A year ago, I debuted my weekly column in these pages with a proclamation: Anyone who quits California because they find the going rough here are “cowards who want all of the easy and none of the hard.”
It drew exactly the reaction I wanted. Anger. Praise. Letters to the editor. More importantly, it attracted an engaged readership interested in a conversation about the direction of the Golden State.
That became my template. I’d pick a topic I hoped would resonate with the entire state that particular week, and then tried to write about it in such a way that it might tell the rest of the country something about us Californians too. It’s not easy to try to entertain, inform and infuriate readers simultaneously — and that challenge has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
I always mentally returned to that first dispatch. I did so again after an analysis by Bloomberg last month that found that an average of 128 people moved out of Los Angeles every day in 2017. So let me reiterate: Quitters are cowards.
And now, you can count me as one of them … kinda. I’m leaving this post as opinion columnist covering California for The Times — to become a features reporter covering California for The Times.
I didn’t want to give up this columna. But the jefes at this fine fish wrap believe in maintaining a wall between the news and opinion pages. (How have I not convinced them that walls are inherently evil?)
To write a weekly column, period, is a goal for many reporters — and I’m grateful to have had the chance. To have done it in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper I’ve read my entire life, has been an honor. To have had a platform to celebrate the state and attack those who insult? That’s been this lifelong Californian’s fantasy come true.
So why am I stepping away?
The answer is simple: While I have a big mouth, I am a reporter at heart. I yearned to return to my roots, which is to say I want to be buried in FOIAs at 4 a.m.
On the Metro staff, I’ll still be covering all of California. Instead of commenting on stories, my full-time job is now to go find them. I’m excited to join this staff (benefits, I’ve missed you so…), but particularly as part of a hiring spree by Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong that seeks to bolster this paper so it can be the journalistic enterprise California deserves.
During my year of punditry, I came to appreciate that those of us who remain in California love it more than life itself. That applies to liberals and conservatives, to young and old, to residents from Yolo to Imperial counties. We put up with a state perpetually on the edge of ruin because we expect things to get better — and they always do, thanks to those of us who stick it out.
We could do more with that love. The Trump-supporting octogenarian in Rancho Santa Fe is as invested here as a DACA recipient in Oakland. We can teach one another how to become better Californians — if we allow ourselves to listen.
I’m also proud to have written this columna as a Mexican American. Too often, Hispanic-surnamed reporters get pigeonholed into covering only Latino issues. From the start, my bosses wanted me to cover all of California, not just the caliente parts. That mandate made me grow as a writer, and I’d urge editors across the country to follow their example and let Latinos be columnists, instead of only Latino columnists.
I could babble on, but I’ve got gracias to give. A special thanks to Bob Sipchen, Cherry Gee and Matt Welch, all former Times opinion editors who gave me my first op-ed writing opportunities 12 years ago. Also thanks to The Times’ editorial page editor Nick Goldberg and former Op-Ed page editor Juliet Lapidos for giving me the chance to do this on a weekly basis.
And especially to my jefa de jefas, Robin Rauzi, who was the best type of editor: Someone who knows your talents and because of that never lets you slide. Who made my column better every week. Who was as effusive with her critiques as she was with her wit and praise.
I’m moving on, but with my commitment to California even stronger. This isn’t adios, but an ay te watcho. I’ll be seeing y’all around, because this Californian ain’t a quitter.