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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 1:45 pm | A Few Clouds 61º

 
 
 
 

Commentary: A Eulogy for the Goleta Valley Voice

For this former reporter, it's hard to believe the newspaper that "always seemed to be there" is no longer here.

Some people would flip to the Sheriff’s Blotter first to get tongue-in-cheek accounts of botched crimes and intoxicated tomfoolery.

Others would seek out the Goleta Scrapbook to get a bite-sized dose of history and a photo from Goleta’s pioneer days.

And, of course, there was the news: continuing coverage of the goings-on in local government for a community still trying to define itself.

When the Goleta Valley Voice shut down earlier this month, I had to write about it first and have the feelings later. After all, it’s only been a little more than a year since I was the staff writer for the weekly Goleta paper. Jim Logan was my editor, while Martha Lannan and I toiled in the next room to prepare the week’s news. It wasn’t easy, and we ran on a shoestring, but it was nonetheless rewarding.

In fact, were it not for the Voice I might not have gotten the opportunity to write Goleta stories for Noozhawk. If Jim Farr hadn’t taken a chance on a new intern in late 2003 when he still ran the paper, I would not have gained the access into the new world of Goleta city politics. The Voice made me follow issues almost from the start of cityhood. It had me listening to Goletans from city officials to the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce. It made me ask questions, and ask them again.

But it wasn’t just politics and planning. My time at the Voice helped me discover interesting people, like the guy who keeps bees in an old warehouse across from the airport, as well as things that continue to affect my life and perspective, like the UCSB Middle East Ensemble.

Of course, there were hard times. The Goleta Valley Voice started out as a one-man operation sometime in the 1990s (no one I’ve been able to speak to can quite remember just when it started — it just always seemed to be there). Dave Novis, now a Summerland resident, took it on as a one-man operation: he wrote, he edited, he had it printed, he did it all.

But he couldn’t sustain it and so, in 1998, it passed to a partnership of Goleta-based couples who really felt that a newspaper was necessary for the Goleta Valley: the Lannans, the Wilsons, the Linehans and the Sheltons.

“We really thought that Goleta area needed a voice,” recalled Cristina Wilson. The city hadn’t incorporated yet, despite several attempts.

But even they couldn’t keep the Voice going. That’s when Doreen and Jim Farr stepped in.

“First and foremost it was to further the cause of cityhood,” Jim Farr said of their decision to take over the Voice. “We long felt that Goleta had gotten short-shrift on a lot of decisions that were made for people who lived in that area.”

Although disappointed by the recent news, Farr hopes that someone will take on the cause of coming up with a Goleta-centric print publication.

Under Jim Farr, we were a rowdy but amicable bunch: raconteurs, girl-power feminists, politics junkies, geeks, surfers, nocturnal Mexicans. We crowded that little office in Old Town Goleta, where the Voice was put together, along with sister publications El Mexicano and Blue Edge. I could tell you stories ...

But all our eagerness couldn’t sustain the burden of publishing an English paper, a Spanish paper and a surf magazine.

When Wendy McCaw bought the publications in late 2005, the staff was split — a painful experience for those of us who had gotten used to being in each others’ faces. The Voice staff dwindled. Many were laid off. Those of us left in the newsroom — Martha Lannan and me — were grateful to have our jobs, but had some serious survivor guilt.

Add to that drastic adjustment the events of 2006 had at the News-Press. With all the accusations of bias and breaches of journalistic integrity flying back and forth, it was inevitable that people painted us guilty by association.

In my time under McCaw, however, not one word of mine was changed by the powers that be. Logan would have put up a serious fight. And I have it on pretty good authority that it remained that way for the others, from when I left in 2007 until last week. Although it is fair to say that in the scope of all the events at the De la Guerra building in downtown Santa Barbara, we may just have been overlooked. But that worked out, too.

It’s dog-eat-dog in the world of journalism; we all know that. But at least in the Good Land we newshounds were more likely to just sniff each others’ butts than to bite. Even though I answered the irresistible call of New Media when Noozhawk founder Bill Macfadyen presented his exciting, forward-thinking venture in late 2007, I tried to stay close to my colleagues in the Valley Voice newsroom. I liked bumping into Lara Cooper around town, and getting Martha to break down the mysteries of the Goleta Water District board. I’m going to miss seeing those two.

I am, however, confident that Jim, Martha and Lara will land gracefully on their feet and perhaps we’ll continue to bump into each other around town.

In the meantime, my beat got just a little lonelier.

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