I don’t expect anyone to be a discerning consumer of the news, or of our Santa Monica newspapers. Nonetheless, a small number are.
I have a local musician friend named Will Ryan who is, and it’s fun for me to have erudite discussions with him on the subject. Will has no background in journalism, but he does have an insatiable thirst in many areas for knowledge on more than just a surface level of understanding. He’s a most cool guy to have a chat with, any time.
But for the rest of you, I understand. It’s not your thing. And it’s confusing. There are quite a few newspapers available in Santa Monica, and you pick one up, probably because of the headline story, or just because it’s there, and barely notice what paper it is. You don’t bother to figure out whether it’s an exclusively Santa Monica newspaper (there are only four) or covers the whole bay area or Westside, whether it’s a daily or a weekly (only the Santa Monica Daily Press is a Santa Monica daily – well, Monday through Friday plus the weekend edition) – and truthfully, you don’t care.
But there are reasons to care. In a world gone mad with information, we are starved for the real deal. Take TV news. If you watch the three networks, you’ll get pretty good journalism, though too much entertainment these days for my liking. (And don’t give me that debunked nonsense about the mainstream liberal bias.) As you drift towards CNN, then MSNBC, finally falling into the rabbit hole of Fox “News,” you’re getting more misinformation than facts. Just turn it off. (BBC and, yes, Al Jazeera, are superior these days, but I won’t go there. Oops, I just did.)
Online, you pretty much have advocacy and niche journalism, all to be consumed with a wary consciousness, and web editions of print papers. In print, there is a big difference between the LA Times and NY Times (both flawed but still standard bearers) and the National Enquirer, the Star, the NY Post.
In print in Santa Monica, there is one newspaper that rises above the others, in my humble opinion, for its practice of journalistic principles, true fair and balanced reporting, researching stories thoroughly and gathering enough background to write authoritative, accurate, sometimes analytical news stories. The advertising does not dictate the editorial. OK, no more suspense – yes, it’s the Santa Monica Daily Press.
How do I know, if I’m not on staff, not on the inside? I read all the local papers with a critic’s eye, as a lifelong journalist and arts critic, with an honest-to-goodness degree in journalism. Of course it’s only my opinion, but it is an informed opinion. And I’ve heard others, besides my friend Will, say the same thing. Santa Monica booster, lifelong resident and Rec and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock paid the Daily Press the highest compliment about a week ago when he called it “the paper of record in Santa Monica, period.” In plain talk, that means if you want to really know what has gone on in Santa Monica, you’ll find it in the pages of the Daily Press.
But Charles – why are you writing this puff piece? Of course you’re favorable and biased toward the newspaper you write for. If I were on staff, I wouldn’t write this, but I’m a columnist, a freelancer, writing about Santa Monica and serving at the whim of the real staff. How we get our information about local events that affect us locally is an important issue, the kind of thing I write about.
It’s not that I hooked up with the Daily Press and now favor it; rather, I asked to join the ranks two and a half years ago because I felt it was far and away the best newspaper in Santa Monica, and as a lifelong journalist who cares passionately about such things, I would not write at all if it had to appear on the pages/website of some less-than-professional publication.
I am grateful to be given free rein (within reason) by Editor-in-Chief Kevin Herrera and Publisher Ross Furukawa to write about whatever strikes me in this Curious City column, and most of the time it is about things Santa Monica. Since I love my adopted home town of the last 27 years, I couldn’t be more delighted to have shifted away from a lifetime of writing mostly about music, to spreading the word about the good things (and not so good) about this wonderful little beach town with the big reach.
This is not like any other little burg of 90,000. I was floored at how many people I ran into, in the damnedest places, in my family’s recent yearlong trek across Europe and North Africa, who knew about Santa Monica, and not just from “Baywatch” reruns. We’re famous, we have influence in many areas, we have so many gifts here we all cherish, and growing numbers of us realize we have to take action now to make sure we still have in the future what we all love about this place, the things that bring so many visitors here to share it for a day or two. (Note: very important City Council meeting coming up on Sept. 10 – every one of you: please go!) We all need accurate, timely, reliable information about Santa Monica.
It’s about to get even better at the Daily Press. I can’t reveal anything yet, but this paper may soon become known and even more respected – if everything works out — for a new avenue explored, that I’ve been privileged to be a part of from the outset. Stay tuned. And if it doesn’t work out? Oh well. Just keep reading this real newspaper, OK?
Chain, chain, chain
Speaking of unique things in Santa Monica that need action now to not be lost, I hope you all are doing all you can to preserve our iconic mushroom cloud sculpture on Main Street, from being either moved or thrown away altogether. Yes, that’s about to happen. Go to the website for “Chain Reaction” and get the skinny, and then at the very least please sign the petition. No matter what your politics, this is an absolutely unique sculpture, from a famous cartoonist no less, and we must save it.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org