Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why will "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" never go out of print?

 ** UPDATED DECEMBER 15, 2010 - (Originally posted on November 29, 2009). Editor's note: The controversial best-selling biography, ""Ayn Rand and the World She Made is now out in paperback.

** On October, 27, 2009, publisher Nan A. Talese (an imprint of Random House) released Anne C. Heller's new book, "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" – about the life of Russian-American author Ayn Rand (1905-1982) – whose 1957 classic, "Atlas Shrugged" – seems eerily clairvoyant today.

** "Atlas Shrugged" is a doomsday novel of heroes, villains, love triangles and politics – set against a backdrop of an American economy in collapse, e.g., gifted innovators disappear, industries merge and close, millions of people are thrown out of work – while the federal government tries to help by subsidizing, bailing out and taking over whole industries – issuing "greater good" directives which pushes the United States closer to socialism.

** Sound familiar?

** So who was Ayn Rand and why is she still relevant today?

** You don't have to be an Ayn Rand follower to get into Anne C. Heller's spectacular new book. You can even be a "cafeteria-fan" like I am - picking and choosing parts of her ideas that are compatible with your own – while still getting tremendous enjoyment reading about what made Rand a larger-than-life figure in American philosophy and literature.

** In my view, what's most impressive – and what makes "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" feel like a book that will never go out of print – is author Heller's even-handed (and easy-to-read) summaries of Rand's complex ideologies about American individualism, capitalism and democracy, along with synopses of ALL of Rand's books and lectures – explained in ways that are sometimes more lucid than Rand's original works, making them more accessible to mainstream readers.

** Don't believe what others say. While it's obvious the author is NOT a Ayn Rand disciple - (which she tells readers up-front) – it's ALSO clear that she is NOT a comprehensive hater of Ayn Rand. Anne C. Heller's book reads like a journalistic strike down the middle of the plate, with no political agendas or axes to grind.

** Ayn Rand's published works are brilliantly controversial – but to many readers, they're also riddled with mind-numbingly dense passages that require a level of concentration so intense – that you feel like your head might explode. Heller tackles this problem by simplifying what's impenetrable – while opening a window onto what Rand was like - as a flesh-and-blood person. The author's work has a story-telling momentum that's unusual compared to other biographies – in that her obligatory chapters about Rand's childhood – aren't those that you'll want to "skip over."

** With the help of researchers digging through archives in Russia and throughout the United States, Anne C. Heller brings Ayn Rand's childhood and adult years excitingly to life – making more clear to mainstream readers why Rand's experiences were critically important to understanding how her ideas against socialism and collectivism were formed – and how she refined them over time. The author further illustrates how Rand integrated these ideas into all of her novels, particularly "The Fountainhead" (1943) and "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) – and how she subsequently became world famous – while carrying a torch of stubborn dismissiveness toward her detractors, all the way to her death in 1982.

** "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" reads more credibly than all previous treatments of Rand's life to date – because author Heller approaches Rand as a critical admirer – and not as a blind-faith fan. Her ability to make Rand's ideas come alive demonstrates her admiration and respect of Rand's intellect. This "closed the sale" for me as a reader – and wipes out criticisms written by some of Rand's followers - who are obsessively parsing every word in Heller's book. Even Cliffs Notes versions of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" are somewhat tainted by being written by authors possessing an over-eager zealotry of her ideas. Not once did I feel Heller was presenting Rand - as being anything more than a tremendously intelligent, charismatic and charming figure - who could also be frighteningly eccentric, petty and cruel.

** Most reviews have been favorable. But while reading a few negative reviews, I detected an undercurrent of resistance to Ms. Heller's work from people, 1) who believe themselves to be more intellectually gifted than Heller to discuss Rand's life and work (hence are perhaps too biased), 2) who are horrified that lurid and less-than-flattering material about Rand's life is included (despite being too compelling to be ignored), 3) who are upset that they weren't contacted for inclusion – or if they were included – that their testimonies weren't published in full, 4) who take issue with the lack of cooperation from the Ayn Rand Institute and Leonard Peikoff, Rand's "intellectual heir," or 5) who hate Rand so much that they feel any book about her should be treated with contempt.

