John Balzar, one of the last ties to the L.A. Times' run as an exemplar of the literary newspaper journalism form, has given his notice and will move to Washington to work for the Humane Society. His farewell email, posted below the fold, hints that the internal turmoil rocking the Times (and papers generally) pushed him to seek a new life.
Balzar has done pretty much everything as a writer at the Times: Sacramento reporter, political writer, foreign and national correspondent, columnist, senior features writer. He has reported in a dozen countries and all over the U.S., covering topics from Rwanda's genocide to the art and tradition of Hawaiian shirts. Some of his most memorable pieces told about adventures: sailing across the Pacific, working on a river boat in Alaska or chronicling the Yukon Quest International Dog Sled Race, a colder and more difficult travail than the famous Iditarod. That story became a book, Yukon Alone: The World's Toughest Adventure Race. When the Scripps-Howard Foundation gave him a prize for human-interest writing, the citation read "in the same way that Ernie Pyle brought his readers to the front lines of World War II, John Balzar has transported his readers to the frontiers of action and adventure." He became a Metro reporter in March.
His departure email to friends:
Email is an imperfect way to say this, but I've given notice. The luckiest and most alive times of my life have been in the service of readers as a staff writer for this newspaper. Down the road, I may find the right opening to speak my mind about events that have taken such a toll on my colleagues, my community and what has been my craft for so long. For now, I'm looking ahead to a new and worthy challenge.
I am moving east to assume the position as senior vice president of communications for the Humane Society of the United States. Just as with newspapers, this is a calling more than work. As an advocate for animals, I believe I can accomplish things that are well worth doing, and I relish the chance to combat those things that have no place in society. A new generation of leaders has taken the reins of the anti-cruelty crusade in the United States. I believe their ideas are ascendant. The world they imagine is a better one for all us animals.
Let's stay in touch as we can.