February 12th, 2012:

NEWSPRINT AND HOT WAX by Victoria Giraud

When I was the Editor of the Acorn, the weekly newspaper’s circulation was about 20,000. We covered all sorts of news from the school district and the water district to the chamber of commerce, local high school sports and local live theater. Since advertising kept us alive, it wasn’t difficult for local businesses to get a “free” story as long as they advertised. A “conflict of interest” wasn’t applicable for the most part—so much for unbiased news. As the area grew, advertising came from large grocery stores, insurance salesmen, restaurants and lots of realtors. Depending upon the advertising, the paper (11 x 17 inches) could be 16 pages or as much as 40 pages long.

My weekly deadline for news, photos, and press releases was 5 p.m. on Fridays. The advertising was handled separately. By that time I had written my stories and edited articles from my few reporters and contributors. I organized the stories on a priority basis with the most important news (what could fit) on the front page. The whole package went to the main office in the San Fernando Valley. By the time I drove down to the production office on Tuesdays, all the stories and photos had been glued with hot wax on large sheets of special paper, which were placed on waist-high slanted tables. I had to double-check on the stories and the layout for any glaring errors and write all the headlines. The paper was distributed on Wednesdays, which meant it was thrown on driveways in local Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, and Calabasas neighborhoods and placed in local businesses.

I took photos of all sorts of happenings and events and got the credit under the picture if published, along with my byline. I don’t think I realized my power or notoriety then; I was too busy enjoying it.

I kept many of those newspapers and although they’re getting more fragile with age, they’re still readable. “Fire Damage $5 Million” was on the front page in October 1982 when a fire roared through 54,000 acres and destroyed 65 homes before it burned out in Malibu. One of the front-page photos showing houses almost hidden by dark smoke was mine; I had nervously taken it from the hill behind my home. I wrote the story, which had extra spice because I interviewed friends who had experienced the fire’s wrath from all over the area.

In June of 1983, there was big news and the opportunity to publish my half-page photo of a ribbon cutting when a brand new section of Thousand Oaks Boulevard, one of the area’s major traffic arteries, opened. It was an important event for a rural area rapidly growing in size and influence. Residents would no longer have to take the freeway to go a couple of miles and it opened up the rolling hills to more residential and business development. Local dignitaries and I, of course, got to ride in an LA County fire truck as the first official vehicle to drive down the paved four-lane road.



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