This is an excerpt from a longer work in progress about Fullerton called The Town I Live In
In her book Ostrich Eggs for Breakfast (a history of Fullerton), Dora Mae Sim describes the first newspaper in Fullerton: “Someone has said that a newspaper is like a window. Reading the newspaper helps people look through that window. Then they know what is going on each day in their town. Every city needs a daily newspaper. Edgar Johnson knew this better than anyone. He was editor of the Fullerton newspaper from about 1891 to 1929. His newspaper told the day-by-day story of Fullerton. It told the story of the people who lived there...The name he chose was The Fullerton Tribune. Edgar Johnson really knew the town and the people of Fullerton. He walked along the streets and talked to people. He went out looking for news to write about...he was quick to get angry. Sometimes he shouted in a loud voice when he was angry. He was never afraid to write about what was going on in town. He did not hesitate to write the truth as he saw it...Edgar Johnson was very proud of Fullerton...He wrote: ‘All the residents of a town are partners.’
Today, there is a newspaper called The Fullerton News-Tribune, but it is not related to Edgar Johnson’s paper. It is owned by The Orange County Register, which is itself owned by a company in Irvine called Freedom Communications. All major newspapers, and even many smaller ones, are owned by large corporations today. Fullerton is no exception.
The problem, as I see it, with a corporation owning a newspaper versus an individual like Edgar Johnson, is this. A corporation exists to make money for its shareholders. It is disconnected from the lives of real people. An individual who lives in a town (as Edgar Johnson) is intimately connected to the lives of the people there. Consequently, his intent is probably more than just to make money but to tell the truth--to offer a meaningful resource for the people he serves.
The other main newspaper in Fullerton today is The Fullerton Observer, which was founded in 1978 by Ralph Kennedy. Interestingly, Ostrich Eggs for Breakfast does not even mention the Fullerton Observer, despite the fact that the book was revised in 1986, nine years after the book was first released. Beware of history books that are funded by the Chamber of Commerce.
Why this omission? I suspect it is because the Fullerton Observer is an independent newspaper, unlike the Fullerton News-Tribune. Because of this, the paper sometimes sheds light on bad decisions that are made by City Council, or other city officials. I imagine the current city council doesn’t like The Fullerton Observer very much. However, despite how the city council feels about it, The Fullerton Observer is a valuable resource to the residents of Fullerton because it focuses on real issues that affect peoples’ lives, like development decisions. The Fullerton Observer is much more like the original Fullerton Tribune. The paper is now edited by Sharon Kennedy (Ralph’s daughter), who lives in Fullerton and edits the paper out of her house near downtown.
The digital age has seen the rise of many online news and events sites about Fullerton. The most famous, and perhaps most controversial, is the Friends for Fullerton’s Future Blog, which is the brainchild of local landowner Tony Bushala. This site takes muckraking to another level. Many of the posts are venomous attacks on city officials. But, as Tony Bushala likes to say, “I just want to shine a light on what’s really happening.” The FFF blog was the first to break the recent Kelly Thomas police brutality story. This blog is not polite, but I think it serves a purpose. Here’s an example of the tone of this blog, from a post titled “Fulleton News-Tribune as Worthless as Ever”:
“Just in case anybody thought the Fullerton News Tribune might somehow become more, you know, relevant, with the departure of Barbara Giasone, they had better think again. Let us contemplate this week’s edition. In a week when the City Council held a special meeting to discuss millions in projected budget deficits, the Thursday News Tribune’s big story (by a guy named Bruce Chambers), was about – drum roll...tulips. Okay some guy grows tulips in his front yard, and that’s great. Tulips and daffodils are pretty and I love digging up flower beds. But is that news?”
I think, in the age of corporate-owned media, people have to be really aware and intentional about where they get their news, which is more than most people are willing to do. I’ll be honest, I don’t even read the newspaper that much. This is mainly just laziness, I suppose. Today, while I was waiting in line at Starbucks, I overheard a girl say “I don’t like to read the news. It makes me depressed.”
In the movie “The Other Guys,” there is a scene where two police officers are holding a press conference. One reporter identifies himself as being from the “New York Tribune...online.” Another identifies herself as being from “TMZ...print edition.” The implication is that a worthless magazine like TMZ makes enough money to do a print edition, while a genuine newspaper like the Tribune can only afford an online edition. This is a pretty funny and sad commentary on U.S. culture and how it feels about the news.