By Matthew Hall
Editor in Chief
As a newspaper editor, you meet a lot of people. As a new editor, in a new town, you meet a heck of a lot of people and my past two weeks have been a blur of back to back to back discussions about Santa Monica.
The scope has been as broad as I could have hoped for. I’ve spoken to individuals on every level of the political, income and sanity spectrum (FYI: your place on the sanity scale is entirely independent of your income or politics). It’s been great and there are some easy themes that have come through: people care about development, people don’t like traffic, the airport is controversial.
It’s easy to see that people are deeply passionate about living here, so much so that it’s almost pathological for some folks. They care so much about their issue that almost everything else is lost and that’s kind of a concern because while I’ve seen a great deal of passion for this City, I haven’t seen a huge amount of enthusiasm. What I’m hearing is this place is complicated, divided, in transition, being over-developed, over-regulated and evolving. What I thought I’d hear is “This place is awesome, you’ll love it.”
Now after two short weeks, I know it’s awesome. In my brief time here, I’ve watched the Ferris wheel cycle through its evening light show while the sun set over the mountains, seen dolphins playing in the surf (two jumped clear out of the water, Free Willy style), enjoyed frozen yogurt, ice cream, custard and gelato, and seen more street performances here in 14 days than I did in eight years in Sonoma County. It’s a great place to be.
To be clear, I’m not expecting people to run up to me and shout a precise greeting, but I’m a little surprised that locals are more interested in talking about what’s wrong than taking pride in what’s right.
I’ve been in the newspaper business for a while so I’m well aware that folks want to influence coverage their way and for some, painting a picture of a problem plagued situation is a tactic to hopefully make the paper more sympathetic to their cause. I can filter that out of the discussion but even so, it seems like here cynicism more popular than cycling.
What makes a city a community isn’t the infrastructure. Communities aren’t built of concrete, steel and asphalt. Communities are built of emotion, devotion, a desire to be of and from a place. People turn cities into communities and the character of its residents defines the character of a community. I don’t know what that character is yet or where it will go but there’s more to this place than just it’s conflicts.
My calendar continues to fill for the coming weeks and I hope I’ll probably meet many more people before I settle into any kind of routine here. I stand by what I’ve said in the past, I want to hear from everyone, from the homeless guy on Third Street to the mansion owner north of Montana. The only way to do my job well is to hear from the community and no one should shy away from delivering warnings, harsh judgments or concerns about the City. We will write about whatever needs to be said in order to serve Santa Monicans.
However, next time you’ve been worked into dyspepsia over development, a panic over parking or anger over the airport, perhaps you can take some advice from someone who’s new to town. Take a breath and look around the city for a moment. It’s awesome here. You’re going to love it.