EDITING/MANAGING A LOCAL NEWSPAPER by Victoria Giraud

In the 1980s my domestic life fell apart and my professional writing career really began. I got divorced and became a local journalist; like many journalists, I was not well paid. Nevertheless, I loved it—just like I love writing this blog, which is definitely for Love not Money. So far…

The Acorn began as a weekly shopping throwaway and grew into a viable community newspaper. It’s still being published in the Conejo Valley area of Southern California almost 25 years later, after many changes of leadership. Publishing has changed enormously in just a few decades. Computers do the work that typewriters and hot wax did not too long ago.

I no longer remember the names of the various machines that created the type, graphics and photos for the stories and advertising. As the editor, I was mostly responsible for the words and the headlines, not the specific layout.

I was so proud of being the Editor, as can be seen in this photo taken shortly after I became something more than a reporter. As Editor, I determined what stories had to be covered and what would be on the front page each week. I had a good camera, which wasn’t a Polaroid; digital technology wasn’t an option then. I used film and took my camera to chamber of commerce meetings and other important events. Local weekly newspapers are concerned primarily with community news, soft news that generally didn’t make the daily papers or the LA Times.

Once ranch and farmland for the most part, the Conejo Valley (Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and Calabasas) was growing rapidly with new residential and business developments nestled into a lovely area surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains and only 20 minutes or so from the Pacific Ocean.

Our office wasn’t anything fancy: old desks, an ancient couch and a few basic typewriters. The location was unique: the Western style two-story Whizin’s Center had been built by Art Whizin, a longtime resident and businessman.   Under a peaked roof, the ground floor of the wooden building had a large open area with Koi carp ponds surrounded by small businesses—a Mexican restaurant, an Italian eatery, a shoe repair, a Karate studio and a few offices.

Whizin himself, in high top rubber boots, took care of the fish. Probably in his late 60s by then, he liked befriending his tenants and was active in the community. Naturally inquisitive, he wanted to check in with the Acorn, especially since his office was nearby. He would occasionally visit and relax on a beat-up couch near my desk. He knew I was in the midst of a divorce and decided I could use some advice.   “Marijuana is good for sex, you know,” he told me frankly one day. We all knew he indulged because his office walls bordered ours and the smoke with the unmistakeable smell would occasionally drift in our office. I don’t know how true his recommendation was since I was not a smoker and never tried it.

 

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