When asked how he got into journalism, Roger Vincent replied “I had a great professor who pressed me – and I didn’t know plumbing. He said, ‘You’re not going to make a living with a typewriter unless you get serious.’ So, I did.” Today, more than 25+ years later, he covers commercial real estate for the Business section of the Los Angeles Times and is one of the most respected journalists in the country.
Born and raised in Sacramento, shortly after graduating from college, he decided to head to Los Angeles where he landed a job at the Los Angeles Business Journal as the first real estate columnist they ever had. He then became the founding editor of the California Real Estate Journal, and in 1996 he joined The Los Angeles Times. The Hoyt Organization (THO) caught up with Roger and asked him to share some insights on how the industry has changed.
THO: How has the industry changed since you started your career?
Roger Vincent: I’ve been in journalism since the ‘70s so the biggest change was going electronic. I started on a manual typewriter and I miss the sound of the thundering typewriters. That said, today, we’ve been overwhelmed by the changes brought on by the internet. So many things pop up online that now we’re competing with many other sources. It used to be that traditional media was the gatekeepers for news, but today we are competing with everyone. That simply means we need to be laser-focused on providing the best news for our industry. Given the LA Times is a 150-year-old brand, it’s important that it continues to evolve to keep it going, and it is.
THO: What was one of your most interesting interviews?
Roger Vincent: Many years ago, I interviewed a man named Gypsy Boots who was a health food fanatic. He rolled into the LA Times and sat at my desk, extolling the virtues of eating natural foods long before it was popular. Everyone thought he was a little nuts at the time, but history told us a different story.
THO: What is one of your more memorable stories?
Roger Vincent: I was reporting in Chico where Amtrak had just created a stop. This was big news at the time. It came in at 2:00 a.m. in the morning and I arrived just as it was disappearing in the distance. But I interviewed all the locals and wrote the story. It didn’t reflect that I wasn’t there to actually see it arrive. It’s all in how you shape the story.
I also once went to John Cushman’s office to do an interview and noticed a telescope in the corner. It was trained on the swimming pool across the way.
THO: What’s your pet peeve when it comes to working with PR people?
Roger Vincent: I’m no different than most journalists when I say that it’s getting a call or email from someone who hasn’t done their homework, or they don’t really know what I cover or how the Times is now covering things. I get pitches all the time that have nothing to do with real estate. We also don’t cover promotions, but people send them anyway. Please stop.
THO: What is your dream assignment?
Roger Vincent: This would be an assignment where I can go anywhere, but I don’t have to write about it!
THO: What does the future hold for journalism?
Roger Vincent: The next generation of journalists will look just like I did when I started. Bright people who are eager to learn and want to report the news the old-fashioned way; while we may no longer get a paper thrown in our driveway, there is always a market for conscientious news gathering and dissemination. True journalism will never go out of style. One of the hurdles we do face is getting people used to paying for news; the news gathering process isn’t free – we need to retrain people to understand that.
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