John Blowitz '67, Language Arts
Back in 1980, John Blowitz knew he wanted to own his own business. He just couldn't seem to find the right one.
It wasn't due to a lack of trying. The 1967 Cal Poly Pomona graduate with a degree in language arts explored various business opportunities. Ideas like owning an avocado orchard, an art gallery, a bar or a motel just didn't seem to fit his personal aspirations.
Neither was there any question of support. His wife, Fran, encouraged him to find a business where he could creatively fuse his entrepreneurial spirit, journalism background and passion for activism.
Then while scanning the Los Angeles Times, he came across an advertisement offering the Grunion Gazettea three year old, 12-page weekly community paper in Long Beachfor sale.
One year and a second home mortgage later, the paper rolled off the presses under new ownership and with only two employees: Blowitz and his wife. They knew relatively little about the news business, save for his student experience as editor of The Poly Post.
While indirect, Blowitz's ultimate route to publishing seemed fitting. He enrolled as a 21-year-old freshman at Cal Poly Pomona with GI Bill backing after spending four years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He started out an agriculture business major and found himself volunteering to help produce their department publication. It didn't take him long to realize he preferred publishing to farm issues, and soon changed his major to language arts, now the communication department.
After one year as editor in chief and being connected to student affairs, Blowitz discovered a new passion: civic issues. As a senior, he became student body president and loved it.
"I didn't think previous students were living up to the responsibility of the job," Blowitz says.
After graduation, Blowitz opted out of the news business for the next decade. The son of a successful entertainment industry public relations man during Hollywood's Golden Age, he followed in his father's footsteps, going to work for the studios and trying his hand at the more lucrative side of the communications trade.
Blowitz soon was high among the ranks in publicity at United Artists, then Universal, Warner Brothers and CBS throughout the 1970s. He led a charmed life that included a fast-paced job with executive perks, glamorous clients and a residence in a prestigious San Fernando Valley neighborhood. However, the frequent travel and ego massaging left Blowitz unfulfilled.
"I don't miss those days at all. I revel in the fact that I'm not there anymore. I used to love it because it was creative," he recalls.
Although Blowitz does not regret any time spent in that career, he prefers the path his life has taken.
"My personal satisfaction on what I do now is 100 times what it was then," he says.
Since he and his wife took over Grunion Gazette in 1981, the weekly has grown from 12 pages to 76, on average, and circulation has increased from 14,000 to 43,000. There are now 20 full-time employees.
In 1988, he and Fran also launched a second Long Beach weekly, Downtown News, which currently averages 36 pages. Blowitz says he enjoys the simple delights of warm comments from Long Beach locals who like what they read in his "Publisher's Notebook" column. More importantly, he relishes the opportunity to be civic-minded.
"Where else can you do a job and be making a specific good in the community?" he asks. "We want to ensure that everyone under our circulation umbrella is thriving emotionally, economically, socially. We work very hard at that."
He and Fran have a company policy that requires their employees to devote time to non-profit volunteerism. The couple also matches any monies their employees donate to charity.
"I will always do it because I feel that is important in our society," says Blowitz.
In his 22-plus years in Long Beach, Blowitz has engaged himself in non-profit activities, city planning, business and philanthropic causes, fulfilling his part to help maintain Long Beach as a desirable destination. For nearly 10 years, he has been one of three members of the board of the RMS Foundation, the company that operates the Queen Mary attraction. He is on the executive board of the Long Beach Chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Mary Medical Center.
He has served on executive boards for Long Beach Transit and the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, as well as seven years board membership in the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Council. He has also donated marketing and communications services to the United Way, Region III. Blowitz has also been invited to guest lecture on media issues and journalism responsibilities at Cal Poly Pomona.
Blowitz ranks his experience at Cal Poly Pomona high among his personal achievements and waxes enthusiastic about the university's quality education.
"I have spent the last 36 years as a professional person surrounded by people from the Ivy League, and I wouldn't trade my Cal Poly Pomona experience with any of them," he says. "The uniqueness of Cal Poly Pomona's hands-on approach can't be duplicated anywhere."
Fran and John currently live in Huntington Beach and Palm Desert. His hobbies include flying his own plane, a Cessna, and taking motorcycle rides through back highways. He and his wife have two grown children, a daughter and a son, and grandkids on the way.