It was an alarm-clock Saturday morning after a late night Friday LA blogger party, not that I had to greet morning’s first rays … I just had to get up and drive out to Moorpark for a CNPA-sponsored event for high school journalists.
My portion of the program was on media convergence. The keynote speaker was LAT reporter Chris Reynolds. He gave a great talk, but what was most interesting was in our chat afterward, was how much our lives have crossed without ever intersecting until now. In the late 1970s, while he was a student at Patrick Henry High School, I was a student at neighboring Grossmont. He went to work the San Diego Union and covered Santee. A few years later, I covered Santee for the Daily Californian. His father was journalism professor at Grossmont College. A few of my pals, including Buddy Blue and Barry Jantz, went through that program. Both Chris and I eventually moved to Ventura for media jobs.
Among Reynolds’ anecdotes was about how in journalism good luck can become bad luck and sometimes come back around to good luck again. When he was a reporter at the Union, he read a story one morning about how the high court had ruled that police did not need a search warrant to go through people’s garbage when it was parked on the public curb waiting for pick up. He happened to know where police chief (now sheriff) Bill Kolendar lived. Reynolds reasoned: If it’s OK for the police to go through my garbage, than it must be OK for me to go through police garbage.
After pitching his editor, Reynolds ran the story past the corporate attorney who saw no legal problems.
One morning at 4 a.m., Reynolds piled three bags of Kolendar’s refuse in the back of his Datsun and drove to Balboa park to sift through the chief’s discarded mail, credit card bills and Weight Watchers cartons. It was one of those stories, Reynolds noted, that just falls into your lap. The “garbology” expert he found to comment on his findings only made the story better.
With the story nearly written, Reynolds knew he needed to call Kolendar for comment, but at about this time he remembered that Editor-in-Chief Gerry Warren was friends with the top cop and he suggested that his A.C.E. give Warren fair warning. Warren’s first words were, “Not in my newspaper.” The story was killed.
Now, for the rest of the story. About 18 months later, Reynolds interviewed for a spot on the LAT’s Ventura staff. In the group interview, one of the editors asked Reynolds if he had ever had a story spiked and why, so Reynolds told the tale of Kolendar’s garbage and Warren’s cronyism. The story so entertained the LAT editors that Reynolds interview was a breeze the rest of the way, and he got a better job for more money at a larger paper.
Barrett strikes me as exceptionally intelligent man, though shy. He’s just starting at the Times and indicates he has a new level of authority to make changes, so it will be interesting to see what he does with the site.
More pictures from the bash on Buzznet.