Journalism started for me when I was 9 years old. We lived about 20 miles east of Portland, not far from the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia rivers, in a place called Troutdale.
I went up and down the street knocking on doors to learn the latest “news,” mostly birthdays and anniversaries and Little League results. I also asked if they were selling anything. Then I laid out my hand-written stories, with headlines, on a yellow legal pad and had Dad run off a dozen copies.
Voilà! I was the proud publisher of The Neighborhood News, distributed free and complete with classified ads that didn’t cost the sellers a dime.
Fifty-four years and 3,500 columns later, I’m still in the business — the ink of yesteryear kicked to the curb by pixels.
My professional journalism career has been spent entirely in the Valley, first at the old Fresno Guide, then with the Visalia Times-Delta and for 37-plus years with The Fresno Bee. Now it continues here at GV Wire, whose publisher is Fresno builder and grower Darius Assemi.
I will oversee the news operation, as well as write columns and editorials.
Some of you likely are scratching your heads. Assemi and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, and I’ve written many columns about how developers have had a supersized and sometimes self-serving influence in Fresno’s growth, often to the city’s detriment.
I am doing this, in part, because of GV Wire’s three-fold mission: be a government watchdog, advocate for public policy that increases and spreads Valley prosperity, and tell compelling stories often overlooked by other media.
Starting a new journey is another attraction. I am joining a small but talented team of reporters and videographers. We don’t know exactly where we’re going yet or what our niche will be in the highly competitive Fresno media landscape. There will be times that we experiment and fail. But we will learn from our mistakes and keep getting better. We will emphasize video journalism. Our ultimate aim is to produce “mini-documentaries” that tell the story of the Valley and beyond.
We will have fun, too. Check out the “Fresno is Forever Cool” video.
The final reason I am here is my respect for Darius and other Assemi family members. They mean it when they say they love Fresno. They are thankful for the success they’ve had here since immigrating from Iran.
More importantly, they are firm believers in paying it forward. Their philanthropic efforts — stretching from Fresno to villages in Afghanistan — have helped tens of thousands of people and have been accomplished with Valley wide partnerships. They are passionate about health care for all, education and extending a helping hand to those in need. Next on their to-do list: a nonprofit project in Mendota that addresses medical, social, and youth needs in the Valley’s rural west-side communities.
The digital world is tailor made for innovation. However, there are important rules in journalism that can never be compromised. We will treat the people we cover and our readers with respect. We will cover all sides of a story, offering multiple sources the opportunity to weigh in. We will acknowledge our mistakes quickly. And we will be relentless in our defense of the public’s right to know about government decisions and actions that affect their lives.
Most of all, we will be transparent.
You will be able to easily distinguish between news and opinion. My columns will contain my opinions. Darius’ columns will present his opinions. Our editorials will be the institutional voice of GV Wire. Unlike many news sites, however, every editorial will bear the name of the person who wrote it. When it comes to news, the buck stops at my desk.
We welcome commentaries and are offering three formats: 300 words (think of it as a long letter to the editor), 500 words and 650 words. Send your submission to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. My direct phone is 559 492-4031.
My promise to you is the same one I made to Darius and the GV Wire team: I will give my best effort everyday and we’ll see what happens.
One of my old bosses, the late Charlie Waters used to say, “Fresno is one helluva news town.”
It still is, and I am excited to keep reporting on it.