By Lenny Roberts
From Mark Twain, who coined it, to Steve Jobs more recently, many people have used the phrase, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
As far as I know, I’m still alive. But my friend and boss Bill Buchanan’s commentary in Friday’s edition has been misinterpreted by many well-wishers who think I’m rolling up my career at the OVN. To set the record straight, I’m not.
I have macular dystrophy and inherited pattern macular degeneration. My mom, her brother, two sisters and her mother had it, and it’s not pretty. It robs us of our vision a little at a time. I knew this was coming for a long time, actually about 10 years ago when Rob Graham sent me for retinal testing after I “failed” a field vision test. It has progressed to the point where, despite the DMV approving my renewal in May for five years, I am smart enough to know that I do not see well enough to drive under most conditions. The odd part about this is my vision is 20/35 and 20/40 — numbers many people my age and younger would love to have. It the blind spots that, according to Dr. Peter Quiros at the University of Southern California Doheny Eye Clinic, actually make me legally blind. What I see I see very clearly. But I don’t see very much. It’s the dying off of retinal cells that causes the condition. Don’t get me started on George W’s blocking of stem cell research. The doctors don’t know how fast my condition will progress. All I know is I can function fairly well at this point. But if we meet face to face and I don’t recognize you, please understand.
My friends know how I feel. I’m bummed about this. But I’m not going to whine about it. There are so many people dealing with life-threatening illnesses that I don’t have the right to complain. According to author Molly Ivins, “You got to dance with them what brung you.” So get down the fiddle and get down the bow.
I would love to sit in the managing editor’s desk at the OVN until I drooled all over my keyboard as was carried out. But it has become increasingly more difficult to handle the job. I find myself working too slowly and making too many mistakes others have to fix, and it’s time to step down.
Working at the Ojai Valley News is an honor. We are entrusted to regularly bring one of the greatest communities on the planet useful, reliable and important information. We try to keep that focus in every issue. Important to that obligation is knowing which people will be a good fit. I have been fortunate enough to hire some very special local talent over the years. One such treasure is Misty Volaski, whom I hired about nine years ago pretty much on a hunch. She grew up at the Ojai Valley News. A couple of years ago, she left us to sell broadcast advertising in Ventura. She made more money, but was not happy. She said her heart was in the OVN, and she wanted to work here forever. As I remember it, about five years ago, she caught a nasty bug and was bed-ridden for a couple of days, Despite that, she came to work — in her “jammies,” and got the Sports page out on time while taking rest periods on the floor by her desk. That is just one small example of Misty’s dedication.
When I made the decision to step down, the obvious choice to replace me was Misty. She knows the community newspaper business and will serve our community well in the capacity of managing editor. She’s vibrant, energetic and likeable, but tough when she needs to be.
As for me, I will still report on police issues in the Ojai Valley. I love that part of my job. In addition, I have taken over management of video operations at the OVN, and will bring our online readers more video content. I will also continue to assist in the production of pages, and continually update the content of our website. The only difference is that I will not be in the office to perform these duties.
I want to thank all who have left voice messages, e-mails and blog responses after learning of my new role. Your thoughts mean a lot to me.
I may be gone from the office, but hopefully not forgotten.