By Ken Stone
But unlike the “mad as hell” anchor of the 1976 movie “Network” saying go to the window, stick out your heads and yell, Bartletti exhorts: Open your print or online newspaper and read!
The 2003 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography can no longer roam the hemisphere for iconic images.
Instead, he channels his anger into gorgeous photographs of his Vista garden, which he shares on Facebook along with other recent favorites.
In our latest chat with a prominent San Diegan sheltering at home, Bartletti also shares his concerns about an “incurable pandemic of ignorance.”
Times of San Diego: How are you working during this pandemic? What telework tools are you using?
Don Bartletti: I retired from the Los Angeles Times a few years ago. Now I feel like I’m retired from retirement. Instead of planning how I’ll reward myself and my family with savings from a life of frugal living, I see it disappearing down the proverbial toilet.
After the Times and before the virus spit hit the fan, I’d done some freelance photography, guest lecturing and photo exhibitions from my 40-year documentary about causes and consequences of migration across our southern border. Now my calendar is blank and a current exhibit at the Oceanside Library is behind locked doors.
My go-to telework tools are FaceTime with four young grandsons and telephone calls with colleagues about the good ol’ days.
How many in your household — number of kids and adults? How are you all getting along?
It’s just my wife, Diana, and I here at home. We have our own spaces and plenty of room, but occasionally Diana will quip, “Are you going to be sittin’ there every morning when I get up?”
How are you getting food and other necessities? How often do you personally go out, or are you taking delivery mostly?
Diana and I usually go grocery shopping at Frazier Farms here in town. “Handsome Travis,” as Diana calls the manager, recognizes us even behind our white masks and we always steer our way into his checkout line for friendly chats about family, politics, painting and photography. Binge shopping is reserved for Costco; we’re averaging $200+ with every cart. We haven’t done the “seniors-only” early shopping thing; 8 a.m. is too early for a $1 polish dog and soda.
Aside from official local, state and government channels, how are you getting news about the outbreak? How much social media do you use?
At the breakfast table, I’m “sittin’ there” for an hour or so reading the pulp version of the Los Angeles Times and additional time with the online Times and the Union-Tribune. I like keeping tabs on what my former colleagues are producing at both papers.
I also get hyperlocal with the Times of San Diego. In the evening, I channel surf around the commercials to hit all the local and national news programs before settling in with KPBS-TV.
During moments of morbid curiosity, I punch in Fox News to test my spin tolerance. Before long I unwrap my topsoil stained fingers from the remote and hit “previous” before I decide not to hurl it through the screen. And I love Facebook because it’s for people my age.
I regularly post a beautiful photograph from confinement and a 30-second read about the image. I don’t favor Instagram in deference to their goddam given right to sell anyone’s posted photos without compensation. I have a Tweeter account but forgot the password. Anyway, how much unedited BLATHER does one person need?!
How do you ward off negative emotions — fear, anxiety, depression? What steps are you taking to preserve mental and physical health?
I spend 8-10 therapeutic hours most every day outside on my beloved 1-acre parklike property. I maintain fieldstone walls I made with native stone, clip hedges, plant seeds and split firewood from pruned trees. Some of which I planted with my dad during the past 60 years here on the “homestead.”
When I crawl out of bed in the morning and look at my new coronatee chin whiskers in the mirror, I realize I look 73 years old. But once I work up a good sweat, backache and dirty hands in the home gardens, I feel blessed to be alive and healthy. Then I use my camera as an elixir for a carefully focused look at the life-affirming beauty all around me.
What else do you want people to know about your own personal response to the outbreak?
With nearly 50 years as a photojournalist with four California newspapers, I steadfastly believe in the irreplaceable importance of print journalism in our democracy. When I read and hear elected officials, pundits and hobbyist bloviators accusing the “MEDIA” of this novel hysteria, I want to scream back, “It’s far worse than that!”
News starved Americans are being spun in an information cesspool. Routinely, carefully researched content is swiped from mainstream newspapers and magazines and then inbred with political prejudice until it mutates into party line sewage. Then our socially distanced neighbors and social media friends become infected with this caca and go around town spreading those illegitimate ideas.
Rather than hurl your TV remote through that big flat screen, shut the thing off, buy an online or printed subscription — and READ!
Print journalists with the PRESS dig far deeper and longer for the facts than the grid of MEDIA propagandists cluttering your cable TV screen. During my long career in newsrooms, and in concert with my reporters on the front lines, I never encountered a colleague with an ax to grind, or a deadline news editor who wasn’t fact checking just in case.
Nearly every time we talk on the phone, one of my many retired curmudgeon photojournalists sarcastically proclaims his frustration, “Don, the end times are coming!” Far worse would be an incurable pandemic of ignorance if newspapers and magazines continue to devolve into extinction. If that happens, where will we read all about it?
Ninth in a series. We invite suggestions for interview subjects — prominent San Diegans in politics, business, nonprofits, sports and the arts. Write to Ken Stone, contributing editor, or post a comment.
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