I'll never forget the words I read in the OC Weekly on that fall day in 2009.
“There’s a storm coming,” said Norberto Santana, Editor-in-Chief of the at that moment in time not-even-started Voice of OC. “A storm of accountability.”
Those were the words I was waiting to hear. I was 25 years old, holding a freshly minted journalism degree from Cal-State Fullerton. I was already disgusted with mainstream media, which, to my way of thinking, was careening toward irrelevance.
What Santana was saying wasn't mainstream. I called him.
He didn't call back.
So I showed up unannounced at the Voice of OC newsroom in downtown Santa Ana. Santana was wiping down desks and shouting angrily on the phone at some poor AT&T rep.
He liked my tenacity. “If you’re looking for a job here,” he said with a smile, “You just made my day.”
He made my day too. And since then all of us at Voice of OC have been ruining the days of the rich and powerful in Orange County.
Here's a sampling:
We've exposed a conman taking Anaheim City Hall for a ride; sham economic benefit reports used to justify corporate welfare; campaign finance law violations; a local elected official getting paid $24,000 for a report plagiarized from Wikipedia; a Lake Forest councilman with a penchant for offering cash bribes; nepotism in the Orange County District Attorney’s office; a former Anaheim mayor who wields massive influence behind the scenes; and a highly suspicious land swap between the mayor of Santa Ana and a city contractor.
So it is with an apprehensive heart that I bid adieu to Voice of OC. I’ll be taking a position at the Los Angeles Times digging into and reporting on local government.
I know, mainstream media.
But I couldn't resist. Especially after they told me I'd be able to be doing all the things I do at Voice of OC, except on a much bigger stage. I can tell you this, I’ll be bringing all the skills that my mentors at Voice of OC raised me with, and to them I owe more than I can say.
Editor David Washburn taught me news judgment and is a brilliant writing guru. We had an editor-reporter mojo that produced great journalism and gave me the confidence I needed as a reporter that, if I ever went off track, I could count on him to bring me back.
Washburn and Santana are fearless leaders who never backed down in the face of pressure. I knew that, no matter how much heat we took for a story, I could trust that they would always do the right thing – the truth mattered above all else.
My reporter colleagues – Tracy Wood, Nick Gerda, Thy Vo and our freelance writers Rex Dalton, Amy DePaul and Yvette Cabrera - are inspirational in their dedication to Voice of OC’s mission to hold the powerful accountable and give the citizens of Orange County the information they need to participate in a healthy democracy.
And finally, to all my courageous sources deep within government agencies who knew that giving the public the truth was more important than toeing the line, I say thank you for everything.