Our mission and our staff

Our mission

The Tyler Loop’s nonprofit journalism and storytelling engages the people of Tyler and neighboring communities with independent, in-depth stories and cultural coverage, revealing the challenges and opportunities facing our region.

Our values

  • We believe nonpartisan, fact-based reporting about Tyler’s past and present is essential for making informed decisions about its future
  • We strive to reflect Tyler’s rich diversity in all its forms, including demographics, politics, and faith
  • We aim to highlight what’s working in Tyler, and also to document challenges facing our city’s health and growth
  • We believe democracy works best when citizens engage in well-informed, civil conversations about the local impacts of national policies
  • We believe that independent, community-supported journalism is essential to the future of Tyler and cities like it across the nation

Our activities

  • We publish deeply reported, meticulously researched journalism on carefully selected issues facing Tyler and East Texas
  • We reflect Tyler’s diversity in all aspects of our work
  • We train paid interns and fellows, drawn from local schools
  • We collaborate with journalists across the state and country
  • We create opportunities for residents to engage in civil, fact-based conversations on city, state, and national policies and trends
  • We will become a leader in a national network of local nonprofit newsrooms experimenting with community-driven sustainability models

Staff and Board

Jane Neal, executive director

Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop, a nonprofit journalism startup that explores policy, history and demographics in Tyler, Texas. Jane also serves as storytelling director of Out of the Loop.

In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and Tyler Public Library. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide.

She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former French teacher at the newly-named Tyler Legacy High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.


Neal Katz, board president

Neal Katz serves as rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Tyler, TX. In 2003, he was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Prior to that, he attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where he received his undergraduate degree in Political Science, and spent two years of graduate school studying writing and counseling.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Rabbi Katz has also lived in Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Israel. In addition to his pulpit life, Rabbi Katz is also a singer/songwriter and music producer. Rabbi Katz has taught courses in Introduction to Judaism and Jewish Philosophy at TJC and UT Tyler. He serves on numerous local non-profit Boards and has won the T.B. Butler Award and The W.C. Windsor Awards from the Tyler Chamber of Conference for outstanding community service. He is married to Jennifer Katz and together they have three children.


Allen Arrick, board member

Allen Arrick is a writer, marketer and photographer. He currently manages the Tyler Junior College digital marketing, advertising, and multimedia department and serves as part of the TJC leadership team.

With his background in journalism, Allen loves stories about people overcoming the odds and holding local government accountable to the people it serves. In college, Allen was the Editor-in-Chief of the Patriot Talon, and received accolades and awards from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association and recognition from the Associated Press Managing Editors for best non-daily college newspaper.

Allen lives in Tyler with his wife and three boys, Oliver, Edison and Archer. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking and powerlifting.


Ginger Barry Brandt, board member

Rev. Ginger Barry Brandt pastors, preaches and leads worship at First Christian Church Tyler. She’s a second-career minister, with years in magazine publishing and business-to-business marketing before leaning all the way into the work she says she was meant for: making the church more accessible and real for seekers, wanderers and strugglers like herself.

Ginger grew up in Henderson, earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English Literature from Austin College in Sherman and a Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Colorado.  After eight years in Colorado, she and her husband, Jeremy, brought the first of three red-headed sons “home” to Texas.


Cate Carrejo, board member

Cate Carrejo is a newly established East Texan and two-year resident of Tyler. After living in Houston and New York City, Cate settled in the beautiful Piney Woods to build community and chosen family. Her professional background includes multimedia journalism, environmental justice organizing, political campaign management and currently non-profit development. She and her fiancée Lauren share three canine children, two feline children, and one human child.


Eleno Licea, board member

Eleno Licea was raised in East Texas and is the owner of Licea Insurance Group in Tyler. He has worked in the financial services industry for 18 years. 

Eleno served on the board for Tyler Independent School District and is a past member of the board of directors for Bethesda Health Clinic. He is also a founding member and past president of the Hispanic Business Alliance; and former board member of the City of Tyler’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. Eleno currently serves on the City of Tyler’s Half Cent Sales tax board, TISD Foundation board and UT Heath East Texas Internal Review board. 

Eleno graduated from Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler with a degree in communication.  He is also a graduate of the MBA’s School of Mortgage Banking.  He holds active real estate, securities and insurance licenses. 

Eleno is married to Esteici Licea. They have two daughters, Jazminne and Esperanza; and a son, Eleno Michael. Eleno attends mass at the Cathedral Catholic church in Tyler. 


Amy Lively, board member

Amy Lively was a regional public relations manager at Southwest Airlines in public relations and employee communications.

She has lived in Tyler 20 years and currently works at UT Tyler as the senior director of development.

Amy has 20 years of fundraising, strategic communications, and project management experience.

 


Michael McClendon, board member

Michael McClendon is the co-founder of Sages Vintage, a “custom crush” winery and consultancy in Nacogdoches. In addition to producing world class wines at Sage’s Vintage he has been named as a “Young Turk of Texas Wine ” by Dr. Russ Kane; featured in the Dallas Morning News; and on the cover of Wine and Spirits Magazine as part of their national collective of “Rising Black Voices” in the wine industry. 

