It was nearly 20 years ago that we had our last meaningful conversation. I was offered an opportunity I had worked so hard for over the nearly two years I served as a reporter for Eastern Group Publications, and my former boss, EGP Publisher Dolores Sanchez, had a little reality to deliver to this starry-eyed reporter.
See, I was part of the team of reporters who launched the Los Angeles Times’ Montebello edition of its Our Times community news section in September 1998. Dolores, however, warned that such ventures usually have two years to succeed. I left the Montebello Our Times in August 2000, about a month before it was shuttered by the Tribune Co.
Yes, Dolores, I was listening. In fact, I always listened, especially since EGP had done for me what it had done for so many young journalists since the newspaper chain launched in 1979, and that’s give me a chance to be the voice of the Eastside. And I took the role to heart. In fact, if the phones weren’t ringing when the newspaper landed in driveways Thursday morning, I hadn’t done my job.
Yeah, I had a knack for putting myself and the newspaper in the middle of some controversy, whether it was the countless and wasteful recall elections I covered or that two-hour debate the Commerce City Council had one night over whether to serve hot dogs at a “fireside chat” event. Let’s just say there are plenty of former city, school district, and, yes, even public safety officials who were glad to see my byline fade away.
To the individuals behind the scandal that’s plagued the Montebello Unified School District in recent years, just be glad you never knew me.
In college, I asked a political science professor about whether corruption was prevalent at the highest levels of government. He said “No,” adding that it’s local government where corruption thrives due to the lack of checks and balances. And that’s why this third-generation “Montebelloan” took his role as a reporter so seriously.
But the pendulum did swing the other way. By that, I mean I was just as passionate about the good going on in the communities I served.
There was the night I was on stage inside an Olvera Street restaurant when then-Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante — the first Latino elected to statewide office in California in more than 120 years — handed the speaker’s gavel to then-California Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa, making him the first Speaker of the Assembly from Los Angeles in 25 years.
There was the Theodore Roosevelt High School teacher who created a program designed to help promising students gain acceptance to Ivy League schools. There was graduation day at Montebello High School, when I watched proud parents embracing their sons and daughters. And I’ll never forget consoling that senior high school football player who realized he had just played his last game.
And this is what will be missed when EGP closes its doors this week. Thank you, Dolores and Jonathan [Sanchez], for giving a community a voice and young journalists like I once was a chance to develop theirs.
Gregory Arroyo serves as editorial director for Bobit Business Media, a business-to-business media company founded in 1961.