A Year Without a Newspaper — The Best Year of My Life

city_hallExactly one year ago Saturday I was fired as Editor of the Daily News, the newspaper I devoted 23 years of my life to, and like everybody else who worked there during that time, endured just about everything imaginable to be able to keep my job and put out the best newspaper I could for myself, the organization and the San Fernando Valley.

I got no regrets.

The Daily News was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found success, and met my wife there. Together, we found true happiness and saw our son grow up strong and smart.

Without a doubt, this was the best year of my life. I found my voice as a writer, for better and worse, blogging whatever I wanted after a career of struggling to express myself under the constraints of corporate journalism.

And best of all, I got to connect to thousands of people all across the city who, just like me, were frustrated that the LA of their dreams was in reality a city going to hell.

While I’d been closeted in a newsroom taking pride in being part of a newspaper that stood up for the community and exposed wrongdoing in high places, these community activists were doing the hard work by joining Neighborhood Councils and neighborhood associations, business and political groups and service clubs.

They did good works for their communities and went to City Hall to plead their cases in the minute or two allotted to them. They studied the records and sat through endless hours of public meetings.

As a newsman, I found they knew more about what was going in our city than the entire news media. I came to realize that we in the news media spent nearly all our time covering government and government officials when the real stories of this city were out in the neighborhoods among the people where the decisions of government touched the lives of the people.

Often, I’ve said that if I had a staff of four or five good reporters today I could tell better stories, more important stories, more human stories, than I could with a newsroom of journalists.

The newsroom I left behind is now barely half the size it was when I was fired. I don’t see how it can survive and that breaks my heart because of the pain it causes my colleagues and for the loss it means to the community.

Ever since I arrived in LA in 1980 as part of the traveling road show of an Indian guru, I’ve grappled with the tantalizing mystery of this place. If Chicago is the city of big shoulders, LA is the city of lovely shoulders, beautiful but dangerous.

I’ve grappled over and over with the anything goes, anything is possible nature of LA, with its myths of stardom and freedom without bounds.

Only now, after a year without the armor of a job, a year as just another ordinary citizen fighting City Hall, am I getting a glimmer of what LA is really about.

It’s as simple as happiness.

All the struggles and handwringing, all the lawsuits and protests, are about the failure of our city leaders to provide the environment we need to find our own happiness.

That, of course, means different things to different people, different things in different neighborhoods.

In a city of extreme diversity, a city of extremes, we have a government that panders to the poor without actually helping them, that enriches the rich without making the city better, that gives sweetheart deals to the special interests without serving the general interest.

We are segmented instead of unified. We are played against each other instead of being brought together. We are at war with a city that destroys a community farm in South LA, green-lights digital billboards all over West LA, gives lip service to the Valley and ignores East LA.

It isn’t good enough anymore. We must do better before it’s too late.

We are being gouged for our money every time we turn around from trash fees to parking meters. We get too little in return. We are about to get even less as the mayor proposes slashing our services and raising our fees to paper over his $1 billion budget deficit without solving any problems. In fact, he will make them worse.

I don’t think he’ll get away with it. The financial hole is too deep and certain to get worse. The global economic crisis insures that.

People are waking up. We saw that in the recent election. We’ll see it again in the May 19 election when voters examine a series of state tax and spending measures that don’t address what’s broken and as they consider local runoff election candidates like Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich in the City Attorney race and David “Ty” Vahedi in Council District 5 and Tina Park in the Community College Board contest — people who can make a positive difference.

Something big is going on and we need something big to change the course of history for our city.

ronkayecartoonThis is our LA and we are going to take it back. My year as an ordinary citizen has convinced me it can happen. I have no illusions that it will happen overnight or be easy. But change is coming.

That’s what I believe anyway as I start my second year as a blogger and ordinary citizen.

Ron Kaye

Ron Kaye is the former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News where he spent 23 years helping to make the newspaper the voice of the San Fernando Valley and fighting for a city government that serves the people and not special interests. Twice in recent years, Los Angeles Magazine listed Kaye among the city’s most influential people, specifically in the area of politics. Kaye has been variously described in the media as the “accidental anarchist,” “the Patrick Henry of the San Fernando Valley” and a “passionate populist.” He is now committed to carrying on his crusade for a greater Los Angeles as an ordinary citizen.

Republished with permission from Ron Kaye L.A.

LA Progressive

Published by the LA Progressive on April 9, 2009
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