As city editor of this paper for five years, I've had the privilege — and challenge — of being the "boss" of a reporter who writes rings around me every week. And she'll turn 78 this year.
Of course I'm talking about Barbara Diamond, who on Tuesday marked her 25th year as a reporter in Laguna Beach.
Barbara is such an icon in this town that she has her own seat at City Council meetings, right next to the assistant city clerk. She's always sitting right up front watching the political show as it unfolds and writing down almost every word. (I've sat in that seat myself only once, when Barbara was injured and unable to get out; I can tell you that it was a big chair to fill!)
Aside from that one minor lapse (and maybe one other), it's safe to say that Barbara has been at nearly every council meeting and every important public meeting in Laguna Beach for the past 25 years.
She has covered every major and many minor news events in Laguna, from the devastating 1993 wildfires to the 2005 landslide. She's so well-respected that the city manager calls her at home with breaking news.
Barbara has amazing stories of her exploits as a reporter. She's not a "desk jockey." She gets out in the thick of it.
She was the one reporter who got a helicopter ride with city officials viewing damage to Bluebird Canyon.
She was once taken on a police drug raid and watched as suspects were arrested at gunpoint. That's scary stuff.
But she also makes it her business to cover in detail social events, fundraisers and parties — most recently a doggy birthday party — to document the inner workings of this very special place. Her "Our Laguna" column always carries at least a dozen or more names in bold, so everybody knows who was there. It's that attention to the smallest detail that marks a real pro in this business.
Barbara was hired by the News Post, the Orange County Register's weekly paper for Laguna Beach, on June 8, 1985, as a local reporter. A California native who grew up in San Francisco, she had migrated to Laguna from Marin County after a divorce. She found a house on Diamond Street — which wasn't named for her but seems it should have been — and never looked back.
You'd have to say that printer's ink is in her blood.
Barbara's family was in the newspaper business and she tells how, as a child, she used to play with the movable type that was then how newspapers were made, and make pretty pictures by running a pencil over the advertisements that were cast in lead. How times have changed! Now she writes on a computer and e-mails her stories, which sometimes appear on the newspaper's website within minutes.
Barbara has done it all in newspapering.
She started out as a copy girl at the San Francisco Examiner before "moving up" to selling advertising, which paid a lot more. (That's where she met her husband, who was also in advertising.) A photographer's model in college, she was also called upon to make an appearance whenever an attractive woman was needed before a photo lens. It was, after all, the late 1940s.
But her heart was always in journalism.
For years she covered women's tennis and counts Billie Jean King and Chris Evert as friends. A car buff, she can write about automobiles with authority and is known for driving her fire engine red Mustang around town — but only around town. She almost never leaves Laguna Beach, and certainly not behind the wheel, as attested to by the low mileage on her car.
Barbara is the only reporter I've ever known who can boast of having won awards for her reporting at the county fair. She's got a bundle of them from her days at the News Post.
She's even been lampooned in Lagunatics — the ultimate sign of respect in this town.
Most of all, Barbara believes in what she does, and she believes in local news.
She has always told me that the most important kind of journalism is local. Unlike other small-town journalists who dream of "moving up" to becoming editors and daily newspaper reporters, she believes that covering the day-to-day activities and news of this one city is "where it's at." And working for a weekly is exactly where she wants to be.
From the News Post she moved to the weekly Coastline News, and when the Coastline was bought by the Los Angeles Times in 2002 and became the Coastline Pilot, she stayed with the paper — and we are very happy she did.
Aside from a razor-sharp mind and a gift with words — she can write stunning leads — Barbara has amazing staying-power and stamina. Journalism is fun, but it's also hard, sometimes grueling work.
After 25 years, Barbara is still out there, taking notes, talking to people and covering Laguna Beach from the ground up. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I've always said that if you love your job, you don't work a day in your life," she says. "It [journalism] never gets old."
I'm very proud to call her a colleague and friend.
Congratulations, Barbara! Take a bow!