January 26th, 2014:

NEWSPAPERS – THE JOY OF REPORTING

I’ve enjoyed writing for newspapers since I was 14 and doing stories for The Barracan at Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Libya in the 1950s. I reported for the Flat Hat at the College of William and Mary and a few years after I got married and moved to California, I went to work at a new weekly newspaper. I’ve loved all my forays into the world of journalism.

In 1978, when I was first hired as a reporter, the Acorn was a little newspaper (8 to 16 pages) and might have had a circulation of about 10,000. It had once been just a “shopper” with ads for local businesses in a hilly valley between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills, northwest of Los Angeles. Besides the venerable and almost ancient oaks, the Reyes Adobe, built in 1796, was the most historic point of interest in an area dotted with ranches, which was developing into a suburbia filled with new housing.

My husband, a civil engineer for Los Angeles County, worked in nearby Malibu, a quirky but famous beach location just a short drive through the mountains. We bought a home in this sylvan area in 1970 because houses in Agoura were new and reasonably priced, and it was an ideal area for raising our two children.

When I answered the ad for Acorn reporter, I was offered $25 a week for a few stories. Although it was only a pittance, I wasn’t desperate and the job required very little time, ideal since my kids were both under ten. My first big assignment was to put together a special issue of stories detailing the new development plans for Agoura and Westlake Village, which were rapidly expanding with shopping centers, restaurants, and quite a few small businesses.

After hours of work calling builders, picking up photos and maps, and typing the stories, I was feeling cheated by my low pay. Gathering my courage, I cornered Bill, our gregarious owner, and demanded more. He agreed and paid me the enormous amount of $40! I didn’t complain; it was too much fun working there.

Bill was just the man to run a paper: he’d been in the armed forces and then gone into sales. He kept a cheap little cabinet in his private office filled with booze, obviously remembering the days when bosses drank at the office and when they went out to lunch. (Anybody seen “Mad Men” on TV?).  For the most part, I’ve found that newspaper people, no matter how influential their paper, are generally congenial and have outrageous senses of humor.

The Acorn was located upstairs in a fairly new at that time, all-wood, rustic-style building, part of Whizin’s shopping center, named for Art Whizin, its founder, who had an office near us.  Designed like an open plaza with a roof, the downstairs featured Koi carp fishing ponds, a few shops and a couple of restaurants. From the center of the high-peaked ceiling of the second floor hung a huge mobile with a wooden Indian and other Western artifacts, created by Whizin’s son, Bruce.

Fairly current view of Whizin’s Center. Canyon Club features bands of all types.

 

The office was small, only three rooms, and messy, like a newspaper office is supposed to be. Way before computers, we had old-fashioned equipment I wasn’t familiar with. One of our printing machines—perhaps the headlines?—produced lots of tiny perforations and these paper circles got embedded in the shag carpeting. Some years later my husband went into his own business and rented this same office. Some of those bits of paper were still in the carpet!

The Acorn is still operating, all these years later, but from a different location. It presents local news from Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Westlake Village and Calabasas.

 

 

 

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button