In reflecting on your last years at theWeekly, you’ve been quoted as saying, “I was going crazy. I was so exhausted I turned toxic from all the stress . . . so I needed out.” That suggests it was your choice to leave the paper. Was it?
Yeah. I’d been on the board of a low-power TV network a buddy of mine, Jeff Nightbyrd, had started, so I got a taste for TV and started thinking about what I could do there. I’m a restless type, and I’d been at the Weekly for 12 years by the time I left, and I’d never felt I was meant to do the Weekly for the rest of my life. I wanted to explore the opportunities in television, but unfortunately I was ahead of the curve with my ideas about that medium.
What did you do after you left television?
I did some community-service work, I worked with some floundering newspaper chains I was asked to help with, and I got involved with a couple of partners in creating some Internet sites that didn’t get launched because our timing was just before the crash. Then I started Share With the Other L.A., an organization that raises money and does pro bono work to educate the public about poverty in L.A. County, which has the most poor people, and by far the most hungry people, in America. I’m not referring to the homeless — that’s a population of approximately 8,500 people, and that’s not where the real poverty is. The real issue is the million and a half people who are working poor and food insecure. The cost of living here is staggering, and we have a Third World economy living next to a First World economy. There are 4 million people here near the poverty line, so it’s roof or food for a lot of people in L.A. County. These things aren’t widely known here, because the media is so bad, and L.A. is a city where people are separated by apartheid. So, I’m involved with that, and I do some work around media reform with a group called Media Challenge.
Rumor has it that you’re now a therapist.
It’s sort of service work I do, not as a “shingle” counselor, but I help people, yes. After leaving the television network, I followed a lifelong interest in spirituality and psychology, and I did a number of programs.
Was it you who selected Kit Rachlis (currently the editor of Los Angeles Magazine) to replace you as editor of theWeekly?
Ultimately I did, because I cast the deciding vote that gave him the job. He seemed like the right man for the job because he was culturally sophisticated in ways I felt would work for the paper.
Rachlis has said that when he came onboard in 1989, one of his main goals was “to re-establish theWeekly’s journalistic credibility.” Had theWeekly’s credibility eroded?
In Kit’s mind.
What sort of changes did you see in the paper under Rachlis’ editorship?
There’s a certain passion the Weekly had for consciously working to make a difference with that big story, and the paper abandoned — apparently permanently — really strong journalism that tries to do the big story. It opted instead to provide a forum for writer’s voices, and became much more centrist in terms of its politics. A right-winger won’t say that, but viewed from the perspective of where the Weekly came from, it became significantly more centrist.
Did those changes reflect an overall shift in alternative papers, or were they specific to Rachlis’ editorship?
Changes at the Weekly aren’t necessarily reflective of broader cultural shifts, because there are many areas in which the Weekly doesn’t keep up with the world at large.
What sort of changes did Sue Horton (now editor of theL.A. Times Sunday Opinion section) bring to theWeekly?
Sue went to a lot of local coverage and stepped back big time from coverage of national issues. It was solid, dependable local coverage, but the big stories didn’t show up on a regular basis.
And what does the Laurie OchoaWeekly look like?
She’s tightened and sharpened the local news coverage, and added back some commentary on national affairs, but the focus is mostly on the local culture, both the arts culture and the people culture.
You came of age smack-dab in the middle of the ’60s counterculture; to what degree did it shape your worldview?
Experiencing the ’60s as a young person completely altered my worldview and made me overwhelmingly optimistic. Not more patient, but more optimistic.
To what degree wasThe Village Voice the model for theWeekly?
The Village Voice was my root model, no question about it, but there were things I wanted the Weekly to cover that The Voice didn’t deal with — the human-development movement and environmentalism, for instance. So, The Voice was missing a piece.
In theWeekly’s 10th-anniversary issue you commented, “We took it as axiomatic that the forces for profound human change were so overwhelming that in our lifetimes it was foreseeable that war, violence and poverty would be put behind us and that the world would come to be led by people like ourselves, committed to economic and social justice.” Why didn’t those changes come to pass?