March 25 2015 10:38 AM

A new CityBeat editor aims to carry the torch

Ron Donoho
Photo by Joshua Emerson Smith

Hi, I’m Ron, the new editor of San Diego CityBeat. In issues to come, this space won’t be focused on me. But there’s a new guy at the helm of this irreverent institution. So I’m going to introduce myself with some… potty humor.

If we were already acquainted, I’d invite you to my Downtown walkup for a beverage.

Don’t worry; I would not follow you around with a camera, like Christopher Walken in “The Continental” sketch from Saturday Night Live.

You would, however eerily, be offered the house drink, a Bombay Sapphire on the rocks, with an olive. If I’ve just had a good day at the poker table at the Palomar Card Club on El Cajon Boulevard, the olives will be the fancy, cheese-stuffed kind.

After a few drinks, you might have to excuse yourself to use the bathroom. Here it comes. The restroom is near the front door, to the right of the apartment call buzzer. This old-fashioned buzzer is shaped like a phone receiver, and it protrudes from the middle of a canvas, painted by my daughter, to look like a British phone booth.

So you pass by this clever mixed-media piece and now you’re standing alone in the bathroom. There’s a silver, rectangular picture frame over the toilet. The frame bounds a bold-typed, allcaps witticism: “CURSE THE DARKNESS. BETTER YET, LIGHT A CANDLE.”

On one hand, it’s a homespun ha-ha. It implies that if you do number two, you should diffuse any malodorous after-effects with the supplied pack of matches and World Market jasmine-and-magnolia scented candle.

But the proverb, slightly re-arranged for my loo, is attributed to several notable figures. John F. Kennedy once used the remark in a speech, and the words originated in a 1961 presentation given at a Human Rights Day ceremony by Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson.

Curse the darkness. Dylan Thomas wrote that we should “rage against the dying of the light.” We will. In the hands of a humble new editor, CityBeat will continue this alt-weekly tradition. My experience has shown that public figures lie, disambiguate and speak in circular patterns that make you wonder if they get paid by the word. We’ll continue to call them out.

Light a candle. Our rage may cause us to take dumps on politicians, sports-team owners and other dark forces who smile at TV cameras while seeking to bilk the hard-working local citizenry. But with tempered rage, we’ll strive to offer solutions, too.

Yeah, we’ll stink up the place if our local leaders foul things up. And we’ll also celebrate solutions that work for everybody, whatever your race, color, creed, sexual orientation and even if you happen to be a guy living in a van down by the river.

This publication is a team effort, and I’d like to acknowledge the current fulltime staff and the freelance contributors, a smart group of dedicated specialists in the niches of news, arts, culture, music, food and drink. The in-office staff is assisting me in learning when all the columnists’ pieces are due, and providing technical guidance on stuff like how a mouse won’t work if it’s not connected to a monitor.

Special thanks goes to departed editor David Rolland, who spent many hours walking me through the several hundred Google docs he’d prepared for whom ever his replacement might have been.

It’s also been a huge help to have former fulltime CityBeat writing maven Kelly Davis stay on to help with editing chores and other behind-the-scenes tasks. Davis is helping create a smooth transition, one that if successful, will be a relief to the publisher, the gruff-but-loveable Kevin Hellman.

I’ve known Hellman for two decades. And, yes, that’s how long I’ve been working in San Diego media, including a dozen years as executive editor at San Diego Magazine.

My byline has been on a spectrum of local stories—politics, sports, lifestyle, design and investigative pieces, including jabs at the office of former San Diego District Attorney Paul Pfingst and pedophiles in the local Roman Catholic Diocese. I’ve also penned stories published in Maxim (“Signature Sex Moves”) and Cosmo (“How to Turn Him on in 5 Minutes”). Mom was so proud of the latter.

Most recently I was in charge of the editorial content for a national, nonpartisan political website called It’s an encyclopedia of all things connected to U.S. politics. It was a tough place to depart. But I missed having a forum in which to write, review and rant about San Diego.

It’s good to be back on home turf. I’ve got some fire left in me. That fire isn’t going to encourage mobs to run around town with torches. But we will ignite controlled burns, and let fire be the tool that powers our light.

And, if we see brown, we’ll flush it down.

—Ron Donoho