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Bill Rosendahl - Council District 11






Thursday, June 15, 2006

Remembering David Asper Johnson

This week's edition of The Argonaut, the local newspaper in the southern part of CD11, has a two-page insert full of letters of tribute to publisher David Asper Johnson, whose untimely passing a few weeks ago shocked and saddened all of who knew him.

The tribute insert is not available online, so please go out and pick up a copy. The letter I sent the Argonaut, which is excerpted in this week's paper, follows:

When Dave Johnson and I first met, we hit it off like oil and water. But in the end, we belonged to a mutual admiration society.

When I first decided to run for office, everyone told me I needed to meet David Asper Johnson. I had never heard of him. He was an influential and respected voice, they said. He knew more about Westchester, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Venice and the Marina than anyone, they told me.

Dave and I met for lunch, brokered by a mutual friend. I was brimming with enthusiasm and full of ideas. But I was new to running for office and still unfamiliar with much of the district. Dave did not quite know what to make of me, but he let more than a few people know that he was less than impressed. Frankly, the feeling was mutual.

Over the next several months, all that changed. As a candidate who tried to be virtually everywhere, I was impressed to see Dave at so many community events, reporting and socializing at the same time. And this was while he was in semi-retirement!

Dave's news coverage was fair and exhaustive. He covered all sides of an issue, never played favorites, and always put his readers first. That's no small feat for a community newspaper, where an angry advertiser or a handful of disgruntled readers can easily make an impact on revenue or circulation.

While his news coverage was strictly objective, his opinion columns (accompanied by that signature caricature) were another matter entirely. Dave pulled no punches, and had no sacred cows. If he was not pleased with something, he could skewer you – and skewer you good. But if he was happy with you, he could make you a hero.

A few weeks before the primary election, the LA Times ("the little downtown daily," as Dave called it) endorsed my opponent and trashed me pretty bad. A few days later, Dave's endorsement came out. He backed me strongly, and it meant a lot.

A friend called the day the Argonaut editorial was published. "Congratulations," he said. "Dave Johnson's Argonaut endorsement means a lot more than the LA Times."

He was right. When Dave Johnson spoke, people listened.

A few days before he died, I spoke to Dave while he was in the hospital. Our initial animosity long forgotten, we complimented each other's work. He gave me some advice, and I gave him some encouragement. We both certainly expected to see him back at work before too long.

We'll all miss Dave Johnson: his fine journalism, his acerbic wit, his civic-mindedness. Fortunately for all us, his legacy lives on in these pages week after week.

God Bless you, David.

- Bill


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