JOURNALISM: IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT—JUST ASK JOHN NOGUEZBy Dave Wielenga
EDITOR’S NOTE: It takes some time to investigate the investigation of Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, the guy whose birth certificate bears the name Juan Reynaldo Rodriguez and whose arrest last week on charges of political corruption has people calling him by another a.k.a.—Tip of the Iceberg. Doubling back on the extensive evidence of allegedly dirty dealings by Noguez / Rodriguez / Iceberg / Whatever (he’s accused of rewarding political donors with lower assessments of their propertyvalue, and thus lower property taxes) can be a spirit-sapper, too. But the long and rewinding road eventually leads to the doors of Los Cerritos Community Newspaper publisher Brian Hews and reporter Randy Economy—and a story they wrote that’s dated more than a year ago. That story was the first of dozens. Some of them were inspired by lightning strikes of insight; others were created by the numbing act of putting one brain cell in front of the other. Each story was rooted in the solid rock of research, making it capable of standing alone. Combined, they constituted an intellectual and factual force that eventually grew powerful enough to make change. The Los Cerritos Community News is a small, local newspaper trying to make some news and noise and money at a time when anything it does is widely perceived as its death rattle. But the work of Hews and Economy is inspirational proof that a newspaper’s circulation, budget and staff don’t constitute a formula for the size and weight of its journalism. Getting to the truth, and getting it to others—that’s always huge.
And the fan club grows. Here’s what Richard Horgan, co-editor of FishBowlLA.com, wrote in a recent post about Hews and Economy and the Los Cerritos Community News.
By RICHARD HORGAN / October 18, 2012
The last time a pair of reporters did this much damage on the municipal corruption front, it led to a Pulitzer Prize for the LA Times. Whatever awards the Los Cerritos News tandem of Randy Economy and (owner) Brian Hews win in the near future for their enterprise reporting about the massive scandal tainting the LA County Assessor’s office will be equally well-deserved.
Every other day, the duo have been detonating another bombshell, the culmination of many thousands of hours of investigative work and dozens of thoroughly documented articles. On September 27, for example, Economy and Hews wrote about some bogus property value breaks given to The Grove developer Rick Caruso. More recently, on October 12, it was about how a modest Huntington Beach home owned by the man at the center of the graft—John Noguez—had somehow earned historical status.
On the top left-hand corner of the Los Cerritos News website, there is a quote given by Warren Buffett to the LA Times this spring on prominently display. It reads: “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper.” A principle that is at the very heart of Economy and Hews’ reporting for the website and weekly print edition.
Economy has also been blogging about his diligent efforts. About a year ago, when he first revealed that assessor Noguez’s real name is actually Juan Reynaldo Rodriguez, people laughed. No one is laughing now, and Economy has a career-crowning achievement blowing up nationally.
In his own words:
If you have read my blog in the past number of years, I was one of the loudest voices about the seedy political ways of Juan Reynaldo Rodriguez, aka John R. Noguez, the Assessor of Los Angeles County who on Tuesday was arrested in the “biggest political scandal” in Los Angeles County history. I have never been more proud to call myself a “Community Newspaper Reporter!” The system works. Community Newspapers are the backbone of America’s news rooms.”