** In my view, these complaints are a by-product of Rand's fans or haters who are dissatisfied with the content and approach of Heller's book. Had the author included comprehensive interviews from peripheral supporters and detractors – "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" would have exceeded the page counts of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" combined. (Yet Heller's book is exhaustively researched, with 151-pages of notes and an index.) The author's positive summations of Rand's complex ideas – mixed with true tales which reflect poorly on her behavior and treatment of others – proves that Heller is neither a Rand follower nor a detractor. This obviously irks rabid fans and haters of Ayn Rand alike.

** The most important figures in Rand's inner circle are included in this book, e.g., those closest to Rand from the late 1930s to the late 1960s, arguably the most critical period of Ayn Rand's adult life. Hence as a reader, it's mildly bizarre to see people dismissing this book because it includes "ex-Rand-followers-who-left-the-fold," which infers their testimony carries no weight today. Nearly ALL the individuals interviewed by Heller – still express joy and sadness – while acknowledging their time with Ms. Rand was the most vigorously enriching and rewarding of their lives.

** Ayn Rand's key journal entries and letters have already been published worldwide and reside in several locations outside of the Ayn Rand Institute. Hence I don't believe there's much left waiting to be discovered that will be earth-shattering. Ms. Heller's success is consolidating Rand's ideas into a marvelously coherent single volume - and finding new, previously untapped sources to construct a more fully formed picture of Rand - that goes beyond what we already know.

** Leonard Peikoff's testimony from the Ayn Rand Institute, while useful had he agreed to cooperate - would have added little that's new – because he himself has already published numerous analyses about Rand's work. Peikoff's contributions to Rand's legacy HAVE been noted by Heller. But in fairness, Peikoff's testimony would have been only relevant, in my view, to those mainstream readers who would've wanted him to ADD to what Ms. Heller has already satisfactorily provided - about Ayn Rand's final months AFTER she stopped making public appearances - before eventually succumbing to cancer.

** In sum, this book is NOT aimed at Ayn Rand intellectuals, and this is NOT a criticism. (Though I believe they will still enjoy reading every page.) "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" feels aimed at mainstream readers seeking an unbiased, all-in-one-reference of Rand's ideas. I do NOT know Anne C. Heller personally, but I believe she has painted a superb image on an enormous canvas – of a controversial genius of titanic and electrifying importance – that will still feel relevant many years from now. If you doubt this, then why are people still talking about Ayn Rand today – nearly 30 years after her death – and more than 50 years after "Atlas Shrugged?"

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

UPDATED - Who's Covering What Beats at the San Diego Union-Tribune?


** What follows is a revised partial list of reporters, editors and photographers still working at the San Diego Union-Tribune. This list is PRELIMINARY and INCOMPLETE. All information is subject to change without notice as things continue to settle in at the main offices of the U-T in Mission Valley.

** Please check my main story about the changes at the Union-Tribune which were announced on June 17, 2010 by clicking here.

** As a public service to journalism and public relations colleagues in the greater San Diego area - this blog post contains a partial list of staffers assigned by Union-Tribune editor-in-chief Jeff Light. Mr. Light's vision for the paper, expected to be completed by the end of this summer, was previously outlined in his Editor's Note to readers.

** If you have information or corrections, please message me by clicking the "Contact" link located in the upper left corner of this blog or you can e-mail me by clicking here. Your identity is CONFIDENTIAL.

** A comprehensive list of ALL staff assignments at the Union-Tribune - including administrative newsroom personnel - will be provided to long-time PR professional and friend Gayle Lynn Falkenthal - whose website can be reached by clicking here. She in turn will post this list on her website for friends and colleagues - including members of the San Diego Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America - and the San Diego Press Club.

** Note that 13 entry-level reporting positions are marked "OPEN" in the list below. The search for less expensive "junior staff writers" and "associate staff writers" coincides with two (2) job ads that were posted online by the San Diego Union Tribune this month.

