Thursday is news day here in Malibu. We're that rare American city that still has two newspapers. Free weeklies, it's true, but newspapers nonetheless. There's the Malibu Surfside News, a tabloid with a slow-growth bent, and The Malibu Times, a broadsheet that's generally thought to be pro-business. Both take their role as the community watchdog quite seriously and for that, we here in Malibu are grateful.
You don't look for Malibu news in the L.A. Times. You're not going to see it on TV. If you really want to know what's going on here, if a city council vote seems more important than Britney's manny (she hired a male nanny; the tabs dubbed him a manny; now you know what I read while waiting in line at Sav-On) you follow the hometown press. Our papers are locally-owned and fiercely proud of it. The letters pages are a public forum. People write in to complain, correct, chastise and cheerlead. Conversational threads can continue for a month or more. Barbra's addition (too big!), Cher's wall, (too tall!), a dog bite, traffic, the loss of a beloved grocery store (Cooke's Family Market - another story for another day).
Unless the L.A. Times takes an interest in an Australian company's efforts to park a liquefied natural gas terminal off the Malibu coast, our news about that will continue to come from the Malibu Times and the Surfside News. So far, they own the story. Ditto for a fight brewing between city residents enraged by a public works plan floated by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Our local press isn't perfect. From time to time, depending on the crime or crisis or bureaucratic bungle, the stories can leave you wondering whether the reporters attended the same event. It's not that they get it wrong, though that happens. (One year, the editor of the Malibu Times goofed and urged his readers to vote "yes" on a state proposition he passionately opposed. The Surfside News, for its part, recently skipped the fact-check process on a local man's claims to fame and attributed to him numerous honors he no doubt aspired to but had failed to actually achieve.) And it's not an Orwellian war-is-peace Fox News thing, either. I think it's that they work with fewer resources, fewer filters. They write for their readers and not for the layers of editors above them. Hell, there are no layers of editors above them. What goes to press is the news that matters to Malibu and the way it's written reflects each newspaper's sensibility.
So today is news day in Malibu. We're in for typos and misspellings and bumping headlines, hurriedly-written stories and lots and lots of real estate ads. There'll be evidence galore that Malibu is rich and famous. But we'll also see, in the raw grief of an obituary, a tart letter to the editor, a desperate "lost dog" notice, a home-drawn ad by someone betting her life savings on a small business, the heart of a small town.