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Ventura County Perspective | LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Important Milestone for The Times

March 12, 2000|BILL OVEREND

The sign over the door, left by the last tenant, read Beaver Insurance. And it stayed up there for a couple of months.

Inside, electrical wiring dangled from the ceiling and workmen were still driving steel bolts into the concrete floor. It was noisy and chaotic, the start of the Ventura County Edition of The Times.

Ten years ago today, we published our first edition. So this is a special day for us, our 10th anniversary, a good time to reflect on where we've been and where we're going.

From the beginning, our goal was to be a positive force in Ventura County, to help set the agenda here. We hope we've done that, and we want to continue to do so.

I remember one afternoon not too long after we started up when I got some unexpected feedback about our impact here.

My dog had fleas, and the exterminator had come to my house to take care of the problem. As we talked, I mentioned that I worked for The Times.

"Oh, you're the guys who exposed the county perks," he said.

That was an early battle we fought and won. For years, county officials had quietly been paying themselves tens of thousands of dollars in hidden financial perks.

After we shined a spotlight on the problem, a blue-ribbon commission was formed and the county changed the system--eliminating most of the perks and adjusting salaries accordingly.

Over the years, the reporters of The Times Ventura County Edition have written more than 60,000 stories. But those moments when we have really made a difference are the ones that stand out for me.

I think we made a difference in Oxnard when forces there were trying to push a scheme to open a major gambling casino. One of our competitors greeted the idea as a potential boon. We saw it differently, and our news coverage helped kill it.

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More recently, I think we made a difference again when the county's new chief administrator, David L. Baker, suddenly fled his job in horror at the state of the county's finances.

This time part of our job was to help figure out for the public just how bad things really were. And we were able to do that: They were bad, but not as terrible as Baker seemed to think.

The watchdog role isn't the only role a newspaper plays, of course. There are obviously a lot of positives to life in Ventura County, and over the past 10 years we've tried to recognize them.

We've seen tremendous progress, from the opening of the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks to the birth of the new Cal State Channel Islands campus in Camarillo.

Along the way, all of us have lived through some tough times. We've seen fires and floods and too much violence. And the sinking economy of the early '90s took its toll.

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But, most recently, these have been boom years for the county and boom years for us.

One special day came about five years ago, when we moved our main office out of the industrial park we had previously occupied into our current digs on Chestnut Street in downtown Ventura.

When we started this edition, one of our biggest needs was for our own editorial pages. We added that dimension almost three years ago.

When we asked you what else we needed, you told us you wanted even more local news coverage. So we also added three Our Times papers five days a week to provide additional reporting on community events.

Our circulation has increased steadily, and we take that as a sign that you like the job we are doing. But we will always be tinkering with the Ventura County Edition. We can always make it better, more relevant to you.

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For today, though, we're content simply to celebrate our first 10 years. We're glad we are a part of life in Ventura County. And we are determined to do the very best job for you that we can possibly do in the years to come.

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Bill Overend is editor of the Ventura County Edition of The Times. He can be reached at 653-7522 or e-mailed at william.overend@latimes.com.

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