At the very back of our Glendale offices, in a cramped, ill-lit room, is a treasure trove of local history, art and the general debris from a 107-year-old business, a year older than the city in which it sits.
I have to admit, I rarely think about our morgue — the morbid, though industry-standard, term for where old papers, photos and artwork are stored. But as we’re soon moving out of these offices, and out of Glendale, now is the time.
But first, a general statement and plea for calm: We’re not closing any of the papers, we’re not on the brink of financial disaster, and we’re not changing our mission of hyperlocal coverage and service in any manner. We are moving the editorial staffs of all four papers — the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun, and Pasadena Sun — to gleaming new digs within the Los Angeles Times building. This will happen in early December.
Now, am I dismayed by this? Yes. I wish it were different, as I believe there is a perception problem with having our reporters’ desks a dozen miles from the cities they cover. But this is a perception issue, not an actual one, and people in my business are fairly well attuned to which is which.
Why? Because the papers’ collective goal — to reflect our cities’ sorrows and joys, to cover events big and small — has, remarkably, never, ever changed. I spent a good portion of Friday looking at papers from nearly every decade, from papers commemorating the end of World War I — excuse me, “The Great War” — to the 100th anniversary of Glendale in 2006.
Take a look at this statement of purpose from the April 30, 1986 edition, commemorating Glendale’s 80th birthday:
“What is a community newspaper?
“A community newspaper provides news of your city in more detail than any other medium provides.
“We provide news of the activities and accomplishments of what many of us would call ‘ordinary folks.’ But, actually, those who figure in community news aren’t often ordinary.”
Those words are as true now as they were then.
Our coverage focuses on our communities, and only our communities. The joke in the newsroom is that if Eagle Rock were on fire, we’d cover how the smoke affected classes at Glendale High. This has always been our mission, and always will be. Look at these examples:
The Oct. 4, 1955, edition, which celebrated the News-Press’ 50th anniversary, had a front-page story about Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Houston, who had been subscribers for 49 years. The paper also had an article about Maurice Fisher, the owner of the Royal Egg Co., and a story regarding a new art exhibit at Forest Lawn.
The April 21, 1964, edition carried the somewhat-ironic headline “News-Press Wins U.S. Safe Driving Award,” as its motor carriers had no traffic accidents in 1963. No word on the driving habits of non-newspaper personnel.
Even the complaints are familiar. In a letter to the editor on Jan. 1, 1981, celebrating the Burbank Daily Review’s 75th birthday, a reader identified as D.V. Harris wrote:
“The paper has improved in the last few years. Wish they would still list the burglaries and etc. like they did for a while. I believe it helps to keep the citizens more alert.”
Well, D.V. Harris, let it never be said we don’t listen to our readers. The police blotter has been a mainstay in our papers for decades, and will remain so.
You are our biggest fans, and I strongly believe that any criticism comes from an honest desire for us to better serve you and your communities. No editor lasts here long without realizing that, and I hope I have earned your trust.
Whether you love it or hate it, I want to know, and will always be ready to hear your concerns and answer your questions. Where I sit will not change that.
DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 637-3234.