** The first ad for entry-level "junior staff writers" appeared on June 17, 2010, the same day more than 34 staffers were laid off by the paper. Successful applicants, the first ad reads, "will research and write news and straight-forward short stories with low level of complexity, analysis and narrative, in accordance with identified style and structure." These staffers, the ad continues, will "compile lists, contribute regularly to blogs during the course of the work day; work with reporters as directed to enhance larger trend stories; may 'fill in' in other areas as assigned when reporters are away from their beats." They may also "use social media to enhance readership and find sources, and assist with daily cops calls." This first ad, which closes July 19, 2010, appears here. No annual salary is listed. After the ad expires, a disabled screen-shot is visible by clicking here or the thumbnail image below.

** A second ad, this time for entry-level "associate staff writers" - to join the paper's "watchdog team" of investigative reporters - appeared a short time later. Successful applicants, the second ad reads, "will fill in doing basic beat work throughout the newsroom, to free up reporters to do deeper investigative stories. Subjects will range from the environment to military affairs to San Diego City Hall. Assignments as a beat fill-in could last two days, two months, or longer. Between assignments, there may be opportunities for associate reporters to assist in investigative work." This second ad, which closes July 28, 2010, appears here. The annual salary for these positions is $35,000. After the ad expires, a disabled screen-shot is visible by clicking here or the thumbnail image below.

** All names and assignments of current staff members of the San Diego Union-Tribune listed below were correct as of June 28, 2010 - yet are subject to change without notice:

1. Laura Wingard - Topic Editor -
        Public Safety Group Manager
2. Dana Littlefield - Courts
3. Greg Moran - Courts
4. Debbi Baker - Police/fire
5. Kristina Davis - Police/fire
6. Susan Shroder - Police/fire.
7. OPEN (Filled) - Pauline Repard -
        "Associate Staff Writer" - Police/fire.


8. Adrian Vore - Topic Editor - North Zone Group Manager
9. Michelle Breier - Associate Staff Writer
10. Logan Jenkins - Columnist
11. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - North Zone
12. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - North Zone
13. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - North Zone
14. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - North Zone
15. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - North Zone

16. David Ogul - Topic Editor - San Diego,
        South and East Zones Group Manager
17. Karen Pearlman - Associate Staff Writer - Zone(s)
18. Lisa Deaderick - Associate Staff Writer - Zone(s)
19. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - Zone(s)
20. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - Zone(s)
21. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - Zone(s)
22. OPEN - "Associate Staff Writer" - Zone(s)

23. Hieu Tran Phan - Topic Editor - Uniquely San Diego
        Group Manager and Sunday Editor
24. Sandra Dibble - Border
25. Michael Stetz - Downtown & Attractions
26. Steve Schmidt - East County
27. OPEN (Filled) - Sr. Staff Writer - Morgan Lee -
        Immigration & demographics
28. J. Harry Jones - North County
29. Matthew Hall - San Diego
30. Janine Zuniga - South County
31. OPEN - Sr. Staff Writer - North County

32. Ricky Young - Topic Editor -
        Investigations & Local Group Manager
33. Jeff McDonald - Investigations
34. Tanya Sierra - Investigations
35. Danielle Cervantes - Investigations
36. Tom Blair - Columnist
36. OPEN - "Junior Staff Writer" - Investigations
37. OPEN - "Junior Staff Writer" - Investigations
38. OPEN - "Junior Staff Writer" - Investigations

39. Diana McCabe - Topic Editor - Money Group Manager
40. Dean Calbreath - Economy
41. Roger Showley (interim fill-in) - Real Estate
42. Michael Freeman - Technology
43. Tanya Mannes - Small Business
44. Roger Showley - Growth & Development
45. Onell Soto - Energy & Green Business
46. Lori Weisberg - Tourism & Restaurants

47. Michele Parente - Topic Editor - Life & Entertainment -
         Local Group Manager
48. Caroline Dipping - Obituaries & Milestone
49. Blanca Gonzalez - Obituaries & Milestone
50. R. J. Ignelzi - Shopping & Deals
51. Karla Peterson - Everyday Critic
52. Peter Rowe - Sunday/Profiles
53. John Wilkens - Sunday/Profiles
54. Diane Bell - Columnist

