A couple times a year I get the distinct pleasure of filling in for The Cambrian’s editor, Bert Etling, while he vacations (which raises the question: Where does one vacation when one lives in paradise?).
So that’s where I’ve been for the past three weeks — among the pines, working out of an old house that backs up to Santa Rosa Creek and its abundance of wildlife.
The Cambrian gig is one of the sweetest in newspapering; I speak from experience. I was its managing editor from 1978 through 1981 under the somewhat legendary Ralph “Scoop” Morgan, a Runyonesque character who would intentionally rile the community when things got slow. He’d write incendiary letters to his own paper and publish them on the front page under the pen name Uncle Elmo from Gorda, or some such nom de plume, simply to inflame his readers.
My next tenure at The Cambrian was in the mid-’90s for several years, so it’s always a little like old-home week when I return.
As pretty a setting as Cambria is, it’s the people and, by extension, their interaction with The Cambrian that makes sitting in the editor’s chair a vacation in its own right.
First and foremost, Cambria residents vigorously interact with their paper. They depend on it. It’s their bulletin board, their eyes and ears on all things Cambria.
Whether that spectrum runs from bake sales to pending state and federal regulations, they get this smorgasbord served up in copious and well-written quantities by reporter Kathe Tanner. Simply put, she’s everywhere, reporting each week’s goings on, a virtual omniscient one-woman band.
But she’s got rich grist in which to work. Perhaps more than any other community in the county, Cambria is home to the finest eclectic collection of humans to be found. Whether a retired captain of industry, ardent politico, housewife or hippie, Cambrians are highly opinionated and articulate individuals who feel passionately about their home and what goes on there.
Such zeal may mean that community newspapers like The Cambrian, a publication that has never referred to its readers as “market share” or its very existence as one of being a “profit center,” will not only outlive former high-flying dailies, but will thrive into the future.
To be sure, Cambrians are computer literate; they can get all of the world’s news by hopping on the Internet.
But the one thing that virtually every subscriber knows is this: They will never be able to find a better weekly report about the goings on in their village than they will in The Cambrian.
And that’s why it’s such a kick in the pants to be able to get back to The Cambrian to spell Bert for periodic vacation relief. The truth is, getting back to the pines is my on-the-job vacation relief.