unlikely source.
"Geraldo Rivera was an investigative reporter on (television news magazine) '20/20' when I was in high school, and I knew he had a law degree," she says. "It seemed like there would be a lot of opportunities if I went that route."
Although she looked to Geraldo Rivera's combination of journalism and law for inspiration, she looked to Reynolds School of Journalism professor Warren Lerude for support.
"Warren was very supportive of me going to law school," Morgan-Prager says. "It was very rare at that time. I don't think there were any other J-School grads that were going to law school right after graduation."
Says Lerude, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper editor who also has a law degree: "Almost every year that I have taught media law, some pretty hard-core journalism students get caught up in the drama and intellect of the First Amendment, its challenges and threats. This is what Karole did. As in all things she does, her high intellect zeroed in on the complexities of media law, and she excelled in analyzing the detail and the drama."
Following graduation from UCLA, Prager began working as an associate for the Morrison and Foerster law firm in Los Angeles, doing mergers and acquisitions. Another important mentor, Tom Unterman, general counsel at the Times Mirror Company (owner of the Los Angeles Times) asked her to apply for a position on the legal staff.
"I jumped at the chance to work at Times Mirror," Morgan-Prager says. "It was an ideal chance for me to combine my mergers and acquisition work with journalism. Tom was a great influence. He's such a smart, creative attorney."
Through her work with the Times Mirror legal department and the Los Angeles Times advertising department, Prager became more comfortable with the newspaper business. In 1995, after two years with Times Mirror, Prager received a call from a headhunter who was looking to fill the general counsel position at McClatchy.
"It was a little bit scary for me because I would be going out on my own and leaving the Times Mirror Company," she says. "I also felt like at that time I was ready to spread my wings and see what I could do."
Prager has been with McClatchy since 1995 and was named vice president in 1998. As head lawyer for the company, she oversees all legal matters and assists in company planning/strategy and employee issues.
Her success at McClatchy hasn't been surprising to Lerude.
"Being the top legal counsel is a major assignment for anyone, but Karole has always been up to the challenge," he says. "And top of it all, Karole is such a nice person — everyone who meets her knows that immediately. She has carried our journalism flag very highly for nearly 20 years, and we are all extremely proud of what she's done."
Along with determination and hard work, Prager has received a lot of advice and support from mentors over the years, and now she offers her own advice to graduates.
"It is so important to find an area of work you are passionate about," Prager says. "You should always strive to maintain a balance between work and personal aspects of your life which are just as, if not more, important."
Despite her corporate achievements, Prager is most proud of her ability to combine journalism and law into a fulfilling career. She lived in West Los Angeles during the 1994 earthquake and realized then just how important her job was.
"A lot of times lawyers don't feel really great about what they do day-to-day," she says. "I can remember going out that morning and there was the Los Angeles Times sitting on my doorstep and even though the world felt like it was falling apart, there was the newspaper. I feel so great to be working for an industry that means so much to people every day and that by being a lawyer I am helping in some way to make sure that news gets out."
Today, Prager and her husband, Ken ('84 Electrical Engineering) live in Granite Bay, Calif., with their three children, Sam, 11, Ben, 9, and Kendall, 3. Prager credits Ken for "helping take a lot of the pressure off me" in raising the family.
"Ken's just so supportive," she says of the former Wolf Pack boxer and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity president. "In the afternoons, he's the one who makes sure everyone gets to their various activities (Sam and Ben both are involved in karate, horseback riding, soccer and baseball while Kendall often rides in a trailer behind Ken's bike on the nearby American River bike trail). We've been married since 1984. I've truly been blessed being married to such a wonderful person."