Slingshot: Finding My Next Act With TimesOC!
I never intended on a life in journalism.
Sixteen years ago, I visited KPFK-LA's red-brick building in North Hollywood and headed upstairs where the Pacifica Radio Archives' treasure trove of social justice reels rested in a chilly vault, waiting to be digitized away from a fate of slow disintegration.
After college, that's where I planned to spend my time getting hands-on experience with archiving and public history through volunteering when I wasn't working at the Buena Park Library.
But then, I walked downstairs and into a windowless room where my favorite community radio producers and on-air hosts rushed to meet daily deadlines. Soon, I began pitching segment ideas far and wide, from covering Brazil's landless movement to a local story much closer to home.
On the June 21, 2005 edition of Uprising Radio, I booked two guests to speak about how the Puente Program, aimed at boosting college enrollment for Latinx students, came under threat from a trustee at the Anaheim Union High School District. Irma Gomez, a Puente mom, and a young Chicano Studies professor named Jose F. Moreno pleaded their case over the airwaves on why the program needed to be saved.
That's how I got my start in OC journalism.
Later that summer, I got hired as a producer for the morning show. I carried the county on my back for years afterward and made sure its stories always had a home on the radio dial. But I also had a desire to write and began pitching story ideas to various outlets, including OC Weekly, whose reporters made for regular guests on the program.
Those early Weekly stories mostly chronicled the county's alt-latin scene; it was Gustavo Arellano's blasphemous "Stop! Betty! Stop!" concert review about a buzz band that wasn't all that buzzworthy that drew me to the paper during my rockero phase in the first place!
In time, I became a staff writer at the Weekly where I sharpened my storytelling and expanded its scope. I never imagined that I'd write the newspaper's final cover story on Nov. 27, 2019 when the infernal rag shut down the day before Thanksgiving.
But would that moment also mark the end of my run in OC journalism?
Without any takers, I started writing a cover story I had in mind for the Weekly in the New Year, anyway. I wanted to bring readers the tale of Harlen "Lamb" Lambert, the first Black officer to serve with the Santa Ana Police Department in the late 60s when Birchers made OC's current crop of alt-losers look sane by comparison.
Lamb had a new memoir out, Badge of Color, which dealt with his painful racial hazing in uniform.
The story found a home at TimesOC thanks to former editor Ada Tseng, who enthusiastically accepted the pitch. The same weekend my article appeared in print, California fell under stay-at-home orders. I plucked a copy from a Los Angeles Times rack outside a restaurant that Sunday and sanitized my hands soon after.
The pandemic seemed to spell doom for my errant life in journalism after that. Advertising revenue plummeted at various media outlets. Freelance opportunities froze. Job postings dried up when they weren't otherwise swarmed with hundreds of applicants.
Spurred by the arid landscape, I furnished this Slingshot newsletter and penned a monthly Arts & Culture column for LibroMobile when I wasn't staring despondently at Indeed's website, as well as the slow drip of death that is JournalismJobs.com, day after day looking for deliverance.
The routine felt like a meager protest against an overbearing pestilential reality. I suffered many lows along the way and began researching on how to pitch my transferable skill set for nonmedia job opportunities. But as it turns out, I'm not done with either OC or journalism just yet!
As they say: some personal news. On August 9, I start my new job as a feature writer for TimesOC. It's poetic that my new home will be the same one that welcomed my story on Lamb last year when others ghosted me.
All I can say is expect more of the same--and more! (Ok, maybe my Weekly-seasoned uncouth banter is a thing of the past. F**K!).
But I'll continue to pen engaging features about news, public affairs, arts, culture, food and whatever else my new jefe Erik Haugli gives the green light to. My best writing remains ahead of me and I've stockpiled about a dozen-and-a-half story ideas to get me started.
Got a story idea or a tip? Hit me up and I'll see you next byline!
- Gabriel San Román
Obviously, with my original content going to TimesOC now, the Slingshot is going to get revamped after a short hiatus starting next Sunday. Gracias to all who've supported this venture since it started. As activist Maggie Kuhn once said, "well-aimed slingshots can topple giants."
So don't unsubscribe just yet--or ever!
In the meantime, do subscribe to the Los Angeles Times so that you can receive the Sunday edition of TimesOC if you live in the county along with all the other great articles! And subscribe to the TimesOC newsletter for free!
I'm also ending my run with LibroMobile. I'm forever grateful to have had the opportunity to regularly feature my writing there during the pandemic. The monthly "Off the Page" column I penned is slated to continue without me so stay posted for new content every first Friday of the month.
If you're interested in writing an OC arts & culture feature focused on people of color, hit them up!
Gracias for reading all the way to the end! Now, don't forget to tell your friends to join the San Roman syndicate by subscribing!
Lead photo: Me in a group photo for my 8th grade journalism class. If I only knew then!