One of many giants of political journalism has determined to hold it up at age 88. However anybody who is aware of Lou Cannon doesn’t suppose for a second his retirement means extra time on the seashore or romping on all fours with one in every of his seven great-grandkids.
Cannon has reached Chapter 23 of his memoirs, he stated, and plans to jot down a number of extra forward of a self-imposed deadline just a few months from now. Therefore his departure from the skilled information biz after greater than 60 years of the day-in, day-out grind.
The ebook — one in every of a shelf-load Cannon has produced — guarantees fairly the learn.
He started masking then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan for the San Jose Mercury Information after his 1966 election, then chronicled Reagan’s two phrases within the White Home for the Washington Submit, establishing himself because the foremost warts-and-all authority on the nation’s fortieth president. Even after 5 Reagan books, Cannon — a person of unquenchable curiosity and outsized humility — stated there’s loads left for others to discover.
“I don’t suppose I’ve achieved the final phrase,” he stated. “There’s at all times extra to be taught and discover out about folks.”
Cannon and his spouse, Mary, have lived in Summerland for greater than 30 years, after Cannon found its quiet charms whereas masking Reagan throughout his frequent stays on the Western White Home outdoors Santa Barbara. He left the Submit in 2000, after 26 years on the nationwide workers, together with a number of because the paper’s West Coast bureau chief.
(Cannon’s 1997 ebook, “Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Modified Los Angeles and the LAPD,” gained reward as a definitive work on fashionable Los Angeles.)
Since 2005, Cannon has written a weekly column on state authorities for the Sacramento-based State Internet Capitol Journal, a web-based e-newsletter.
Days after submitting his final dispatch, Cannon ambled in for lunch at an area establishment, the Summerland Seaside Cafe. The restaurant, housed in an 1893 Victorian, marks the arrival and departure from this tiny seashore city as drivers whiz by on Freeway 101.
Cannon wore a black newsboy cap, a inexperienced face masks and salmon-colored cable-knit sweater. The freeway site visitors saved up a gentle thrum, punctuated by the intermittent blare of a balky automobile alarm.
Cannon stated he doesn’t want to be a kind of “outdated farts” prattling on about how significantly better issues have been within the outdated days, although he did permit as how politics has modified a fantastic deal prior to now a number of a long time, and never for the nice.
Reagan and different practitioners noticed politics as a career, he stated, with sure protocols. There have been vehement disagreements, even amongst these in the identical celebration, however ideology and that complete enterprise of “proudly owning” the opposition, via taunts or outlandish stunts, was much less vital than getting issues achieved.
“Politics was a shared expertise for all of those folks,” Cannon stated. “With only a few exceptions, all of them had some dealings throughout the aisle. Many had mates who have been the opposite celebration. A lot of them had… [home-state] pursuits” that transcended partisanship.
“I’ve a chapter in my memoirs the place [Republican Sen. Bob] Dole and [Democratic Sen. George] McGovern labored collectively on meals stamps.
“It wasn’t ‘Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,’ ” — all advantage and light-weight — however there “was a built-in respect as a result of the opposite individual was in the identical enterprise you have been in,” Cannon stated.
A waitress introduced a aspect of pickles and the automobile alarm sounded.
Cannon has seen a fantastic many modifications within the information enterprise, additionally to the detriment of our brittle republic.
The implosion and collapse of lots of of newspapers. The lack of tens of 1000’s of journalism jobs. The rise of partisan information networks that function sign boosters, and generally propaganda arms, for the main events and their most strident personalities.
However the core values of political reporting, Cannon stated, endure.
“You need reporters who’re skeptical,” he stated between bites of a turkey burger. “You need reporters who’re fair-minded. You desire a reporter who’s robust, however honest and doesn’t get taken in simply by the adverts and the promotion.”
Regardless of the ravages confronted by the information business, he stays optimistic.
“Everybody says it’s a dying business, however there’s going to be a necessity for journalism in any conceivable state of affairs of our democracy,” stated Cannon, who would welcome any of his 14 grandchildren or great-grandchildren following his footprints.
“You’re going to do OK, if you happen to do the essential issues. Getting the details proper… caring about what you do, caring in regards to the folks you cowl. These necessities are, to me, unchanged.”
Not too long ago, mates and admirers gathered on a coast-to-coast Zoom name, a kind of this-is-your-life assemblages, marking Cannon’s retirement — although what “retire” really means as he pushes previous 88½ was a working joke.
There have been journalists Cannon mentored; an outdated hand from Reagan’s Sacramento days; neighbors from Santa Barbara; Cannon’s son, Carl, the manager editor of RealClearPolitics; and a number of other mighty oaks of political reporting, together with the Submit’s Dan Balz, former San Francisco Chronicle managing editor Jerry Roberts, and the L.A. Occasions’ Sacramento columnist George Skelton.
“Within the Corridor of Fame of political writers, you’re Henry Aaron,” stated Al Hunt, a longtime fixture of Beltway journalism.
After an hour-plus, and his humble thanks, Cannon appeared able to wrap issues up. There was nonetheless extra to be written.