Time To Move On

By James Buckley   |   November 21, 2019

It was summer 1995, and our predecessor, Montecito Life, had stopped publishing the year before. I waited six months to see if publisher Jesse Roth would be able to resuscitate his ten-year-old paper and when it became clear he was not going to, I began to put together the first 16-page issue of “The Gold Coast Journal, Montecito’s Hometown Newspaper.”

I remember bringing a cut-and-paste “dummy” along with me on a weekend my wife, Helen, and our two kids went with Jane and Bruce Defnet and their children to Lake Naciemento. While they played, swam, boated, and water-skied, I duly wrote, re-wrote, edited, proofread, and ultimately approved the layout and editorial copy of that first issue, dated “November 1995.” We printed in September but I figured it would take awhile to distribute the new product (“sort of monthly” at the time) and I didn’t want to have an old date on the cover.

My teenaged son Tim and I took the paper around, folding it and placing it on top of (not in) people’s mailboxes rather than throwing it on the ground. Until, that is, the U.S. Post Office warned us that every mailbox was the property of the U.S. Government and that it was an offense (Misdemeanor? Felony?) to “tamper” with one. So, we began to find outlets that would carry us. Pierre Lafond in the upper village was one of our first locations and we continue to thank them for dedicating that space to us.

The name changed with the second issue, as Dana Newquist, owner at the time of Montecito Video (just behind the hardware story in the upper village), noted that “Gold Coast Journal” was too broad and that “Montecito’s Hometown Newspaper” should be just that. The words “Gold Coast” became smaller and smaller before finally being dropped from Montecito Journal’s logo entirely. Montecito Video became our first paid advertiser. Gillian Christie, whose now international company began on Coast Village Road, was the first to welcome me into the “media” as a fellow professional, though I was anything but. “Mr. Santa Barbara” Larry Crandell congratulated me and introduced himself as a friend and became a mentor.

The second issue featured our first color (though it was only red; each additional color was costly!) and I editorialized about how awful I thought it was that “Merry Christmas” had been dropped by businesses and companies throughout the U.S. in favor of “Happy Holidays” and wondered in print what possible “holidays” they would be referring to. Don’t forget, this was 1995!

Over the years, Montecito Journal has been a family affair. Tim became publisher in 2006; office manager Christine Merrick (whose 13-year-old granddaughter Maile Kai Merrick wowed a full-house Granada audience recently when she sang a duet with Broadway pro Kristin Chenoweth on stage) is my sister-in-law and has been taking care of the front of the house for nigh on 25 years. My wife, Helen, though born in France (English is her second language), has been our proofreader since that very first issue. Daughter Lily continues to edit all the copy (her major at the University of Georgia was English). Our first Managing Editor, Guillaume Doane, was a Montecito Union School childhood friend of my son. Our second Managing Editor, Eva Van Prooyen, was my first hire when we opened Cafe Au Lait at La Cumbre Plaza in 1989. She was Lily’s babysitter too and has become a lifelong friend. MJ’s sales maven, Sue Brooks, began with us a little over 24 years ago; relative newcomer to sales, Tanis Nelson, has been with us for more than a decade. And, yikes, many of our writers and advertisers have been with us nearly as long. I’m afraid to mention their names as I’m likely to leave someone out, so I won’t. He’s not strictly speaking family, but Layout & Design Manager (and artist in his own right) Trent Watanabe, who’s been with us for nearly twenty years, has made this paper the handsome product that it is and has never – did I say never? I meant never – missed a deadline. Talent and reliability: what a concept; what a combo; what a guy!

Fast forward to 2019. Our teenaged son and his bride, Jacqueline (née Cox), have two boys, aged eight (Deacon) and six (Kessler). Tim is now pushing 40 and I, well, I am 25 years older than when we launched this endeavor. It’s been a great ride and Montecito has been great to me and my family. Gwyn Lurie, a person I have come to admire and trust, has put together an accomplished team of investors to purchase the paper and takes over as of next issue. You’ll find her editorial nearby (see page 4). I believe she will be a considerate guardian of the Montecito Journal legacy as she and her remarkable team pursue substantial plans to explore different and myriad paths for the weekly paper and our semi-annual glossy edition.

And now, I’m moving on (though my son is staying). I play golf, study French, and watch Tucker Carlson. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at writing a book or two and perhaps I will. Then again, it’s possible I won’t, as we’ve got grandkids and family affairs to attend to. But, I do know this: I’ll be one of the first to grab my copy of Montecito Journal when it’s plunked down at Pierre Lafond late on a Wednesday afternoon.

Maybe I’ll see you there.


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