Meet Your Neighbor: The communicator
In 1959, David Janison didn’t think his written words would heap more dry ice on the Cold War. But his audience was Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, denouncer of materialism, commercialism, glitz – in short, all things Los Angeles.
Janison was press secretary for Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson, and his job included writing speeches.
When Khrushchev came to L.A. for an official visit, the mayor told Janison to write a speech, with a special response to the communist leader’s ominous claim that the Soviet Union would bury the United States.
“I wrote the mayor’s sentiment: ‘You will not bury us. We will not bury you. I believe our people can live together,'” he said, paraphrasing his recollection of the speech.
Khrushchev turned furious, Janison recalled: “He accused the mayor of misinterpreting what he was saying. Then he threw in the line, ‘We have missiles we can send to Los Angeles in 30 minutes.'”
Before the next dawn, reporters from England, Australia and elsewhere phoned Janison at his home for a response. He considered it mostly posturing.
“(Khrushchev) felt he had to answer that, and he answered in strong terms so that when he got back to Moscow, he couldn’t be subjected to criticism,” Janison said.
Forty-three years later, the 81-year-old Banner Mountain resident is still the communicator. He’s the public information consultant to Nevada County Superior Court, a volunteer position.
Janison said court officials approached him about the post after he served two terms as foreman of the civil grand jury. He promotes court programs and makes suggestions on news releases.
“He just has so many talents in addition to being wise and patient,” Judge Al Dover said. “He understands group dynamics, he understands public relations and I think primarily he’s a good human being and a great people person.”
He and his wife, Nicole, have lived here since 1994 after they fell in love with the area during vacation visits. They have two children and four grandchildren.
Janison came to California in the 1940s with degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado. He started with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the school-lunch program, and later joined the Los Angeles Health Department.
Then came a stint with the U.S. Public Health Service as it promoted public health education worldwide. The job included service in Israel, where violence was rampant even then.
He returned to the health department and gave morning press briefings on the radioactive fallout from atomic-bomb tests near Las Vegas.
One day the meter soared, and Janison found himself working with Poulson to slow the Atomic Energy Commission tests.
Their efforts helped allay panic in Los Angeles and an impressed mayor hired Janison.
Janison worked with seven TV stations, more than 20 radio stations and numerous daily, weekly and international newspapers. His press list had more than 200 names.
“Oh wow, and how!” Janison said. “It was one of the most exciting jobs I’ve ever had in my life.”
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