Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Brains Behind the Clairemont Community News

Janett Lewis
Director North
Chair, Communications Committee

From time to time we bring you a unique interview with an interesting person in the Clairemont community.

This week we got the chance to sit in with the dynamic Janet Miller, energetic and insightful publisher behind the Clairemont Community News. Janet took the time to tell us a little bit about her vision for the Clairemont community and how she became the publisher and editor-in-chief of its most stellar newspaper.

Janett Lewis: What are you most passionate about?

Janet Miller: Well, I got engaged this week; I’m excited about that. I’m very into words, reading and writing. I’m passionate about Clairemont, at least making Clairemont more of the place I’d like to live. One thing that I think is missing is public art, which is a big deal to me and I’m distressed that we don’t have anything like that in Clairemont. I’d love to see more of that happen. I’m excited about the small community theater group that started here in the last couple of years. I’m excited about helping them. I’d like Clairemont to be not so much “Squaremont,” but a little more cultural.

JL: Hip.

JM: Hip? Please, that’s askin’ for a lot. [Laughs] I actually think that the trolley is going to help that, because it’s going to urbanize a little bit down at the bottom of the hill. There’ll be more people, and there’ll be some more development down there. People will be coming to that area because it’ll be easier to get to. As you know, down on Morena Blvd. there’s kind of a little renaissance happening, and I think that’s going to draw people, too. Hopefully at some point Clairemont will be the hip, cultural center that I’d love it to be. But for the time being it’s pretty good.

JL: So what got you into the news?

JM: Well, this happened by mistake. I was working for my brother’s construction company K-Co. as the office manager and marketing director, and we had been advertising in a small local newspaper, the Clairemont Mesa News, for awhile, and we had been doing really well with it. Ironically, every month when they delivered it to the office I would read through it and have a million disparaging comments and lots of ideas about what he ought to be doing with this paper. One day we had something to publicize, and K-Co. and my brother called the dude and he said, “Oh, you know what? I’m not going to be publishing the newspaper anymore. Next month is my last month.” And we thought, “Wow, that’s too bad, because that’s a really great resource for us for advertising.” My brother was irrepressible and incorrigible so he said, “Well, what do we need him for? We’ll start our own newspaper. Janet, you like to write. You can be the editor and we’ll get somebody to help us design it.” I have a friend who’s still our director, and who had done a lot of magazine and newspaper work before, and we just started the paper as a project of K-Co. ‘Cause we figured we needed a place to advertise and other Clairemont businesses would probably need that as well. And we thought it would be something to give back to the community, something that people in the community would enjoy, and so that’s how I got started doing it. And after I ran it within K-Co. as a project of K-Co. for a couple of years, we all kind of woke up and said, “Wait a minute, K-Co.’s a construction company and this is a newspaper business. It’s really two separate things.” So we split ‘em apart and I bought the newspaper and it became my business and my job. So I’ve been doing it alone since 2008. This year it’ll be six years that we’ve published every single month. We are currently on issue number 80.

JL: So if you had a long-term vision for the community, aside from having more art and being a little more hip, what would that long-term vision be?

JM: I’d really like to see Clairemont recognized within San Diego as a unique and valuable and even historic community. And part of that comes with time. Clairemont’s 60 years old now. I’d like to see more respect for Clairemont around the city in general. And I’d like to see a more diverse population in terms of ages. I think we’re fairly diverse in terms of racial makeup and economic status a little bit. Kind of in the middle. And I’d like to see it be a little more diverse. I enjoy that.

JL: What changes have you seen over the years you’ve been in Clairemont?

JM: Well, I first moved to Clairemont in the 70s. At that time there was a bit of a real estate boom, so there were a lot of people buying and flipping houses and a lot of money in the houses. And then it seemed to go through a depressed era. There were kind of a lot of negative elements in the community for a while, and I moved away. For a while I lived in Las Vegas; my company had moved me up there. But coming back (I would always visit even while living in Vegas), Clairemont just really didn’t look that great. When I moved back here again in ’91, it felt like it was the beginning of a renaissance in Clairemont. And part of the reason I saw that was because by working at a construction company that was modernizing so many houses in the community, I got to see a lot of the neighborhoods really getting revamped. A lot of maybe shabby and older houses got fixed up and . . . and I think a lot of money went into the community in the early 2000s. Kind of slowed down there in 2008. Really not that much changed overall though, to tell you the truth.