55. Jennifer Crowshaw - Topic Leader -
        Entertainment Group Manager
56. James Chute - Critic - Classical Music & Arts
57. Keli Dailey - Eating Out & Drinking
58. Nina Garin - Things to Do
59. James Hebert - Critic - Theater
60. George Varga - Critic - Music
61. Cynthia Zanone - Life & Entertainment

62. Michael Smolens - Topic Editor -
        Government Group
63. Craig Gustafson - City Hall
64. Michele Clock - County / Politics
65. Patrick Flynn - Higher Education
66. Maureen Magee - Schools
67. Robert J. Hawkins - Transportation
68. Michael Gardner - State Government

69. William Osborne - Editorial Editor
70. Stephen Breen - Editorial Cartoonist
71. Christopher Reed - Editorial Writer
72. Don Sevrens - Editorial Writer
73. Joseph Taylor - Letters Editor

74. Jim Watters - Topic Editor - Defense & Discovery Group
75. Keith Darcé - Biotech
76. Gretel C. Kovach - Military
77. Jeanette Steele - Military
78. Janet Lavelle - Health Care
79. Mike Lee - Environment
80. Gary Robbins - Science

81. Jay Posner - Topic Leader - Sports Group
82. Jess Kearney - Deputy Sports Editor
83. Kevin Acee - Chargers
84. Ed Brown - Sports Group
85. Nick Canepa - Columnist
86. Bill Center - Padres
87. P. K. Daniel - Prep Sports
88. Kevin Gemmell - Sports Group
89. Ralph Honda - Sports Group
90. John Jenkins - Chargers
91. Tod Leonard - Golf
92. Don Norcross - College Sports
93. Brent Schrotenboer - Sports Group
94. Tim Sullivan - Columnist - Sports Group
95. Mark Zeigler - College Sports
96. Ed Zieralski - Outdoors / Horse Racing

97. Kristine Viesselman - Managing Editor &
        Creative Director
98. Larry Nista - Page One - Section A Editor
99. Catherine Snapp - Business Section Leader
100. Karen Kucher - In-Depth Reporter - Section A
101. Matthew Tiffany - Sports Section Editor / Leader
102. Lora Cicalo - Quality Editor Leader
103. David Clary - Quality Editor - Section A
104. Andrew Castagnola - Section Leader - Our Region
105. Lisa Sullivan - Section Leader -
          Night & Day / Weekend / Arts
106. John Cannon - Section Leader - Quest / Health / Travel
107. Christine Ross - Section Leader - Smart Living /
          Passages / Food
108. Tom Mallory - Day Homepage Editor -
          Web Desk Digital Group
109. Juliet Hendrix - Night Homepage Editor -
          Web Desk Digital Group
110. Andrew Kleske - Digital Quality Editor -
          Web Desk Digital Group
111. Michael Price - News Design Director &
          Entertainment Designer
112. Peter Nguyen - Features Design &
          Entertainment Designer
113. Anita Arambula - Graphics & Design
114. Christopher Barber - Graphics & Design
115. Cristina Byvik - Graphics & Design
116. Michelle Gilchrist - Graphics & Design
117. Hines Grubb - Graphics & Design
118. Leslie Hackett - Graphics & Design
119. Robert Muldowney - Graphics & Design
120. Gordon Murray - Graphics & Design
121. Gloria Orbegozo - Graphics & Design
122. Matthew Perry - Graphics & Design
123. Michael Rocha - Graphics & Design
124. Kathy Rodondi - Graphics & Design
125. Gregory Schmidt - Graphics & Design
126. Aaron Steckelberg - Graphics & Design
127. Tara Stone - Graphics & Design
128. Anthony Tarantino - Graphics & Design
129. OPEN - Graphics & Design
130. OPEN - Graphics & Design

