The LA Times announced another round of cutbacks a week ago, and sometimes seems to be committing suicide in front of its Southern California readers…but despite all its financial woes the paper still has plenty of first-rate journalists on the beat. One of their best is Scott Gold, who yesterday wrote a story about my local burb, Santa Paula, that probably no other newspaper in the world could duplicate.
Check the headline: "In Santa Paula, a White Minority Blames the Poor for Town’s Problems."
That’s telling it like it is.
Santa Paula is a poor town, one of the poorest in SoCal, but it’s also a town riven by racial conflict, between the mostly white establishment and the mostly Latino populace. As Gold points out (here), a substantial portion of the town seems to think that the people of Santa Paula are somehow its problem — as if the folks who work the farms vanished, then the long-gone oil industry would come back.
I say no other paper could take on this subject, because no other paper in Ventura County would have the guts to defy the wealthy white folk of Santa Paula. (Not all the white people are so craven: John Nichols, an acquaintance, a photographer, a shopkeeper, and a nice guy, dares to speak truth to power in the body of the story, which is well worth reading.)
Newspaper fans, take a look at Gold’s lede. A classic.
Many people in Santa Paula, when asked what they do for a living,
respond with the name of the fruit that they pick: "Naranja." "Fresa."
The fields have long defined Santa Paula, literally and culturally. In
tidy rows, they stretch 10 miles to the east and west along the floor
of the valley in Ventura County. The workers tie little pieces of foil
on some crops to scare off the birds. On sunny days, there are
thousands of reflections; it looks like they’re harvesting jewels.
n the middle is a sweet, tired town of roughly 35,000 people,
three-quarters of them Latino and more than half considered low-income
under county standards.
For several years, there has been a tide of sentiment that Santa Paula
has missed out, that it has become a dumping ground of sagging roofs
and 99-cent stores while neighbors like Moorpark and Camarillo have
prospered. And some critics — many of them members of the white
minority — have decided that the poor are the problem.
All this because the town has built decent housing for farmworkers.
Sometimes my people, white people, make me sick.
[photo by Gary Friedman of the LA Times]