Michael graduated from U.T. Tyler in 2009 with a biology B.A., plus minors in chemistry and Spanish. His career has taken him all over the world, from Chile to New Zealand, but East Texas still has a special place in his heart. 

He has worked with several local organizations such as the Heritage Land Bank Northern advisory committee, Discovery Science Place board of directors, and the former Tyler Bolts Rugby Club. Michael loves spending time with his wife and his nine-year-old son, an avid baseball player. Read more about Michael’s work and life in Tyler here.


Susan McKinney, board member

Susan is a native Oklahoman but has lived in Tyler for five years. She is the Communications Director for Young Audiences, Arts for Learning of Northeast Texas, an arts-in-education organization. She’s also a stylist for a Los Angeles based women’s fashion line and a voice-over artist in her spare time. She is a mother of three and a grandmother of three. Susan could spend the rest of her life on a patio with a good friend and a great glass of wine.


Paulina Pedroza, board member

Paulina Pedroza is a community advocate and teacher. She has taught English to language learners for 12 years, as well as immigrants preparing for their United States citizenship test.

She also teaches Spanish to Tyler police officers. Paulina is an active liaison between Tyler and East Texas organizations and city services and local Latino communities.

In addition to being a board member for The Tyler Loop, Paulina participated as a storyteller in Out of the Loop season 4.


Leah Wansley, board member

 

Leah Wansley serves on The Tyler Loop’s board of directors, and also serves as the tech director for Out of the Loop storytelling show and podcast.

She formerly served as president for both Leadership Tyler and Discovery Science Place boards, and currently serves on the Leadership Tyler Catalyst 100 executive committee, as well as the Dayspring finance commitee and live broadcast director.

Leah is a founding partner of Cardwell & Wansley consulting firm. She lives in Whitehouse and with her husband, James, and their two daughters, Megan and Paige.


Lisa Williams, board member

Lisa Williams is a Tylerite of 50 years and a LVN nurse at Primrose Retirement Community.

She is president of Black Nurses Rock Tyler, Secretary of NAACP, a member of AKA sorority; and board member of Keep Tyler Beautiful, National Alliance on Mental Illness and BancorpSouth Bank.

Lisa is a member of Leadership Tyler Class of 33. About her family, Lisa says, “They are my everything.”


Jamie Maldonado, contributing photographer

An East Texas native, Jamie Maldonado has worked as a visual journalist and copy editor for the Longview News-Journal, The Denver Post, and other publications.

He serves as the campus photographer and graphic designer at Kilgore College, and moonlights as a fine art photographer (complete with a master’s degree).

Taking to heart Dorothea Lange’s quote, “a camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera,” Jamie has turned his lens on his hometown and its people to see it all anew.

See more of Jamie’s work at his website. 


Grayson Lackey, contributing videographer

Grayson Lackey is an award winning writer/director/director of photography who has had his work appear in festivals in L.A, Chicago and all over Texas. His lifestyle of rubbing shoulders with both blue-collar workers, as well as the artistic community, has developed his empathic, intimate visual style.

In addition to directing video for Out of the Loop 3, Grayson produced video for all of The Tyler Loop’s COVID Stories series.


Rebecca Smith, newsletter editor

Rebecca Smith is the editor for The Loop’s weekly email newsletter. She is currently the coalition coordinator for The Piney Woods Substance Abuse Coalition, a program of local nonprofit Next Step Community Solutions.

Before getting involved in substance abuse prevention, Rebecca covered religion and nonprofits for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. She was recognized by the Texas Associated Press for her religion column, and earned her master’s in journalism from UNT and her bachelor’s in communications from Tarleton State University.

Rebecca lives in Tyler with her husband, Stewart, her son, Dean, and their neurotic Bichon, Remy.


Zoe McGhee, reporting fellow

Zoe McGhee is a freshman attending UT Tyler as a Mass Communication student. She is the copy editor for the Patriot Talon, the independent student-run newspaper striving to inform, entertain and educate students and staff of UT Tyler.

McGhee also serves as the secretary for the UT Tyler Design Club, an innovative new organization dedicated to spreading creativity across campus and providing a creative outlet for students.

She interned at her past high school’s communication department, acting as editor-in-chief of the district magazine and working closely with local businesses and administration. She also worked part time at her local newspaper over the summer as a reporting fellow.

McGhee hopes to expand her skills as a journalist by working with The Tyler Loop.


Emily Bush, reporting fellow

Emily Bush is from Houston, Texas. She is a senior at the University of Texas at Tyler, majoring in English and minoring in Language and Technology.

Although she loves writing for her English classes, she says, “journalism has been a big step forward to putting my voice out in the open. I am so excited to start writing for the Tyler Loop!”

 


Tasneem Raja, co-founder and former board member

Tasneem Raja is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oaklandside. A pioneer in data journalism and local nonprofit news startups, she co-founded The Tyler Loop, a nationally recognized community news platform in East Texas.

She was a senior editor at NPR’s Code Switch and at Mother Jones, where the team she led helped built the first-ever database of mass shootings in America.

She started her career as features reporter at The Chicago Reader and The Philadelphia Weekly, and lives in Oakland with her husband and two imperious terriers.


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Please drop a line at [email protected], and don’t hesitate to just say hi. We look forward to visiting with you.