Former Tribune editor succumbs after accident The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Former Tribune editor succumbs after accident

Former Tribune editor  succumbs after accident
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By Kamala Kirk
Tribune Contributor

Award-winning journalist and former East Valley Tribune editor Shanna Hogan died Sept. 1 from brain damage after she fell, hit her head and was found in the pool at her Phoenix home.

She was 37 and leaves behind her husband of almost 20 years, Matt LaRussa, and their nearly 15-month-old son, Zander.

Ms. Hogan earned more than 20 awards for investigative reporting and feature writing – including the 2009 Arizona Press Club’s Virg Hill Journalist of the Year award and the 2011 Arizona Newspaper Association’s Journalist of the Year.

She gained national recognition for her coverage of high-profile criminal cases, including the Jodi Arias trial. She reported on the case for more than two years before it went to trial, becoming a nationally recognized expert and the go-to source for Nancy Grace.

Her second book, “Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story: A Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Brutal Murder,” made the New York Times bestseller list in 2013.

“Shanna was an intrepid journalist, a talented writer, a natural podcast star, and an enthusiastic and loving first-time mother,” said Charles Spicer, vice president and executive editor at St. Martin’s Press. “Speaking as her editor, she was a dream to work with, the consummate professional who was also a kind and thoughtful person with a natural warmth and a delightful sense of fun.”

She authored four true-crime books, two of which were optioned for television shortly before her death.

Ms. Hogan was born in Olathe, Kansas and grew up in Arizona. In 2005, she graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism.

The following year, she joined the Tribune as a reporter and was later promoted to the role of executive editor, overseeing multiple publications at Times Media Group.

Steve Strickbine, founder and president of Times Media Group, recalled that Ms. Hogan would always come to editorial meetings with the most interesting story ideas.

On one assignment, she spent the night in the middle of the forest with a team of Bigfoot hunters. She also covered the notorious Baseline Killer case, which brought to light the mishandling of evidence by the Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab.

“Shanna had a lot to do with our success,” Strickbine said. “She was one of the best writers I’ve ever known. She had a very distinctive passion for her work and the difference that it could make in communities. It was incredible to watch her grow as a writer. When she became our executive editor, she mentored a lot of young writers, which was another one of the many great things about her.”

A former Tribune colleague, Tom Gibbons, said that one of the things that impressed him most about Ms. Hogan as a reporter was her ability to gain access to hard-to-reach sources.

On one occasion, she managed to get a tour of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, which had previously avoided the media.

“When it came to writing her books, Shanna wanted to give a voice to the victims and tell their stories,” Gibbons added. “I always thought that was a noble approach to the true crime endeavor. She also wanted to write young adult fiction, but she never got the chance to.”

Another colleague, Zac Reynolds, remained close with Hogan throughout the entirety of her career at Times Media Group and the two would eat lunch together several times a week.

“Shanna was the kind of person who brightened every room she walked into,” said Reynolds. “She was kind, funny, insightful, and a heck of a journalist.

“She knew how to tell a story, to take the craziness of a story like the Travis Alexander murder or the Baseline Killer story and dig into the case, and find the story that hadn’t been told before. But she could also tell the light-hearted story with the same great wit and writing. She was genuine and will be missed.”

Katie Mayer met Hogan when they were both reporters at the East Valley Tribune and the two remained close friends, often getting together for playdates with their kids.

Days after their last meet-up in July, Hogan surprised Mayer’s 3-year-old son by sending him a star projector.

“She went out of her way to make everyone feel special. I was in awe of Shanna’s dedication as a mother – she shared a bond with her son like no other I have seen,” Mayer said.

“The two were inseparable, and she brought the same joy and magic to Zander’s world as she brought to ours. Without a doubt, a piece of the magic in all of our lives is gone without Shanna, but we will continue to honor her life by working every day to live our lives with the kindness, grace, and humor that she did.”

Ms. Hogan was also passionate about inspiring the next generation of writers, and in 2015, joined her alma mater as an adjunct professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she taught a news reporting and writing course.

Services for Ms. Hogan are pending. Her husband  donated her organs, stating, “I wanted as much of her in this world as possible and I hope that I can someday meet the recipients.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for memorial costs, medical bills, and to support Hogan’s young son. People can search the site by her name.

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