131. Nirmala Bhat - Quality Editor Group
132. Travis Conrads - Quality Editor Group
133. Mark Dodge-Medlin - Quality Editor Group
134. Steven Droessler - Quality Editor Group
135. Ed Ibardolasa - Quality Editor Group
136. John Keller - Quality Editor Group
137. John Kowalczyk - Quality Editor Group
138. Robert Krier - Quality Editor Group
139. Kelly Murphy - Quality Editor Group
140. Kate Nelson - Quality Editor Group
141. Richard Scannell - Quality Editor Group
142. Mitch Weinstock - Quality Editor Group

143. Robert York - Director of Photography /
          Executive Sports Editor
144. K. C. Alfred - Photographer
145. Nelvin C. Cepeda - Photographer
146. Alma Cesena - Photographer
147. Eduardo Contreras - Photographer
148. John Gastaldo - Photographer
149. John Gibbins - Photographer
150. Earnie Grafton - Photographer
151. Sean M. Haffey - Photographer
152. Howard Lipin - Photographer
153. Gerald McClard - Photographer
154. John R. McCutchen - Photographer
155. Charlie Neuman - Photographer
156. Peggy Peattie - Photographer
157. James R. Skovmand - Photo Editor
158. David J. Brooks - Videographer
159. OPEN - Videographer
160. OPEN - Videographer
161. OPEN - Videographer

Original Material © 2010 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tom Blair's Return Overshadowed by More Layoffs at the San Diego Union-Tribune.


** A constellation of changes impacting the staff of the San Diego Union-Tribune were announced Thursday, June 17, 2010.

** As first speculated on this blog on Monday, June 14, Tom Blair (above), a near-beloved institution on the landscape of San Diego journalism, was among the changes, returning to the venue that first made him famous. Mr. Blair will return to the Union-Tribune as a columnist, with his first write-up expected to be published Sunday, June 27, 2010. His additional responsibilities will include being a multi-media personality and commentator via the web and radio pod-casts - as well as making appearances with the U-T's broadcast news partner - ABC-affiliate KGTV Channel 10 in San Diego.

** At the time of this final update (Friday, June 25, 2010), the jubilant news of Mr. Blair's return was overshadowed by more than 30 layoffs impacting the editorial and support staff of the Union-Tribune. A partial list of confirmed names follows. If there are names of people looking for work who are missing from this list, please e-mail me here. All sources are confidential:

1. Steve Adamek (copy editor)
2. Marc Balanky (multi-media editor)
3. Leslie Berestein (reporter)
4. Michael Burge (reporter)
5. Derrik Chinn (reporter)
6. Leana Dekock (sports desk)
7. Jeff Dillon (web content)
8. Alan Drooz (web content)
9. George Hutti (copy editor)
10. Jose Luis Jiménez (reporter)
11. Anne Krueger (reporter)
12. Tovin Lapan (reporter)
13. Angela Lau (reporter)
14. James Laurin (copy editor)
15. Bruce Lieberman (reporter)
16. Anne Magill (reporter)
17. Marcia Manna (reporter)
18. John Marelius (reporter)
19. Rachel Moore (copy editor)
20. Ruben Navarrette (columnist)
21. Robert Pincus (reporter)
22. Jeff Ristine (reporter)
23. Ozzie Roberts (reporter)
24. Leonel Sanchez (reporter)
25. Basim Shamiyeh (systems editor)
26. Fred Sidhu (reporter)
27. David Gaddis Smith (foreign editor)
28. Ken Stone (web content)
29. Heather Urquhart (copy editor)
30. Nicole Vargas (reporter)
31. Hank Wesch (reporter)
32. Doug Williams (sports editor)
33. Bill Zavestoski (web content producer)
34. Martin Zimmerman (copy editor)

** According to long-time San Diego-based public relations guru Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, prior to last Thursday's layoffs, the management of the San Diego Union-Tribune had composed a list of 34 names to be slashed, 12 of which were to be offered the opportunity to re-join the staff as entry-level reporters. (Another report pegged the expected number of lower-level staff writers at 13, plus 3 new videographers and 2 new graphics reporters/designers.)

