Just a Thought – Counting to Ten

In the last decade, journalism has become a much more controversial and dangerous profession, but any vocation that insists on speaking the truth is sure to be unpopular. In the last week, I realized it’s been ten years since I started CulverCityCrossroads.com. I think of the part in Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre where he says, “I’ve been playing this song for 20 minutes now; I’m not proud. Or tired.” But that’s not true. I am both proud and tired. It’s a lot to do.

When I started, I had some very clear ideas about what I wanted to do, and truthfully, some of them have worked very well. Some of them worked for a while and then didn’t. Some never worked out at all. Every day is a chance to do it differently, and do it better.

History is, of course, littered with newspapers.

When Cesar Chavez started his newspaper in the middle of the push to recognize the rights of farm workers, he called it  “El Malcriado,”  which roughly translates as The Problem Child. I realize there are some who see my efforts here in that light, but I’m not here to be a problem as much as I am here to point out some problems, and see what can be done to resolve them. My true love is sharing good news, and we do have a lot of that around here. I called this space Crossroads, in hopes it would be a space for dialogue and interaction.

But that was before Facebook. Personally, I’ve gone from posting on FB as if I were sending a message to a few friends and neighbors to now knowing that it is all going to Big Brother, collecting info for my Permanent Record. I don’t think I’ve ever posted much about my finances, my love life or my health issues ( except for that thing about cancer that I have to address every now and then)  but I certainly wouldn’t now. Yes, CulverCityCrossroads does have a Facebook page, but I don’t feed the beast and pay for extra likes or clicks. The online presence has been overwhelmingly email, and the WordPress site. It keeps the trolls to a minimum.

Just as I did not foresee Facebook becoming the monster that it is, I’m really surprised that we still have newspapers made of paper. It seems no matter how many writers bemoan that The Observer bounces their paychecks, it keeps happening. The number of writers who, having written for the Observer, tell me that their checks bounce, grows regularly. Since they do have major sponsorship, that’s just bad management. No matter how many thinly disguised aliases get a byline at the CC News, no one seems to notice or care. I’ve spoken with elected officials who were interviewed for the CC News, and did not think anything of the fact that the person who interviewed them was not the person credited for the interview. They just thought that was routine. It’s not. It’s an unethical journalistic practice. But neither of the newspapers need to care at all what their readers think ( or if their writers get paid or if their interview subjects know they are being scammed) They have parent companies and anchor sponsors that can lose money forever.

Of course, the fact that Crossroads is a daily puts it in a different category than weekly tabloids. The number of readers on the RSS feed continues to delight and amaze me. I’m flattered that they have chosen to have a daily connection here; I’m occasionally dismayed that I don’t hear from them more often. I’m grateful to all the writers that have contributed over the years – both paid and unpaid – and there have been dozens. For all the sponsors, of course, pure gratitude, that they have enough belief in the power of local journalism to invest in it, That is, literally, the bottom line.

Statistics being what they are, most local news is good news.

Yes, we still try to focus on good news – the opening of the Robert Frost, the increasing voter turnout, and the many awards won by our transit department, or fire fighters or our school district. We were the only media in Los Angeles to cover the council vote for Sanctuary City – nothing in the LA Times, the Weekly – just CulverCityCrossroads.com. That is important news that would have gone unnoticed. My personal voting advice in “Mark Your Ballot” gets bigger numbers in every election, and more thank you notes as well. There are some things we do really, really well.

Crossroads does keep a very tight firewall between journalism and editorials. I’ve come to the point of editing out adjectives from journalism, because they probably just shouldn’t be there. Having a “Thought” gives me open space to use all the adverbs and adjectives I think appropriate.

I have commented on the fact that it would be great to cover a lot more stories. They are out there and ripe for the picking. But I have to be able to feed the kids and pay the bills – two other things that I really love to do. I’m working to get back to a place where I can pay the writers, rather than just soliciting copy. I know it’s a cycle, and it will come around again.

It’s a modest but powerful little enterprise, and ten years has gone faster than I could have imagined. I offer my most sincere thanks to everyone who has been a part of the journey.

Where will the next ten years take us? Let’s find out.


Judith Martin-Straw




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