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 assume for a second his retirement means extra time on the seaside or romping on all fours with considered one of his seven great-grandkids.
Cannon has reached Chapter 23 of his memoirs, he mentioned, and plans to write down a number of extra forward of a self-imposed deadline a couple of 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 — considered one of a shelf-load Cannon has produced — guarantees fairly the learn.
He started protecting 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 Put up, 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 — mentioned there’s a lot left for others to discover.
“I don’t assume I’ve carried out the final phrase,” he mentioned. “There’s all the time 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 protecting Reagan throughout his frequent stays on the Western White Home exterior Santa Barbara. He left the Put up in 2000, after 26 years on the nationwide employees, 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 publication.
Days after submitting his final dispatch, Cannon ambled in for lunch at an area establishment, the Summerland Seashore Cafe. The restaurant, housed in an 1893 Victorian, marks the arrival and departure from this tiny seaside 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 stored up a gentle thrum, punctuated by the intermittent blare of a balky automobile alarm.
Cannon mentioned he doesn’t want to be a type of “outdated farts” prattling on about how a lot better issues have been within the outdated days, although he did permit as how politics has modified an important deal prior to now a number of many years, and never for the great.
Reagan and different practitioners noticed politics as a occupation, he mentioned, with sure protocols. There have been vehement disagreements, even amongst these in the identical occasion, however ideology and that complete enterprise of “proudly owning” the opposition, by means of taunts or outlandish stunts, was much less essential than getting issues carried out.
“Politics was a shared expertise for all of those folks,” Cannon mentioned. “With only a few exceptions, all of them had some dealings throughout the aisle. Many had mates who have been the opposite occasion. Lots 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 particular person was in the identical enterprise you have been in,” Cannon mentioned.
A waitress introduced a aspect of pickles and the automobile alarm sounded.
Cannon has seen an important many adjustments within the information enterprise, additionally to the detriment of our brittle republic.
The implosion and collapse of a whole bunch of newspapers. The lack of tens of hundreds of journalism jobs. The rise of partisan information networks that function sign boosters, and typically propaganda arms, for the main events and their most strident personalities.
However the core values of political reporting, Cannon mentioned, endure.
“You need reporters who’re skeptical,” he mentioned between bites of a turkey burger. “You need reporters who’re fair-minded. You desire a reporter who’s powerful, however honest and doesn’t get taken in simply by the advertisements and the promotion.”
Regardless of the ravages confronted by the information trade, he stays optimistic.
“Everybody says it’s a dying trade, however there’s going to be a necessity for journalism in any conceivable situation of our democracy,” mentioned Cannon, who would welcome any of his 14 grandchildren or great-grandchildren following his footprints.
“You’re going to do OK, for those who do the essential issues. Getting the information proper… caring about what you do, caring concerning the folks you cowl. These necessities are, to me, unchanged.”
Just lately, mates and admirers gathered on a coast-to-coast Zoom name, a type of this-is-your-life assemblages, marking Cannon’s retirement — although what “retire” really means as he pushes previous 88½ was a operating 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 several other mighty oaks of political reporting, together with the Put up’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 might be Henry Aaron,” mentioned 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.