Jay Beeler

There’s a saying that you never appreciate someone until they are gone. In the case of reporter Sean Christopher Belk – who was tragically taken from us last Friday in an auto accident – that saying never applied because he was always appreciated for doing good, quality, journalistic work, being a good guy and a friend.

Sean was one of those rare persons who did it right the first time. His stories were 99.9 percent accurate and always timely on topics relevant to local government or community development projects. Every two weeks he would come forward with a list of a half-dozen story ideas in a priority order that were always on target. He knew instinctively what the reader would like to know on a wide variety of topics. That’s a rare trait for many young reporters.

Although we like to have journalist’s stories in hand early Monday mornings, it was okay if Sean’s stories were a little late, because he did it right the first time. But nobody is perfect and I was somewhat surprised last month when he referred to Bixby Land Company in a story about Bixby Ranch Company. That’s a common mistake that’s easy for an editor to catch if you have worked with the Bixby Land Company over a period of time.

Sometimes editors are in a time crunch and need to spend less time on the editing process. Sean was on my “A list,” meaning there would be no mistakes, because he did it right the first time.

I always thought that Sean would be a good candidate for being an editor or publisher, because he possessed those skills. At the age of 36, he was ready for the next step in his professional career, but that was not to be.

Over the past week we have received condolences from a wide variety of community members who knew Sean and appreciated his good work and liked him personally. Many of those positive comments came from those same persons whom Sean would interview for stories. They knew first-hand that his stories were always accurate, fair and unbiased.

Mayor Robert Garcia sent a note of condolences, saying that the next council meeting would be adjourned in Sean’s memory. That is a fitting tribute and honor for someone who was a master of his craft in covering local government and development.

We extend our sincere condolences to Sean’s parents and his two younger brothers. Together we mourn your loss.


Last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times contained a comic strip that added some levity to our sorrow over Sean’s passing. Because of copyright laws we can’t reprint it. Stephan Pastis’ “Pearls Before Swine” strip brought a smile to our face because it applies to many journalists today:

Panel one shows two politicians with the caption: “Once upon a time, there were corrupt local governments.”

Panel two shows reporters outside a mayor’s office and reads “But they were watched by people paid to investigate stories.”

Panel three shows a handcuffed politician being led to jail, reading “And the bad people were caught.”

Panel four states “Then one day an internet appeared. And everything changed.”

Panel five: “And now people want their news for free.”

Panel six: “So there is no one left to watch local government.”

Panel seven: “But that’s okay, because governments will be good now.”

Panel eight shows the two politicians stating “Tee hee, giggle giggle.”

The last panel shows Pastis’ goat character saying “Excuse me while I go subscribe to seven newspapers.” The pig character replies “Didn’t you hear him? Government is good now.”

Often called the “Fourth Estate,” newspapers play an important role in keeping the legislative, executive and judicial components of government in check. It’s an honorable profession deserving your support.


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