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Friday, Oct 7, 2022

8 OVER 80: Warren Olney, 83

Warren Olney, 83 

Company: "To The Point" Podcast

Title: Host, Executive Producer 

For nearly 50 years, Warren Olney has been a fixture in Los Angeles broadcast journalism. He’s best known to Angelenos for his 24 years as host for KCRW’s signature daily local news interview program “Which Way, L.A.?” which he began in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Prior to that, he was a reporter and anchor on local television stations KCBS, KNBC, KABC and KCOP. He also taught broadcast journalism at USC. In 2000, Olney started the nationally broadcast “To the Point,” which ran on public radio broadcast stations until 2018. Since then he has been podcasting the program and he’s preparing to launch another podcast. Olney and his programs have been honored with more than 40 awards, including Emmys and Golden Mikes.

Why not retire? 
I don’t know what retiring means. I love doing the work I do. I enjoy it and thrive on it. It’s such important work. I have no reason to stop. I certainly can’t be idle — I’m not designed for that.

Do co-workers seek out your experience and knowledge? 
Yes — when I was working in person at the stations prior to the pandemic. I do feel some sense of responsibility to pass on what I could.

What are the biggest changes you’ve observed in your workplace environment across your career, and what are key aspects that have never changed? 
I’ve been working long enough to see some enormous changes. Each medium I have worked in has changed drastically, particularly with regard to technology. The biggest challenge has been the decline of financial support for journalism in general and broadcast journalism in particular. It may be cheaper to produce podcasts, but staffs are declining, too. There’s less ability to do investigative work. I’m very concerned about what that means to our democracy. What’s never changed is the purpose and the goal of performing public service, promoting greater understanding of what our collective problems are and how we can solve them to make life better.

How has working in Los Angeles changed over the years? 
When I started working in Los Angeles, (then) Mayor Tom Bradley was talking about Los Angeles as a world city with its diversity. Now, Los Angeles has even more diversity, and that makes it a very exciting place to work. Also, when I started here in 1972, there were very few broadcast outlets and only two major newspapers.

Now there is this multiplicity of news sources. But paradoxically, it’s harder to keep track of things and to know how accurate these other sources are and how to make sense of it all. Also, because of the contraction of major news outlets, it’s more difficult for someone in San Pedro to find out what’s going on in the San Fernando Valley.

What’s next on your agenda? 
I’m going to continue to work with my podcast at KCRW. But I’m now also going to go independent with a series of podcasts on climate change. The podcasts will feature the voices of people of color and the voices of those who have the most at stake in the consequences of climate change. I also intend to hold those in power accountable in how we respond to climate change. I’m raising the money to do all this. I expect to launch this podcast shortly after the election and certainly before the end of the year. It’s very exciting.

If you could go back in time, what advice would have you for your 50-year-old self? 
I would say enjoy life; don’t get bogged down on negativity. Not easy when you’re a reporter and are always writing about problems. Have a sense of gratitude for what’s good in your life. Also, don’t listen to the naysayers, those who say you can’t accomplish what you hope to or dream of. Even now, when people say we will never go back to the way things were, there will be new ways of doing things and there have to be new ways of thinking.

Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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