Mike Madriaga and the Reader

Degree in digital journalism at City College

Lowriders at Chicano Park
  • Lowriders at Chicano Park

How Madriaga came to the Reader:

On April 19, 2014, my wife suggested that I email the Reader our photos taken earlier in the day at Chicano Park Day. Rob Mizrachi, the former-editor of the Neighborhood News section, said he’d run a piece if I typed up a story about the Klique Car Club rides depicted in the photos. The article, titled “Lowriders at Chicano Park Day” was published shortly after; a few days later I was compensated with a $150 check sent in the mail.



Years before, I photographed import vehicles and interviewed the owners at my Team Prototype auto garage in Chula Vista; I was used to my work being published. It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized how difficult it was to be a regular contributor for the Reader. The fact that I was knowledgeable about a certain subject matter, I could speak to strangers, and then write about our discussion didn’t make me special.

I pitched more and more story ideas to Rob and the majority were rejected. Unlike the other publications I freelanced for, Rob often responded to my email-queries, with: “Not enough” or “No, sorry.” He critiqued my queries and angles, and he’d send me screenshots of his edits within my stories that were published; I admire him for that.

After my wife had our second child in 2015, I returned to school to obtain my associate’s degree in digital journalism at City College; my wife went back to work in the school district. I obtained my associate’s in 2017 and the ratio of my queries-to-published stories improved; many of my Reader articles were written while I played Mr. Mom to our then-toddler and his older sister.

In 2018, I was saddened by the announcement of our editor Rob leaving our weekly. I began writing under our publication’s founder Jim Holman, who gave me a regular spot in the waterfront section, and our editor-in-chief Ernie Grimm, who green-lighted my feature stories, three of which became cover stories.

Some of Madriaga's favorite stories he wrote for the Reader:

  • Lowriders at Chicano Park Day

  • The old-school sirens were blaring as I drove through the cement pillars holding up the Coronado bridge on April 19. I pulled out my camera gear, and one of the members of the Klique car club told me that the SDPD were moving the cars off the grass, so I needed to hurry up and get the shots. (April 23, 2014)
  • My nerdy business model

  • To sustain myself while attending Mesa College in the mid-to-late 1990s, I bought and sold comics, toys, and Magic: the Gathering cards at the San Diego Comic-Con and online. I embraced the world wide web, as we called the internet then, and began selling on the America Online (AOL) forums in 1996. I opened my first eBay account in 1997.(Jan. 16, 2019)
  • Face first into coral reef in Fiji

  • "I was sucked over the falls during low tide and went face first into the sharp coral reef. I sustained major trauma to my face, neck and chest and had eleven stitches in my left cheek. I was very lucky to make it out of the situation alive.” (March 4, 2019)
  • Reader writer backup dancer for Vanilla Ice

  • “Last Nite! #SquadGoals #TacoFest2017 #VanillaIce” were a part of HipHopTrooper‘s descriptors which garnered him 1,231 likes on Instagram. The photo was of him in red Star Wars-esque gear, and his cosplaying-squad dressed as two ninja turtles, Megatron, a shark and Tron. To the millennials, the photo and hashtags were sufficient enough intel. (May 25, 2017)
  • I will not spend a single moment in line at Comic-Con 2018

  • “Having Comic-Con badge hookups means everything,” he said, “I would get as much exclusive merchandise as I possibly could.” Shand couldn’t go into detail about the number of badges he would obtain, because he said some of his “higher-ups” still work for the non-profit organization. (July 18, 2018)

Photo from Channel 8 News

Photo from Channel 8 News

  • Water polluted by tossed bikes

  • That’s a reef shelf at Sunset Cliffs and Hill Street,” Proctor said. “The area the bikes were in is inaccessible without a waist deep wade around one of the points of the coastline from the south end of No Surf Beach.” (May 28, 2018)
  • Comic Fest in a 4/20 cloud

  • Earlier at about 4 p.m., Doc, who cosplayed as the Joker, reached down into his Gumby socks and pulled out his stash. He loaded up his blue glass pipe with organic bud from Sonoma County, and at 4:20 p.m. exactly, sparked it up and passed it around. (April 23, 2018)
  • Bikers for Christ roll up to Mt. Soledad

  • Many of the bikers present were angered about the prospect of the cross being removed. One of the Vietnam vet bikers stepped up and yelled, “When they take this [cross] down, I’m going to be the first to lay down. When they take me and my bike away, who amongst you will replace me?” (Aug. 7, 2014)
  • Aggressive people and panhandlers move in on Eastlake

  • Gallegos takes matters into his own hands, and then takes photos and posts a warning-message to his community. If the perp is lucky, he’ll only get slapped with some “verbal jiu jitsu.” He says, “What got me so fucking upset was there’s other people at the [Shell] gas station seeing this,” he said, “and nobody wants to say anything and everybody turned a blind eye.” (April 18, 2018)
  • Filipinos unembarrassed about food

  • “Howard Stern notably made fun of Filipinos because of what we ate and Fear Factor had to bribe contestants to eat our balut (duck embryo) and dinuguan (pork cooked in pig’s blood).” (Nov. 26, 2018)

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Keep writing Mike! I liked your lowrider story. Glad to be a fellow contributor. -Leorah Gavidor

Thanks Leorah! I look at that story and see how my style has changed. You keep writing too :-)

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