Probe: April 21, 2001

April 20, 2001

QUESTION: You've been writing PROBE a long time. What was your favorite issue? Has writing PROBE changed you? — PROBE Reader, Heber

Yes, it has made us a kinder, gentler person. And we've made PROBE a kinder, gentler column.

Those changes took place because we followed the lead of the readers. We had to rethink our view of human nature.

When we started writing PROBE on April 12, 1977, we thought we had to get tougher and meaner to do PROBE.

Our predecessor, Mike James, was a tough guy. A former New York Times war correspondent, Mike saw the world in black and white.


After a week of churning out six columns, we knew coming up with a fresh column every day would stretch our abilities.

"What are we going to do when we solve all the problems?" we wondered.

Even when we had no sympathy for a reader with a problem, others would respond with advice, offers of help and sometimes money to solve our reader's problem.

The column that caused the most commotion started when the local cable company dropped KABC-TV in Los Angeles in favor of the Spanish International Network.

The furor started at 4 or 5 p.m. when cable subscribers tuned in to KABC expecting to see Dr. George Fischbeck and the Channel 7 news team and found a Spanish-language channel instead.

The PROBE phone started ringing off the hook. Immediately, we suspected it was a racist issue. On reflection, we think it had more to do with the Valley's anger at the cable company that had foolishly started an upgrade during the 1984 Olympics.

Before the controversy ebbed, Channel 7 sent its news team to the Valley to look into the furor.

All of the city councils and the county Board of Supervisors passed resolutions to keep Dr. George and the news team. The cable company might have thought the Calexico council was unreasonable with its demand that cable bring back Dr. George — and leave SIN on the network.

It was satisfying to us because for the first time in our memory, the Valley — North and South County, Hispanic and Anglo — came together.

Mike James banged out the first PROBE column in 1967 on a 50-year-old Underwood typewriter in our old Sixth Street location.

Now there was a plant with character. The press was a thin wall away from the newsroom. Printers melted lead over a gas flame in the press room to make new type. When the press started rolling, it shook the building. That ended 35 years ago.

Today PROBE goes out over the Internet. On Friday we got questions in e-mail letters from La Paz in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and from North Hills, a Los Angeles suburb.

The woman from La Paz said she lived in Plaster City 34 years ago. She wants to contact old friends. The woman from North Hills wanted to know about carne asada. We'll deal with those problems in another column.

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