- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND!: Matt Fountain bids adieu to his 'New Times' brethren.
Let’s face it: Journalism gets a bad rap. It’s got a liberal bias. Its corporate owners drive it. Reporters lack objectivity. They sensationalize. Journalism misleads. It self-aggrandizes (It’s doing it right now, see? See?).
It seems anyone even tangentially connected to it is fair game. Did you hear the one about the newsboy standing on the street corner near a stack of papers, calling out, “Read all about it! Fifty people swindled.” A man walks over, buys a paper and starts to read, then says, “There’s nothing in here about 50 people being swindled,” but the newsboy ignores him and calls out, “Read all about it! Fifty-one people swindled.”
Yeah, we don’t get no respect.
Yet it’s a profession that fulfills its participants in ways it’s hard to calculate. Those of us in it, even we “arts and entertainment” writers, feel like it’s a special responsibility, maybe even a calling. I mean, we’re definitely not in it for the money, and that’s why there’s a level of kinship and mutual respect among journalists.
So when a member of the New Times family leaves, we have mixed feelings. On one hand, I can’t help but think, “Matt Fountain, you jerk! You’re leaving us for The Tribune!?!” And on the other hand I think, “Thanks for your five years of service and good luck as you continue to pursue one of the most challenging, least paying, and thankless jobs out there—one that’s remarkably fulfilling nonetheless.”
It’s Friday, Jan. 10, and we’re at Black Sheep to send Matt off in style.
“Besides having an amazing persona, classic style, great hair, and being a wonderful friend, our last names rhyme!” gushes graphic designer Dora Mountain. “You’re incredibly talented and just all around an awesome person. You’ll do great wherever you go. You’re my personal James Dean, and I’ll miss seeing you every day!”
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- ADIOS, AMIGO!: Graphic designer Dora Mountain (right) will miss Matt’s perfectly coiffed locks.
“Somebody at this table has a huge crush on you,” adds Dora’s fiancé, Federal Forest Service worker Russell Garner. “Maybe if we have enough Jamo tonight you’ll find out who it is. Until then, be merry and enjoy people ogling over you. Good luck at The Tribune.”
“Matt Fountain—like a water fountain—is the coolest guy in SLO, and you can quote me on that,” pipes in Calendar Editor Erin Messer.
“Matt, you’re like the little brother I never had … to put up with,” quips Executive Editor Ryan Miller.
Insert rim shot! This is starting to feel like a celebrity roast!
“Maybe if I weren’t an only child, I would know how to deal with a young punk I’m responsible for and proud of while simultaneously hoping he really makes it on his own and beating my head against a wall because of his bone-headed stubbornness and self-destructive charm,” adds Ryan. “I just want to punch him. Hard. But in an ‘I love you’ way. Carry on, my wayward son.”
Ana Korgan, a former intern and now occasional contributing writer, is best remembered as the author of the Nov. 22, 2012, commentary “When dreams won’t come,” in which she complains about her poorly paid internship, its boredom, and her general sense of underemployment.
“It’s because of Matt that I decided not to pursue a career in journalism,” she says. “I will be forever indebted to him for that. Classy, subversive, Matt Fountain sets a news-reporting bar that leaves most journalists’ material looking like internship fluff. New Times will waver with his departure but is a better publication as a result of his time served. Cheers to Matt, a true journalist.”
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- NACHOS!: Gratuitous nachos shot because, you know, we ate nachos.
True enough, journalism isn’t for everyone. The much-ballyhooed Fourth Estate has fallen on hard times as daily papers fold or cut their staff. It’s a whole new world out there, one driven by the Internet that’s filled with voices not beholden to the rules of journalistic ethics.
“Matt, looking back, what are the stories you’re most proud of?” I ask.
“The heroin cover, ‘Coming back from the dead,’ was my fav,” he says. “I got to interview junkies, was offered to buy some smack at Mitchell Park, the coroner divulged that the best way to open a rib cage is to use lopping sheers, yada yada yada. It was good to feel like an actual investigative journalist."
He also cited “Calculational garbage” (“I got the frickin’ NRC to admit they didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about in regards to seismic safety at Diablo”); a story about how much Cal Poly spent “prettying up the President’s house” and the runaround he got when trying to pin down hard numbers (“It was a fun one to write with good ol’ Bob McDonald”—another former New Times writer); and “More to the story”: “Austin Sarna was a homeless dude from Vallejo who was in town for the Occupy thing, and he came to the rescue of a motorist who was being beaten nearly to death by a group of seven drunk jocks. Unfortunately, Sarna pulled a knife and slashed an artery in the arm of the drunkest jock, and was being made an example of by the DA’s office, until New Times started covering the story. Then they dropped the charges from attempted murder to assault. The guy’s wife had a baby while he was in jail awaiting trial.
“Finally, I’ll never forget ‘Doobie Dozen,’” he concludes. “Need I say more?”
You need not, but knowing you, Matt, you will!
Congratulations, Trib! You got a good one. Best wishes to a fellow traveler. Keep up the good fight, Matt!
Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey or myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.