March 18 2015 11:00 AM

It's a farewell column, not an acceptance speech

A whiskey for the road

It's Monday night, and I'm 503 miles north of the CityBeat office. I'm in my new home in a neighborhood known as Mansion Flats in downtown Sacramento. It's more a flat than a mansion, and it's perfect. I really lucked out when I found it. Still, I'm feeling kinda funny, and that has nothing to do with the glass of Slow & Low rye whiskey that I'm drinking, a thoughtful going-away gift from my friend Seth Hall. 

Meeting Seth years ago was a product of my position as editor of CityBeat. He's a regular reader of this paper and a voracious consumer of local media, and I consider him a member of an extended family of sorts. I arrived in Sacramento two days ago. My girlfriend was here for a day-and-a-half, and we kept busy moving me into my place and exploring my new city, but she's returned to San Diego, and I'm already missing her, as well as my CityBeat family. I'm feeling every one of those 503 miles tonight.

This is my final column for CityBeat before new editor Ron Donoho takes over this space and grabs the reins of the paper. I suspect that he'll introduce himself to you next week. For now, it's all about the goodbye, and every time I've thought about what I should say, it sounds in my head like a tiresome award speech; all I want to do is thank people.

First a word or two about Southland Publishing Inc., CityBeat's parent company, and Kevin Hellman, our in-house publisher. After nearly 16 years with a company (starting in Ventura), it's natural to develop some philosophical differences with the folks running the business, and I certainly have those. But there's one major positive that I want to mention: These guys stayed out of my hair. There was no meddling in the editorial content by Hellman or the mother ship. We wrote whatever we wanted; we said what was on our minds. There's been an airtight seal between editorial and advertising. We were completely free to be who we were. That's huge, and I'm grateful.

That freedom allowed my writers and me to hone our collective voice and develop a unique personality. And I believe the freedom our writers have had to follow their passions and write from their hearts engendered loyalty despite very low pay. I couldn't give them much, but I could give them the space they needed to find their own way.

My lengthy chapter in CityBeat's history started in the summer of 2002, when my staff consisted of Kelly Davis (about whom I wrote roughly 1,000 words two weeks ago), arts-and-music editor Troy Johnson and writer Will Shilling (inherited from SLAMM magazine, two of the most creative people you'll ever come across), along with art director Tom Gulotta. Our goals were to give San Diego the slice of progressive political opinion it so desperately needed, add our share of hard-hitting investigative reporting, turn our readers on to emerging art and music and generally offer up narrative writing that oozed with flair.

If those were the tests, Iíd say we passed. That's thanks in part to news writers Davis, Dave Maass, Joshua Emerson Smith, John Lamb, Dan Strumpf and Eric Wolff. Kinsee Morlan, for my money the toughest and hardest-working woman in the business, has defined CityBeat's arts-and-culture presence in San Diego, and I am in awe of her. I'm particularly proud of our music coverage, and the fact that we've mostly elevated our music editors from our freelance-writer pool: Seth Combs, Peter Holslin and Jeff Terich have followed Johnson's lead, along with lone import Nathan Dinsdale (yikes, that's a lot of testosterone—if Terich ever leaves, the next music editor really should be a woman). As for progressive opinion, that was largely my job; I'd like to think I had a positive impact on the city.

I've touched on loyalty, the concept of family and from-the-heart writing. I'll be forever thankful for these brothers and sisters: Edwin Decker (who's been with CityBeat from day one and became my very close friend), Aaryn Belfer, D.A. Kolodenko, Anders Wright, Alex Zaragoza, Ryan Bradford and our late, beloved Kia Momtazi. My leadership style still needs a lot of work, but, hey, it can't be that bad—these amazing people did so many years with me. I just—they're the best. 

I've name-dropped the core people, but there are so many more: Jenny Montgomery, Jim Ruland, Michael Gardiner, Ian Cheesman, Glenn Heath, Candice Woo, Carissa Casares, Marty Westlin, Enrique Limón, David Coddon, Caley Cook, Jim Ballew, Scott McDonald, AnnaMarie Stephens, Matt Irwin—oh boy, this could get so completely out of hand. Victor Patton, Justin Roberts, Todd Kroviak, Rachel Jones, Susan Myrland, Mina Riazi, Shane Liddick, Joshua Sibelman, Jen Van Tieghem, Quan Vu, Steve Mayberry, Marie Tran-McCaslin, Emma Silvers, Lydia Osolinsky, Jeff "Turbo" Corrigan, Ms. Beak (remember her?)—god, there's that award speech I was talking about.

Oh, man, the art directors, whose professional lives I made something akin to Hell because I think I'm so smart about design: Gulotta, Maynard Chastain, Adam Vieyra, the so-speedy Lindsey Voltoline. And the unsung heroes who sell the ads, keeping CityBeat afloat and me and my staff employed all this time: long-timers Jason Noble, Paulina Porter-Tapia and the many, many others whose jobs are not easy—not to mention the ad designers, people like Charles Park, Adam Collins, Robin Waldman, Mike Pekonen, Tristan Whitehouse. I'm missing others.

Sorry, but this is what happens when I reflect. I think about the people who made my job easier, whose company I enjoyed, whose work I respect and who made my time in San Diego much richer. And I haven't even touched on the people on the outside—all the folks in politics, policy, music and art, the many great friends I've made through San Diego's robust, vibrant Twitter community. The extended family. Shall I name them all? OK, maybe not—except Candice Eley, who also gave me booze on my way out.

Alright, I've run out of room, and speaking of booze, I need another whiskey. Cheers to you, San Diego. Thank you for the wild ride.

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