MENIFEE – As co-owners of the Menifee 24/7 news website, Doug and Kristen Spoon have learned a lot about the community in which they work and call home. It is their dedication to sharing the events and news of the area that led them to being chosen by Arts Council Menifee as their October Artists/Ambassadors of the Month.
“I have been impressed with the number of Menifee residents who have so much talent in a variety of arts,” Doug Spoon said. “In addition to the art shows and annual ‘Arts Showcase,’ the annual ‘Menifee’s Got Talent’ has shown an impressive array of dancers, singers, musicians and actors.”
Doug Spoon serves as editor for the Menifee 24/7 website, while Kristen Spoon works as associate editor, overseeing the advertising and marketing operations in addition to being its chief photographer.
“We have owned the business since January 2013 and have increased its coverage and audience tremendously since then,” Doug Spoon, 62, said. “We have taken it from 6,000 Facebook followers in 2013 to 30,000 today, with an audience of about 50,000 unique visitors to our website each month.”
Doug Spoon’s background as a professional journalist for 40 years, including 30 years with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, prepared him well for his current role. He was a sports writer, covering the Los Angeles Dodgers, University of Southern California sports and many other events, and he later served as sports editor for the daily publication.
He also taught journalism for 12 years at California State Polytechnic University Pomona and currently serves as a journalism adviser for Mt. San Jacinto Community College’s student newspaper, The Talon.
“I was asked whether I would be interested in serving as adviser for the campus news club,” Spoon explained. “The college does not have a journalism program, but it has students who are talented and interested in developing their reporting skills. In addition to teaching some basic journalism skills, I make suggestions to them for their monthly newspaper and provide feedback as they turn in stories and lay out pages. They already have come a long way in improving the newspaper, which has gone from a newsletter format to a full-page newspaper format with expanded content.”
Spoon developed his passion for writing in elementary school while growing up in Temple City.
“My fourth-grade teacher praised my creative writing assignments and told me I should consider being a writer when I grew up,” Spoon said. “I forgot about that for years. When I got to college, I planned to go after the money instead, studying architecture. It didn’t take me long to learn that my creative talents involved the written word, not architectural renderings. I always loved sports so I became a sports writer in college at Cal Poly, Pomona. The thrill of reporting fast action on deadline was a real adrenaline rush.”
The transition from print news to online news was a gradual one for Spoon. When the San Gabriel Valley Tribune first developed a website, everything was still based on a daily news cycle that ended with an 11 p.m. deadline. Its website was secondary.
“But with the increasing popularity of online sites, the arrival of Facebook and the ability to instantly interact with readers, I soon realized the potential of going online only,” Spoon said. “As a college professor, I gradually began to emphasize online over print to help students prepare for the changing world of journalism. But no matter what the delivery method, the ethics of journalism remain the same.”
Spoon first learned about Arts Council Menifee from Linda Denver when he wrote a profile on her in 2011. He said she was proactive in inviting the Spoons to ACM events, and they got to know many of the artists.
“I could see their passion and became interested in helping to share their mission with others in the community,” he said. “I consider the written word an art form, but I am probably most interested in photography as art. I am basically a self-taught news photographer, but my interactions with members of ACM have helped me develop a passion for photo composition and the power of the photographic image.”
Before moving to Menifee in 2011 and entering the news field, Kristen Spoon worked for 23 years as a wedding planner and caterer and retired in 2014.
“The best thing about the news business is all the interesting people you get to meet,” Kristen Spoon said. “Every day is so different; you never know what and who you might meet.”
She currently hosts many of the site’s video productions, including live broadcasts of city council meetings, community events and interesting people and places
“I have always loved people, and I think everybody has a story,” Kristen Spoon, 59, said. “I love being out with people, but believe it or not, I like the service end of getting information out and not so much being the one on camera. I have just gotten more used to it as the need for someone to be in front was presented.”
Spoon grew up in Glendora and has always had an interest in the arts.
“I was very active in choral groups in school,” she said. “My high school offered a special class for all the arts which included writing, drama, music and art class. It was one of my greatest experiences to date.”
When the Spoons took over Menifee 24/7 from Steve Johnson, a former Menifee resident who created it, it had been in existence for about seven years.
“My goal was to make it more of a professional news source, without losing the local hometown feel,” Doug Spoon said. “Readers soon began to appreciate our efforts. While maintaining my journalistic principles, I learned to adapt to the scope of a hyper local audience.”
Readers submit lots of information to the website and are grateful to have a news forum that will post items that might not make it into a larger regional newspaper.
“I get a lot of material by keeping up with city politics, covering city council meetings, getting to know members of local clubs, covering the high school teams and more,” Doug Spoon said. “Although we’re obligated to report all news, sometimes sad or depressing, I try to put my own unique style in everything I write. I especially have fun with the upbeat stories of human accomplishment.”
The Spoons have been married for 18 years, and their blended family includes five children and 10 grandchildren.
Check out their website at www.menifee247.com.
For more information about ACM, please visit www.artscouncilmenifee.org or call (951) 290-2781.