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Scott Steepleton, Editor
6:12 am PST January 8, 2021

Many a Malibu story will be made in 2021, and it’s my hope that Malibu Surfside News is where you turn to get them. (And if you have a tip, please think of us as well.)

I came to the paper in May 2020, as the pandemic’s first wave was building. My very first interview was with Teressa Foglia on the topic of how local business was dealing with the “COVID crackdown.”

“Pivot” became on operative word as retailers and restaurants and gyms — just about every business, really — and schools learned to do things differently.

As such, the months that followed included many stories related to the pandemic and its effect on Malibu.

No doubt, this year will be similar.

However, before we get too far ahead, I’d like to look back on 2020 — a “pivot” year for Surfside News as well, as we focused our efforts on a digital news format — and the stories that attract the most online hits.

At the top of the list was the sweet remembrance of music executive Ken Pedersen, who died in March at the age of 63. “Malibu lost a brilliant mind, a loving husband and father and an all-around good guy,” is how that piece by Barbara Burke began.

A former CFO of Capital Records, Pedersen was with EMI when it acquired Virgin Records, where he served as an executive vice president both in London and Los Angeles. There, he brokered a contract renewal with Janet Jackson for a reported $80 million, rendering her “the highest compensated musician at the time.”

Not far behind was the tragic story of Woolsey Fire victim Julia Christine Snyder, 53, who went missing in February and whose body was ultimately found in a crawl space at her parents’ Malibu home.

Foul play was ruled out.

Readers found great interest in our May 31 story detailing how, in the wake of unrest in Los Angeles and elsewhere prompted by the killing by police of a Black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department staged an additional 50 deputies at the Malibu/Lost Hills station to respond to any incidents in Malibu. That same morning, then Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger proclaimed a state of emergency in the county.

Fewer than half as many people clicked on the story of a protest in Floyd’s name in Malibu.

Many more were interested in our interview with actor and Malibu resident Dean Cain on his Emmy-nominated documentary on the rise of anti-Semitism, “Hate Among Us,” which he produced with talk-show host and longtime friend Montel Williams.

In that story, Cain addressed the evils of “cancel culture.”

“That’s McCarthyism. It’s frightening. It’s like, ‘Not only do you have to agree with what I’m saying,’ but if you have an alternate opinion, then you are vilified and they want to cancel you. They want to take away your livelihood.”

“That is the opposite of tolerance. That is the opposite of freedom of speech.”

More people cared about red tides and bioluminescence than the eight candidates for City Council, and more cared about Memorial Day crowds than the results of the March 2020 primary.

The primary also lost to Sean Penn, Julia Roberts, Eileen Davidson and Kiefer Sutherland among others, sending the Malibu High School class of 2020 off with a bang via Zoom.

Of all the stories that people clicked on last year, one holds the dubious title of least clicked. We posted it in November 2020 after the Malibu City Council took a big step in the fight against the pandemic.

The headline: “It’s official: Masks are now a mandate in Malibu.”

Can’t wait to see how “It’s official: Masks no longer needed” performs.

Scott Steepleton is editor of the Malibu Surfside News. You can reach him at scott@malibusurfsidenews.com.