Janet Clayton looks to the future of energy; Pulitzers are in her rear view

| August 3, 2017 | 0 Comments


Janet Clayton tends to be where the action is — from Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at the “Los Angeles Times” to being at the forefront of new technologies as head of corporate communications at Edison International.

“It was a very exciting time to be in journalism,” she says of her long career at the newspaper.

And, it’s an exciting time at her current post at the utility company, notes the Hancock Park resident.

“I enjoy the challenge. It’s a little like the newspaper business. This is a very dynamic industry. There’s a lot going on.”

While utilities have long been associated with monopolies, with the advent of “new energy options… it’s going to be a more choice-driven market, from battery storage to solar panels, there will be more of a mix,” says Janet.

As senior vice president, corporate communications, her challenge is “to make it understandable.”

She has a staff of 59 and advises even more, and she oversees the company’s philanthropic side; Edison donates $20 million a year to Southern California charities.

After her decade-long beat as a general and political reporter at the “Los Angeles Times,” she went on to be editor of the editorial pages and the California section, where she managed the largest news staff at the newspaper.

She edited three Pulitzer Prize-winning series: one on the homeless mentally ill in 2002; another on the dysfunction of California government in 2004: and an investigative series on problems leading to needless deaths at King-Drew Medical Center.

She’s most proud of an op-ed piece on the Iraq War. The “Los Angeles Times” was only one of two newspapers in the country that came out against the Iraq invasion, she said.

She eventually left journalism to head up ThinkCure. The Los Angeles Dodgers community-based nonprofit raises funds for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and City of Hope.

While she’s proud of her journalism achievements and work in philanthropy and fundraising, Janet had wanted to be an artist. But that dream faded when she took an art class in high school “and realized I wasn’t very good.”

An aptitude test showed her talents laid in journalism. “I can talk to people and write about it and get paid to do this?” she thought. “I loved politics anyway,” and her future course was set.

She got her first civics lessons from her dad, who was an elevator operator for the then-called County of Los Angeles Hall of Administration. He would take riders like Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, up and down the elevator. (Today it is called the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.)

City leaders “would speak quite freely…” amongst each other, not noticing the elevator operator. “He would come home and tell us there’s going to be a new park… I loved knowing ahead of time,” said Janet.

Clayton received her bachelor of arts degree in journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, from USC.

She also met her future husband Michael Johnson on the campus.

They first lived in West Adams, and, just when they had completed restoring their 1912 home, they moved, she laughs.

Michael had set his sights on a fixer-upper in Hancock Park on Rimpau. By now the couple had two small children and needed more room. (Jocelyn is now 28, and Aaron, 23.)

But the English Country-style home was in bad shape, from the grungy pool to the yellow-and-pink Formica in the kitchen. Even the realtor advised against buying it, said Janet.

Michael persevered. “He saw the bones of the house. All I could see were the problems. But fortunately he persuaded me. It’s a great neighborhood,” she says.

The house was featured in “Architectural Digest” the year it was built, 1928. One year, as a Christmas present, Janet had research done on the house and the article was unearthed. “It was very cool.”

Their children attended Pilgrim, St. James Episcopal, Immaculate Heart and Loyola High schools, and Michael was a Wilshire Little League coach for many years.

Daughter Jocelyn graduated from Northwestern and Claremont Graduate schools and is the data manager at Larchmont Charter Schools. Aaron attended Santa Clara University and he works at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park.

The couple recently hosted a reception for an opening at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, where Michael is on the board.

The two ride bikes to Larchmont Blvd., which, Janet happily notes, has kept its small-town charm.

The neighborhood has also retained its historical beauty. Gone are the days when you’d drive by a home and the next day it would be gone. “Protections are in place to keep people from midnight demolitions,” says Janet.

The couple are members of the Hancock Park Home Owners Assoc., and while Michael is more plugged in on community issues, Janet keeps an eye on the neighborhood as well as staying busy leading us into a bright new future.

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Category: People

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