Meet Laura Braden.
She’s 34, a Knoxville, Tenn., native, a University of Maryland graduate, lives in midtown and serves as the senior director of communications for the Sacramento Kings.
She’s active in the community as a member of the Capitol Network, Metro EDGE, the Sacramento Press Club, the Sacramento Public Relations Association and Social Media Club Sacramento; and serves on the board of directors for the Food Literacy Center.
I am most familiar with her work as one of the three co-founders of the Girls on the Grid. The lifestyle blog, hatched over a bottle of wine (or two or three) with Julie Soderlund and Becky Warren at 58 Degrees, launched in November 2009 to provide a creative outlet for professional women and a platform to celebrate the local issues and topics that they’re interested in.
“I vividly remember having a full panic attack the night before the blog went live – why are we making our personal lives so public? Who’s going to read it?,” she writes.
“But what followed was a delightful surprise.”
The blog has grown into one of the most-well known in the city, showcases the work of 26 writers and editors (up from around a dozen at its founding) and hosts an annual Sacramento’s Most Eligible Bachelor/Bachelorette contest with proceeds going to charity.
My four favorite posts tell you a little more about Laura in her own words:
- “An Exercise in Absurdity: Tackling my Fears”
“Yes, I’m fiercely independent, loving, confident and adventurous, but I’m also afraid of being judged, afraid to really trust people, afraid of regretting my turn left when I should have turned right, etc.”
- “Learning to Love Selfies”
“Look, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional selfie – new bangs, a black eye from yoga paddle board, celebrities sitting at the table behind you – but when 90 percent of your Instagram photos and Facebook profile pictures are selfies of your boring face, it may be time to ask for help … or a friend.”
- “I Don’t Want Children (or Real Estate) … and That’s OK”
“I feel most alive exploring new worlds, food, ideas and cultures. All of which is pretty hard to do with a mortgage and kids in tow. Not impossible, but difficult.”
- “Opting Out of Our Wedding”
“Not everyone wants or needs a “traditional wedding”, and I happily await the day that that designation ceases to exist.”
We met for the first time at Iron Horse Tavern in June to talk about media consumption, the city of Sacramento and her thoughts on the news.
Laura, as she talks about in the Metro EDGE video below, has left and returned to Sacramento four times. She says her “adopted hometown” is “headed in the right direction” on its path to becoming “the next great American city.”
When I asked her what she loves about Sacramento, she was quick to offer three things.
First, the state capital has a social balance not seen in the nation’s capital, politics don’t dominate every discussion and the people are laid back and open-minded.
“This is one of the few places that’s felt like home,” she says.
Second, you get to be who you want to want to be. In Knoxville, you have to wait your turn; in Sacramento, if you have ideas and passion, “you get rewarded for caring.”
“I love how many people are starting their own things,” she says.
Third, there’s a good mixture of history and culture.
“There’s a healthy debate over each change,” she says. “Here, you can tinker, try things.”
And sure, like many others, she mentions the city’s affordability, the live/work/play balance and proximity to many other great places. “Distance is an attribute.”
The self-described “news junky” says local media seem to sincerely want to be engaged in the community and sees room for more alternative publications to participate in the conversation.
“I love learning how people orient their worlds,” she says. “Everybody has a story worth sharing.”
Laura answered the following questions by email about how she gets the news. Text submitted March 31.
How do you get your news?
Intravenously. Since my profession is public relations/affairs, receiving accurate information fast and early is paramount. I’m constantly hitting refresh on my gadgets, and I’m a pro at scanning articles for sentiment and relevance.
I couldn’t live without my Flipboard app, which curates my favorite topics/publications into a chronological magazine. I check it throughout the day, and I love how easy it is to share articles to social media profiles and/or save them into my own (and newly created) magazines: Sacramento and Public Relations 3.0.
Exaggerated headlines aside, Drudge Report is still the best snapshot of breaking stories before they hit cable news/Twitter. I also skim Rough & Tumble for California political/policy news, as well as a variety of private Twitter/Facebook lists I’ve created on the topics/projects I’m currently working on.
For rational and thoughtful TV news without pundits screaming useless talking points, I never miss PBS’ NewsHour, 60 Minutes, Frontline or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (an amazing alternative to the Colbert Report). I find Bloomberg way more helpful than CNN for geopolitics and trends, and Al Jazeera and BBC offer great international coverage you simply won’t find on the major networks.
What’s the first news event you remember?
I vaguely remember the Challenger explosion, but the first news segment that had a permanent impression was 20/20’s expose on Romanian orphanages. I was nine years old, and it gave me nightmares for weeks. It was my first (memorable) look at the darker side of humanity, and it showed me the power of using media to tell compelling stories and educate the public in meaningful ways. My obsession with documentaries is still alive and well with a Netflix list I can never quite conquer.
What’s the last great thing you ate?
Everything at Lou’s Sushi. Standouts include: tuna tataki, BTS, seafood nachos and the OMFG roll.
Who’s doing it right in news?
The Atlantic has been around since 1857 … for good reason. Their articles typically scoop mainstream news months in advance, and their reporting is pragmatic and balanced. They’re masterful at taking a kernel of information and zooming out to expose a new trend, or taking a complex geopolitical story and breaking it down so you understand the historical context and points of view. They get bonus points for allowing subscribers to access all of their past content.
Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
(1) Urban density/infill — Most young professionals – myself included – want to live, work and play in the same place filled with cultural/entertainment options and services like dentist offices and grocery stores. We need to continue to focus on dense, vertical growth throughout the grid that makes it easy to ditch our cars and rely on bikes, public transit and walking.
(2) Identity — We’re no longer a CowTown, but we certainly don’t want to become the next [insert city du jour]. We’re committed to support local businesses/endeavors, but we also understand the need to welcome global talent and brands. Sacramento is clearly at an inflection point, and I think the conversation we’ve been having over the last 12 months (e.g. the Jeff Koons, “Save Simon’s” and streetcar discussions) will continue for the next three to five years. It’ll be messy … and it’ll get heated, but I feel so fortunate to live here during a time of massive transformation. Everyone should pay attention, get involved and make their voices (respectfully) heard.
(3) Sharing our story — I truly believe Sacramento is poised to be the next great American city, and I’m tired of reading about the cool things happening in Austin, Las Vegas and Portland … most of which is simply targeted public relations. We’re at a point where our collective story is developed enough to share it with the world. I’d love to see a city “Ambassador” charged with coordinating with the various entities (Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, Downtown Sacramento Partnership, the City, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, etc.) to travel the nation (globe?) speaking about all the cool things happening here. It’d help with tourism, business recruitment, courting creative/young professional/millennial talent and a whole host of potential collaborations.
What do you absolutely hate about the news?
Clickbait is the worst, but thankfully the Internet is fighting back. I also really wish the cable outlets would stop appealing to the lower common denominator. I get why both happens but I still hate it.
What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
Our nation’s infrastructure is literally falling apart. Everyone knows it, and there’s zero political will to do anything about it – even though it’s a proven job creator and source of economic growth. Runner-up to John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden that illustrated how ignorant most of us are when it comes to the government collecting personal data.
If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
Sonoma and Lake Tahoe. Regardless of the season, I never leave either locale without feeling beyond lucky to live in Northern California.