JL: What kind of businesses would you like to see here?

JM: More locally owned businesses: I’m a big, big fan of locally owned business so I’d love to see more dining establishments that are locally owned, not chain-restaurants. I’d like to see more sit-down restaurants as well. When my fiancĂ© and I want to go out to dinner in Clairemont, there just aren’t that many places that are just a pleasant date-night place to have dinner. Or a pleasant date-night place to have a drink. We mainly have chain places. There are some other places that are fun, but it’s not like what’s happening on Morena Blvd. Some of the nicer, different, modern, pubs and restaurants. And I’d like to see more of that in Clairemont. Less chains. More independently owned. And fewer newspapers. [Laughs]

JL: What have you learned over the years from the experience of running a newspaper?

JM: Well I’ve certainly learned how to meet a deadline, and what that is and why it’s called a deadline. I’ve learned a lot about the community from people in the community. And a lot of Clairemont history, which is very interesting to me and fun to learn about. It would be nice to have a Historical Society someday in Clairemont. So I’ve learned that from working in the paper. I’ve learned so much about the people, about business owners, small business owners, I’ve learned a lot about them. And how challenging it is for them to decide on what to invest in for their business: more employees, more advertising, a different location, or some other kind of marketing. What I’ve learned enables me to help people more efficiently when we’re talking about advertising and other ways of marketing. I’ve learned a lot there. Also recently an awful lot of social media and online information has just come at me and I’ve gotten really good at that, which I feel is a very valuable thing for me and for my advertisers. People in the print newspaper industry can easily be supported online with blog entries and I’m glad to have learned that. I’ve also learned that not everybody pays their bills.

JL: So if you had to pick one favorite spot in Clairemont what would it be?

JM: I would say probably my front yard. We have a little Franklin stove in the front yard: it’s a fireplace woodstove thing. We have a bunch of chairs, and wicker sofas, it’s a little living room out in the front yard. When there’s a fire going and neighbors are walking around and maybe we have a few friends over sittin’ out front roastin’ marshmallows, things like that. Beautiful big sky, I can see the ocean from my backyard. And my sweetie’s there. So that’s really my favorite place in Clairemont I would say. As far as public places in Clairemont . . .

JL: ’Cause we’re not all rushin’ over to your place tonight.

JM: [Laughs] I really like Western Hills Park a lot, it’s not very well known. That’s a very nice park, I like it very much. Quiet, tucked away.

JL: Where is it?

JM: At the bottom of Arnott’s Street. Let’s use my Clairemont Map right here. Kind of in the Bay Park area. There it is right there. On Cain and Arnott. Yeah, Arnott and Cain street. Very nice park, little playground for kids. Lots of trees. Very pretty.

JL: Is there anything else you’d like the people of Clairemont to know about you?

JM: That I really encourage anyone to email me with story ideas. A lot of the fun stories I’ve been able to cover have come from people out in the community. I’m looking for interesting Clairemont people, and I’m looking for interesting things about Clairemont. Events, things like that. So I really encourage people to communicate with me via email even though I sometimes feel like it’s a lot, I really would like that. I especially like to hear stories about old Clairemont or interesting Clairemont people. There are some fun people in Clairemont: the ladies who clean the lights at the Point Loma lighthouse; the artist that created the sculpture that’s at UTC now, big metal sculpture. There’s a guy who swam all the big distances in one year, so that is the English Channel, around Manhattan Island, and from Catalina to L.A., and I was talking to him on the phone, as he was finishing up his swim from Catalina to L.A., as he was getting out of the water, and he lives here in Clairemont. So there are interesting people like that all over the place. I knew a lady here who was a spy in World War II. That’s always what I’m looking for, interesting bits and corners in Clairemont. I always like to keep it on a positive note. So I’m not interested in crime reports or negative stuff like that. I want the paper to be a positive thing. And I want people to be excited when they see it and say, “Ooh, something good!”

JL: Well thanks for taking the time to sit down with us.

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