A Reporter’s Perspective

File photo
Following the destruction of the flood of January 2010, Charly Shelton (in the foreground with walking stick) walked through the decimated Deukmejian Wilderness Park.


When Robin Goldsworthy invited me to be part of the newspaper she was starting I knew it would be a perfect fit for me. I liked doing hyper-local news and as the industry appeared to be moving away from that format the CVW promised to embrace it. I liked sharing news that concerns my neighbors and I liked that the paper wasn’t going to indulge in sensationalism but just write the facts of a story. I believe those reading our newspaper can come to their own conclusions without our slanting the story one way or the other.

Over the 10 years at CVW I have covered some memorable stories, some tragic and some inspiring. A reporter with a community paper has to be ready, and willing, to cover everything from the kindergarten Halloween parade to a murder/suicide. For me at CVW, it all started with the Station Fire just before we were to launch the paper. 

The story began like most, with a tip from a passerby about a small fire in the Angeles National Forest. But soon it was obvious this was not like any other fire. Although the paper had not officially gone into production, Charly Shelton and I began covering the fire. We spent several hours every day at the command center at Hansen Dam where then-Supervisor Michael Antonovich, law enforcement and fire officials gave updates on the fire. We called in our stories to Robin who would transcribe and send them out in email blasts. Those emails were then shared with others and Robin began getting requests to “please put me on your email blasts.” Soon she was sending out blasts to hundreds of people. We were getting calls from residents sharing information about where the fire was traveling. Then, on Sept. 4, we published our first official edition; however, by that time we had established ourselves as a news source.

To say we hit the ground running would be an understatement. Charly, Brandon Hensley, Leonard Coutin and I covered everything 24/7 in those early days. We had just a few months after the fire before we were hit with the floods. We had a waterproof camera, thanks to Charly’s tech advice, and took images of the flood following it from the top of Ocean View Boulevard down to Montrose Shopping Park. The rains came and seemed to never leave. The vegetation had been burned off  the hillsides allowing a large boulder to dislodge, rolling down the hillside and eventually damming an area of the Mullally Debris Basin. 

One of the best articles Charly did during this time was “A Day in the Life” type of story about LA County Public Works and the boulder at Mullally Debris Basin. We were able to take a look at a group of workers that normally don’t get highlighted – again, the advantage of a community paper. Charly also went on a hike with Glendale Public Works and a geologist/paleontologist into Deukmejian Wilderness Park to see the damage resulting from the flood.

When someone says that nothing happens here in “Mayberry” they need to walk a mile in my shoes. Obviously we have a very active volunteer community. On any given weekend this community will have an event that benefits others. But there is another side of the Crescenta Valley.

In the past 10 years I have covered several tragedies, from suicides and missing people to murders, drug issues and fatal car accidents. The story that is most difficult for me is covering the tragic loss of children. I have covered suicides and accidents of young people that have torn at my heart. I have interviewed parents who are lost in their grief, and parents who have turned that unimaginable loss into a way to help others. This is where being part of the community is most difficult as a reporter because the child I am reporting on is often someone I know and, in one case, was part of our Prom Plus family.

There have been late night ride-alongs with law enforcement and early morning ride-alongs with firefighters. I have been waiting behind that yellow security tape more times than I would like to remember. That being said I have also watched as our community has risen from these tragedies by working together to help one another. The minute a tragedy is known we begin getting calls from residents asking how they can help. From spiritual support through our churches to donating items and funds, it seems almost everyone is willing to be the boots on the ground and work to support.

I feel fortunate to work for a community newspaper that continues to put the community first, avoiding the sensational and dealing with the facts. I look forward to the future covering stories from a cat caught in a tree or a bear in a swimming pool to the upcoming 2020 election.