Monday, December 01, 2008
Charlie Fern, an editor in the early '90s at the now-closed Vista Press, a daily newspaper in North San Diego County, reminded me recently in a Twitter comment of the strong competitiveness we had in the newsroom in those days. The 50-year-old Vista Press was in direct competition with the San Diego Union's North County edition. The Union (this was before it merged to become the San Diego Union-Tribune) was huge by comparison. Still, Charlene, who was managing editor -- and my boss -- of the Vista Press, an Andrews McMeel Universal-owned paper, recalled that we scooped the SD Union on a regular basis. Maybe it was because the reporters all had fire in their bellies to get it first. This last weekend, she started a Twitter conversation about her view of some print reporters and their current complacency. ""Do what you say and say it in color," Charlene said, "because it matters." The Vista Press, she wrote on Twitter (quite complimentary), "was at its best (when Cathy Scott, Russell Klika, Leslie Hueholt, etc., were there), proving a small paper could run circles around a metro. We had a great, competitive staff, for the most part, and a lot of competition. That drives excellence." She also reminded me of a breaking story I wrote, on deadline and calling it in from the scene, of a garbage truck worker who, while standing behind a truck with a full load, was buried alive underneath garbage. It took an army of law enforcement -- and even medium-security California state prisoners -- 12 hours to locate his body. I remained at the scene and Charlene held the presses until the story was done. It made the first edition in the morning, beating the other papers in the area. "Holding the presses was thrilling, even if I got in trouble for it," she said. While at the Vista Press, I also covered Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, went on training missions with Marines on base and out to sea, and to Somalia to cover Operation Restore Hope. Fellow reporters and photogs at that small paper mostly moved on to bigger and better journalism jobs: Klika, for one, became a combat photographer, with two tours of duty in Iraq, and is now a civilian combat photo instructor for the National Guard; Leslie moved on to the Tulsa World; Deniene Husted to the Los Angeles Times, I went to the Las Vegas Sun, and Charlene, well, she went to work at the White House (after first going to the Texas governor's mansion) as Laura Bush's personal speechwriter. Many others who came before us have moved upward and onward too. North San Diego County was a fertile training ground for us. We worked our tails off, learned to crunch on deadline and also felt the sense of accomplishment with the occasional scoop over our seemingly giant neighbor, the SD Union. It was David and Goliath, and occasionally David won. Photo, by Russell Klika, of Cathy gearing up to board a military helicopter at Camp Pendleton to cover an exercise over the Pacific Ocean.
Posted by Author Cathy Scott at 4:46 PM