Dear Montecito Community,
Gwyn Lurie is a local chair collector. She chaired the MUS School Board for five years, she co-chairs the Santa Barbara Human Rights Watch Committee, she is a founding member of The Partnership for Resilient Communities (TPRC) and was Chair of the Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Safety Net Task Force. Gwyn has spent enough time in her writing chair to pen The Music Never Stopped starring JK Simmons (Sundance Opening Selection, 2010), Nine Lives starring Kevin Spacey (2016), and screenplays for nearly every major movie studio. Gwyn worked in broadcast news for ABC/New York upon completion of her studies at UCLA and Oxford. Today Gwyn can be found in chairs across Montecito in her new role as CEO of the Montecito Journal Media Group and Editor-in-Chief of the Montecito Journal. Email her at email@example.com
It is with great enthusiasm and more than a little humility that I embrace my new roles as CEO of the Montecito Journal Media Group, and Editor-in-Chief of the Montecito Journal.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Buckley, whose love for this community has been reflected in every edition of the Montecito Journal since its inception in 1995. And I am pleased that Tim Buckley, the paper’s talented and indefatigable publisherfor the past 14 years, is joining me in this endeavor as both a partner and welcome counter balance. I am a firm believer that the best journalism is never one-sided, even when it’s “my” side. This collaboration reinforces my belief that, despite what cable news networks would have us believe, there is far more that unites us than divides us.
When I began this journey almost two years ago, my vision was to take our local newspaper, elevate its content to better reflect the caliber and full spectrum of perspectives in this community, build a modern digital and event platform and bring it all together through inspired and inspiring content to prove that local journalism can not only survive, but thrive.
The seeds for this were planted during the twin disasters of 2017/18 when it became apparent that as good a job as our local press did in covering these events, and as hard as our public officials worked to keep us informed, we desperately needed our own platform, including a digital one, to communicate with each other and to receive reliable up-to-date locally sourced information 24/7.
In order to achieve this vision I had to assemble the right team – backers with a range of perspectives who understand the importance not only of local journalism, but of building community. In my wildest dreams I could not have envisioned an all-star team like ours. To a person, I am awed by every one of the 45 individuals who believed in this mission and have gone with me on this journey. Each of them loves this community and believes in community not just as a place, but as a way of thinking. Each of them, in their own way, personifies what I consider to be a core value of Montecito: Doing well means doing good!
During my eight years on the MUS School Board (five as chair) I became conscious of how one-dimensionally our community has been reflected in other media. We have fallen prey to the dangers of a single story as time and again we are characterized as merely a collection of rich people; a good place to raise money for political campaigns and causes; but none of that translates into a place deserving of a strong voice in policy decisions or political matters.
Those days are over.
As a place with unparalleled human resources, we are uniquely positioned not only to cull incredible content from our midst, but also to be the thought leaders on important issues local and beyond. Montecito is made up of a wide array of individuals who have lived all over the world, worked at all levels of business, government, the arts, education, medicine, spiritual work, politics, sports, law. We have families who have made this their home for generations, and those who have chosen Montecito as their adopted home. There are young families who stretch and sacrifice to be here so that their children can attend our world-class schools and can grow up with a rare bit of bucolic magic, and those who could live anywhere but choose to be here. In my case, my husband and I bought our home here shortly after marrying at the San Ysidro Ranch in 2003. Despite our respective careers as writers in Los Angeles and our intention for this to be a getaway spot, following the birth of our second child we felt the palpable pull of Montecito as an ideal place to raise children. We moved here in time for our first born to start kindergarten at MUS and we have always appreciated how this community brings together diverse perspectives politically and otherwise – all deserving of a voice.
But disparate perspectives do not preclude productive partnerships. I could not have seen that more clearly than as a founding member of TPRC, when a small group of Montecito residents came together in the wake of the 1/9 debris flow. Without regard to political or any other ideology, our group locked arms and worked together to create and, with the community’s support, implement a resiliency strategy around debris nets and other technology.
While on the School Board I had an epiphany during a heated debate amongst polarized parents – the topic was MUS’s math program. As I listened to the varying perspectives being passionately presented, it occurred to me that every parent in that room wanted the exact same thing – what was best for their child! The problem was we could not all agree on what “best”meant. Still, listening to different perspectives deepened the Board’s understanding of things and always made our decisions better.
It is a well-established fact that the more vibrant the local press, the less corruption and the better everything around us functions. But as important as it is to have the press serve as a local watch dog over local leaders and agencies, equally important is the power of a strong community forum – where people are talking to each other rather than shouting at each other. Our political system and commentary on it have become like pro-wrestling. Yelling has replaced discussing and the thing that’s lost is us. Our unique individual stories. Our best intentions and our nuanced perspectives.
We are so much better off hearing what each other has to say, because the alternative is extremism and silos. No one understood that better than Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two distinguished patriots, at times bitter rivals, known for their political differences and partisan passions, but who nonetheless worked together to co-author our Constitution.
At the heart of our vision is the creation of a robust and inclusive community forum that allows us to share our personal stories and opinions, so that we can more deeply know our neighbors, and in the process, become a more empowered and engaged community. If there’s good communication, the community cannot help but be enhanced, empowered, and more effective at advocating for itself.
Over the coming weeks we will assemble our team that will help turn this vision into reality. We plan to launch our new version of the Montecito Journal and Digital MJ within the first quarter of 2020.
In the meantime we would love to hear your thoughts. And thank you in advance for going along with us on this exciting journey that we hope will deepen and strengthen our connection to each other and to this special place we call home.