** One long-time U-T writer who was laid off posted an update on Facebook about being offered just such an opportunity with a substantial pay cut - OR - to take six-months severance after nearly 30 years of service. At the time of this post, a small number of laid-off reporters are still trying to decide whether to take the demotions to buy themselves more time during the current recession.

** Nevertheless, it is clear the management of the San Diego Union-Tribune had prepared for every possible contingency before executing last week's layoffs. They included composing and posting an online want-ad to recruit entry-level writers -- to replace higher-salaried reporters laid off -- who may choose to reject the paper's offer to be re-hired as lower-paid reporters. (These previously senior-level reporters who decide to stay on will be called "associate staff writers." New hires joining the U-T will be called "junior staff writers.")

** As expected, newsroom executives at the Union Tribune reasserted its mantra to "do more with less," desiring to stay lean and nimble with fewer staff members, while still competing aggressively in the digital age to "be first" with stories breaking in the greater San Diego region. (At the time of this post, a flurry of changes continues, including finalizing a preliminary list of new beat assignments.)

** Jeff Light, the recently appointed editor-in-chief of the San Diego Union-Tribune, outlined his vision for the paper in an "Editor's Note" published last Thursday on the Union-Tribune's website. He declined comment Tuesday, June 15 about the then impending layoffs, citing confidentiality of personnel matters. (Mr. Light formerly helmed The Orange County Register.)

** For nearly 10 years, the San Diego Union-Tribune has been hard hit by job losses impacting every department at its main operations center in Mission Valley and at its bureau offices throughout the San Diego county. However, unlike other papers that have folded without a buyer, e.g., the now defunct Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer - the San Diego Union-Tribune found a buyer in Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills - in March 2009.

** Despite the tremendously somber nature of the layoffs, they underscore renewed confidence by Mr. Light and his bosses about the long-range future of the print edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune, albeit in a continued scaled-back form with its online and broadcast television partners, Sign On San and KGTV (ABC) Channel 10.

** KGTV Channel 10 News Director Joel Davis issued the following statement to this blog site about its partnership with the Union-Tribune and its impending relationship with Tom Blair:

** "Our alliance with the Union-Tribune has allowed us to strengthen our brand of major news coverage," Mr. Davis wrote. "If you want to know the major news in San Diego, between 10News and the U-T, viewers can be assured we have it covered. The partnership also allows us to have more fresh content – which means more interesting news stories and less repetition. We’re excited to hear about Tom Blair, too. He has been an institution in San Diego journalism, and his addition strengthens the ability of our partnership to bring viewers and readers the best coverage of major news in San Diego."

** Meanwhile, the return of Mr. Blair (see photo above) to the Union-Tribune, means the 60-year-old San Diego journalism icon will come full circle, returning to the publication where his career started more than 40 years ago at the San Diego Evening-Tribune, which merged with the San Diego Union in 1992. (The San Diego Union was founded in 1868, and remains, in its incarnation as the San Diego Union-Tribune, one of the oldest still-standing daily publications in Southern California.)

** Mr. Blair, who joined San Diego Magazine in 1995, left the monthly publication in April while its owners, CurtCo Media Labs, sought to find a buyer. (The magazine has since been sold to a trio of investors, which includes former owner Jim Fitzpatrick, 64 - who first bought the monthly in 1994 - before selling it to CurtCo in 2005.)

** Mr. Blair's career reads like a page out of an Horatio Alger short story. His career began in 1968 as a resident "gopher" - an unpaid intern - in the newsroom of the San Diego Evening-Tribune - which, like its rival, the morning San Diego Union, was then located in the same office building in downtown San Diego. After graduating from San Diego State University, Blair then became a paid "trainee" - a participant in the paper's editorial training program - and was among those selected to formally join the newsroom staff of the Evening-Tribune during the early 1970s.

** He steadily climbed the newsroom ladder as a reporter, later becoming a ghost writer for columnist Neil Morgan at the Evening-Tribune. He then, in 1982, in good-natured journalistic parlance, "turned traitor" - moving to the rival San Diego Union - and continued writing his stand-alone column after the two papers consolidated their operations in 1992. Three years later, he left to become editor of San Diego Magazine - a monthly lifestyle publication aimed at affluent readers - that has remained in continuous publication since 1948.

