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CITYSCAPES / ALAN ABRAHAMSON

Paper's Travel Page Lets Locals Know They've Arrived

October 07, 1995|ALAN ABRAHAMSON

After nearly three years of living in the South Bay, one acquires the usual passel of tricks known only to the locals--like which grocery stores use the register tape with the $4.95 coupon for the super-duper Red Carpet carwash in Manhattan Beach.

But it wasn't until this week that I earned official recognition of local status: our picture ran in The Beach Reporter.

There we are, my wife and I, captured for posterity while holding a copy of The Beach Reporter in the little village of Puako on the Big Island of Hawaii. Joining us in this week's edition are a businessman on a trip to Kuwait, hikers in the Eastern Sierra, travelers in Turkey and several others--all of them posing for a snapshot while holding The Beach Reporter.

It's undeniably campy. But it's also an incredibly popular feature in the newspaper, one of two free weeklies serving the South Bay. And it's a mark of true local pride to be included--because all the locals know about it and flood the paper with their snapshots.

"It's really, really, really popular," so popular that the wait to get printed typically is three to eight months, said Cara Murphy, The Beach Reporter's managing editor.

For The Beach Reporter, locked in an old-fashioned newspaper war with the competing Easy Reader, the travel pictures offer a signature feature. Both papers claim a circulation of about 60,000. But only The Beach Reporter runs the travel photos, usually every other Thursday under the banner, "Around the World."

"I'd rather use the space for current news than someone's vacation photo," said Kevin Cody, editor and publisher of the Easy Reader. A Manhattan Beach travel agency, J. Fire Travel, sponsors "Around the World,"

and Cody said he believes the feature blurs the line between advertising and editorial content.

At The Beach Reporter, publisher Richard Frank dismissed Cody's comment, saying the feature "ran for years without a sponsor" and asserting that the photo spread "says a lot about the tradition of the paper and the readership and the loyalty that [readers] have to their community."

The feature, Frank said, has been a mainstay at The Beach Reporter since Nov. 5, 1981, when the paper ran a photo of Lani Goldthorpe of New Jersey--who was traveling with Rick Lesser of Manhattan Beach--standing in front of the Kremlin. The photo also shows two Red Army soldiers looking on with curiosity as Goldthorpe glances at the newspaper.

"From that point on, it just blossomed," Frank said, growing from a half page of photos to its current full-page spread. Occasionally, as it did this week, it swells to two pages.

Photos have included everything from elderly couples on a cruise ship to adventurers at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain to yet more active adventurers--a pair of honeymooners in Kauai made this week's edition.

With each publication, the paper invariably includes at least one photo of a couple of kids or of a camp or church or YMCA group. This week's shows a gaggle of kids--and their folks--perched atop and around a Jet Ski on the Colorado River.

Steve Jaffe, a Manhattan Beach attorney, has been waiting since July for the photo he took of his daughter's Indian Princess group to run. The picture shows a bunch of second-graders, all looking "as cool as they could look" while on a camp-out in Santa Barbara County.

"It's an interesting thing to remember to pack," Jaffe said. "You've got your sleeping bags, your tents, your food, your Beach Reporters."

The paper has been packed on trips to all seven continents--even Antarctica. Well, to be precise, on a boat in the Bellingshausen Sea, just off the coast of Antarctica.

The paper has also been at the scene of history. Manhattan Beach residents Karen Fontana and Dolores Deck graced the cover of The Beach Reporter with a snapshot taken in Tian An Men square; the pair were standing just a few feet away from the papier-mache Statue of Liberty that had been built in the square by protesting students.

The day after the picture was taken, Chinese tanks rolled through the square.

A leading candidate for the most offbeat photo was snapped last November. It shows avid scuba diver Howard Winderbaum with the paper 80 feet underwater.

To get the picture, Winderbaum, 49, of Manhattan Beach, took the paper to Grand Cayman Island, packed it in a zippered plastic bag, then unsealed it at depth. Nearby fish thought he was offering a snack, Winderbaum said, and they pestered him for a minute or two before dispersing.

The soggy paper held together just long enough for his dive pal, who was carrying a special underwater camera, to snap the picture, Winderbaum said.

"The pictures that usually go in there are somewhat mundane," Winderbaum said. "You know, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building. I figured this had to top most of those."

The caption accompanying Winderbaum's photo noted that he had gone to "great depths to read The Beach Reporter."

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