Imperial Valley Press

Message from Gary Redfern

- – Gary Redfern, El Centro

This is a tough piece to write. It was my privilege to return to the Imperial Valley Press as a reporter for just over a year recently. However, my byline has been absent since late October due to health concerns that make it unlikely I will ever be able to return to work.

I first worked for the Press from 1988-1997, covering criminal justice and then regional issues. At the end of that time, I entered a second career in marketing/public relations, and later started and operated two businesses. Despite success in those other ventures, I never felt truly comfortabl­e with them.

I returned to the media part-time in 2015, and eventually landed back with the IV Press in September 2021. I wish to thank former editor Thomas Bodus and General Manager Alexis Singh for that opportunit­y.

I also wish to thank my first editors from years ago, including Sue Giller and Bret Kofford. Along with late publisher Dick Fitch, as they created an environmen­t in which great reporting flourished.

Upon my return in 2021, I often heard from readers how much they enjoyed my reporting, and for that I am grateful. The best compliment I ever received was during my first years with the Press when a reader told me the first thing he did when getting the paper every day was seek out my byline because he knew my stories would be the best to read.

Such reader loyalty was always my goal. Whenever I would write a story, my first questions to myself were, “Does anyone care about this and why?” I envisioned a reader taking time from their busy day to open the paper and seeking a few minutes to be informed and entertaine­d. When I taught journalism at Imperial Valley College a few years ago, I told my students that as reporters we ask readers for the most important thing they have —their time — and they’d better prove their reporting is worth it.

If a matter couldn’t pass those tests for me, it likely would not result in a story. If it did pass muster, I would work at getting and reporting the full story, wherever it led me. I recently told a younger reporter not to view a story as an item to be written about and discarded but as a train with many other cars that would be another aspect of a story until it played out.

I think readers appreciate­d that approach. It was how I put them first. It’s not that the average person does not have the ability to learn for themselves about issues and the people behind them, they don’t have the time or the expertise to go about it. As such, many rely upon — and trust — the media.

That trust has been eroded in recent years for a variety of reasons. That need not be the end of the story. The media and the free speech that allows for it not only have a place in our society, they are the cornerston­es of democracy. We discard them at our peril. Amid all the technology and changes in philosophy and approach, good reporting and writing remain the basis for a robust media.

I lament that Imperial Valley College no longer has a journalism program. Even if there is not enough enthusiasm for classes or a program, the college should bring it back at the club level and partner with the local media to make that happen.

Not having a pipeline of media talent from IVC damages the local media as it is increasing­ly difficult to attract outside talent. Several members of the local media over the years got their start at IVC. Moreover, increasing students’ understand­ing of the media is a valued asset in any vocation.

However, the real strength of the media comes from those who access it. I encourage all local residents and business participan­ts to support the local media as consumers and advertiser­s. Yes, the national media roll into town every so often to cover the Salton Sea or the border, but they aren’t covering the Imperial County Board of Supervisor­s, local city councils, school boards, profiles on interestin­g people or diving in-depth into important issues. Only your local media will do that, and I hope it continues.

If any of my work, teaching or advocacy over my 30-plus media career in the Imperial Valley helps achieve a continued robust media, my career will have been a success.

Farewell to my readers and colleagues. It has been a joy to serve you and work with you over the years.

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