** According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, for the six months ending March 31, 2010, the San Diego Union-Tribune is the 23rd most-read daily newspaper in the United States, with a circulation of 249,630, ahead of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Newark Star-Ledger. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, with a circulation of 2.1 million, remains the highest-circulation daily in the United States, and the only newspaper among the top 25 that continues to post gains in the face of an industry-wide downturn in print-based advertising revenue and readership.

Original Material © 2010 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One Week Later -- Southern California's Great Easter Earthquake.


** By now, everyone has their own stories about where they were and what they were doing -- during last week's "monster" 7.2 earthquake that began in northeastern Baja California, Mexico -- and rumbled through southern California and Arizona -- shaking hearts and unsecured objects as far north as Santa Barbara. (I'll explain why I put the word, "monster" in quotes in a moment.)

** Other than my irritation with television stations refusing to "cut-away" from their infomercials -- AND with national news outlets initially focusing on the quake's impact in Los Angeles, as if San Diego is still a surburban "afterthought" (which by the way, New York editors wouldn't dare to attempt if the quake was situated in Philadelphia, roughly the same distance as L.A. is to San Diego) -- I heard very few people expressing thanks about stringent building codes in the United States, which played a big part in minimizing casualties and damage.

** While heavy damage was reported in El Centro, Calexico, Mexicali -- and throughout the rest of the Imperial Valley located roughly 100 miles east of San Diego -- the loss of life within the region's municipalities was greater than 1 and less than 10, according to conflicting news reports. Quakes of such magnitude and their subsequent tsunamis have killed thousands of people in other regions of the world, even when their epicenters are 150 to 300 miles away.

** But not here in the U.S. I'm not saying this would hold if last Sunday's quake involved the legendary San Andreas Fault. But a "7.2" is still a "7.2," especially if you're located a mere 100 miles from its epicenter. The post-quake result was a "monster" shaker by every standard measure -- but it turned out to be "merely" one of the "scariest but safest roller coaster rides" in county history. We heard a lot of talk about broken dishes and plate glass windows -- but nothing as traumatic as the evacuations of 500,000 people during the enormous brush fires that hit San Diego county in October 2007.

** Today's blurb collects two of the scores of videos I inspected about the quake that have been posted throughout the Internet. The first is from Sharon Weaver-Anderholt -- whose home is in Brawley, California, located about 130 miles east of San Diego and 20 miles north of El Centro. Mrs. Anderholt, a retired school administrator in the Imperial Valley, consented to my posting her 59-second video on You Tube, which has thus far has recorded more than 100,000 hits. Click below.

** According to Mrs. Anderholt, "We lost 6-7 inches of water out of our pool. We were really rocking and rolling, slow and easy. It was splashing much higher prior to me filming."

** The second video was posted yesterday by Arturo Marin and Adam Lazarin. They were filming an Easter party in progress in Calexico, California -- when the shaker hit. This 108-second video is more frightening because the people in it are clearly panicking. Click below.

** We'd all like to think that we'd be cool and calm under pressure. But the video above, which was closer to the quake's epicenter, shows otherwise. Equally frightening is how long it took for people to just fall to the ground and stay out of harm's way. Despite all the lessons we've been taught about what to do when the "big one" hits, I've heard from many people who confess that they did all the wrong things. They just "rode things out" -- or stayed in dangerous areas of their homes -- not even getting close to their doorways.

** What's unsettling is geologists continue to predict that we're still due for "a big one." Having gone through a shared communal experience, how long will it take before the lessons of the Easter quake of 2010 -- dissipate -- leaving us equally unprepared when the "big one" does hit?

** I know one writer from the San Diego Union-Tribune who said he felt nothing during the quake. He said he was pulling weeds in his backyard when it happened. Why do I feel sorry for him? I'm not sure, but I think it's because he missed experiencing something great, that is, the full power of something that's beyond man's control.

Original material © 2010 by David Kusumoto Communications.