Reflections on Publisher Dan Muñoz
This past year I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dan L. Muñoz, former publisher and editor of .
I met Muñoz in the early 1980s while I was a journalism student at San Diego State University.
Even though I was studying journalism, I had absolutely no confidence in my writing. I knew if I was to become a writer, I had to get some writing experience and produce news clips for my portfolio.
The sport of tennis was my passion. I had played in high school and at the community college level and I enjoyed following the professional players on television.
As I was finishing my studies at SDSU and working as an intern for a local non-profit organization, I asked Muñoz if I could write articles about tennis for his weekly newspaper, La Prensa San Diego.
Muñoz said yes and even though he couldn’t pay me very much, I was thrilled just to have the opportunity to write about the sport I loved. Muñoz also said he could help me get press credentials to events I was interested in covering.
I started covering local events and my articles began appearing in La Prensa San Diego periodically. I saved all my articles and pasted them into my portfolio.
During this time, I also got to know Muñoz better and he would always find time to talk when I stopped by his office. Respectfully, I came to call him Mr. Dan whenever I would see him.
One time when I came to visit him, he told me he had received some positive feedback about one of my articles. He was in a happy mood that day and I remember he opened his checkbook and wrote a nice check for my work.
I took the check and bought a vacuum cleaner with the money he had paid me. To this day, I still use the vacuum cleaner.
My confidence in my writing ability began to grow as I covered local professional tennis events in Carlsbad and Indian Wells, near Palm Springs.
I started looking to cover more tennis events. Muñoz helped me secure credentials to cover the Mexican Davis Cup team and I traveled to Mexico City multiple times to cover tennis matches.
Through the years I made many contacts through my tennis writing that helped advance my career. I finally reached the point where I was able to work at some of the largest tennis tournaments in the world.
I have had the pleasure of working at events such as Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open either as a journalist or in media relations. I sometimes had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe I was actually getting paid to work at tennis tournaments.
While I’ve enjoyed working at tennis events, I realized something a few years ago that Muñoz had known all along. It only takes a little help to make the difference in someone’s life. That is something he probably knew the day he let me start writing articles for his paper.
Several years ago, I volunteered with a program to promote literacy in San Diego schools. I would go to Logan Heights Elementary School two days a week and help students with their reading. I had the opportunity to work with third-graders, first-graders and even children in kindergarten.
I didn’t realize my volunteer work was having any impact until one of the teachers told me she was so glad that I could come for a few hours and read with the students.
She said at the beginning of the school year, she asked her students if their parents read to them at night before they went to bed. The teacher told me very few of the students raised their hand.
That is when I learned the lesson that it takes so little effort to make a real difference in someone’s life. In January, I’ll be part of a volunteer program where I will serve as a mentor for journalism students.
It doesn’t matter if you agreed or disagreed with what the elder Munoz stood for during the years he published La Prensa San Diego. He inspired dialogue and he made people think. He also taught me a valuable lesson.
Thank you Mr. Dan.
J. Fred Sidhu is Media Coordinator for the Southern California Open, a professional women’s tennis event which will be played at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, July 31-Aug. 8, 2010.