Dispatch city editor shares thoughts and reflections after one year in San Juan Capistrano
By Brian Park
Here at Picket Fence Media, we have three city editors, including myself, each assigned to manage the editorial responsibilities of a community newspaper. This duty precludes us from penning our own opinion-laden columns, but in this case, an exception was made.
I don’t plan on writing many columns. In fact, this will probably be my first and very last column in The Dispatch. But after experiencing my first Swallows Day Parade in March and upon reaching my one-year mark here in San Juan Capistrano, I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve learned about this job and this community.
It took a while before people in town figured out who I was. I was either the guy who had the unenviable task of trying to replace Jonathan Volzke or I was confused with another bespectacled Asian reporter who has since moved on.
Coming from a sports and radio background, covering council and commission meetings has been an exciting, and at times daunting, challenge. I’ve grown more comfortable with each meeting, to the point where I’m focusing less on personal roadblocks and more on what stories the community values most.
And there’s plenty that the citizens of San Juan Capistrano clearly care about.
From an apatosaurus to water rates, I’ve enjoyed the debates that have taken place every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. There’s a saying I learned in radio that constant agreement makes for a bad show, and I believe the same holds true in the council chambers. Public discourse is not a uniquely American ideal, but it’s what we hang our collective hat on when we speak of a working democracy. San Juan Capistrano’s city leaders and its residents are a great example of this, and as a reporter, that means there’s always a story to be told.
A few months after I got this job, I moved from Fullerton to nearby San Clemente to be closer to the action. You’re never off the clock as a reporter, but when I’ve had the chance to enjoy San Juan Capistrano, I’ve done so thoroughly.
I don’t think there’s a more beautiful street to walk down than Los Rios. When I tell friends and family to make the trip down Interstate 5 to visit San Juan Capistrano, the first thing I tell them is to put Los Rios Street on their itinerary.
Downtown Fullerton, too, has a small-town feel, but that harmony often seems lost when the sun goes down (see Kelly Thomas) and the bars lining Harbor Boulevard begin to overflow onto the sidewalk. Of course, San Juan Capistrano is not without its own colorful nighttime crowd (see The Swallow’s Inn), but there’s a sense of community that, to this newcomer, seems to exist uninterrupted.
Back in August, Jonathan wrote a column celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Dispatch. He wrote on its origins and how he never intended it to be his paper, but San Juan Capistrano’s paper. After all, as it reads on our front page: “Our Community, Our Voice.” I can’t emphasize how important that motto is. This is your paper. If there’s something you read that you liked, thanks for reading. But if there’s something you didn’t like, let me know. My reporter’s notebook is always open.
Brian Park is the city editor of The Capistrano Dispatch. Although he’s yet to ride a horse, it’s been placed on his Urgent Strategic Priorities List. He currently does not own a pair of cowboy boots, but they have been budgeted for following a unanimous office vote.