CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Last week, the Independent published the final ¡Ask a Mexican! column, as penned by my friend and colleague Gustavo Arellano.

I was shocked on Oct. 13 when I got the news that Arellano—a longtime OC Weekly scribe who had served as the paper’s editor and spokesperson for many years—had stepped down. He quit, he said, because he refused to lay off half of his staff, and the owner would not accept any of Arellano’s counter-proposals (one of which included cutting Gustavo’s own salary in half).

At first, I fully expected Gustavo’s column to continue on in some form, albeit with a different name than ¡Ask a Mexican!, because the OC Weekly owns the rights to the name. In fact, in the version of this column that ran in the November print edition, I said the column would probably continue, as that was what I’d been told. However, after we went to press, Gustavo let me know the column would indeed end; he explained the decision in the final column, which ran last week. While I understand the decision, it breaks my heart. It was a fantastic column—and the first “regular” feature to ever start running at CVIndependent.com, way back when we were in beta five-plus years ago.

As for Gustavo’s plight … this is how it often goes at newspapers these days. While I have no inside knowledge of the OC Weekly’s financials, I do know that many layoffs at newspapers over the last 15-plus years have happened not because the publications were losing money—but because profits weren’t high enough.

This fact is one of the reasons I decided to leave my job as the editor of the Tucson Weekly in 2012, and then start the Independent here. The then-owners of the Tucson Weekly, Wick Communications, treated both me and the newspaper very well during my decade-long tenure there—but I knew that wouldn’t last forever. Sure enough, a little more than a year after I departed, Wick sold the Tucson Weekly—and the paper has been subjected to serious budget cuts ever since.

As bleak as all of this sounds … there is reason for hope. Last weekend, a number of my colleagues gathered in Chicago for the annual Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION) Summit. (Unfortunately, I was unable to attend.)

LION is a vibrant and growing organization of mostly newer, mostly online local-news organizations across the country. Almost all of us “LIONs” are small, scrappy and hardworking. Oh, and one more thing: We’re innovating. We’re finding new ways to tell our communities’ stories. And we’re investing in our publications rather than making cuts to keep shareholders or wealthy owners happy.

Gustavo Arellano is a gifted, hustling hard-worker who will land on his feet, so I am not worried about him. I’m also upbeat about the future of journalism. However, I am saddened by the huge loss that Orange County will suffer as a result of the decline of its independent alternative newspaper, the OC Weekly.

As for that aforementioned November print edition: It’s our annual Pride Issue. It’s on newsstands throughout the Coachella Valley right now—and we will be at the Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival this coming weekend. Come say hi! Thanks for reading, as always, and don’t hesitate to contact me with comments or questions.

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Let me tell you a little story that illustrates how what we do here at the Independent is different from what most other valley publications do.

At first glance, nothing seems too complex or crazy about “Turnout Turmoil,” Brian Blueskye’s recent political story (which serves as the cover story for our October 2017 print edition). Essentially, it’s an 1,100-word story about a recent change in state law regarding when cities and other local governments have their elections, and how local cities are dealing with this new law.

Simple, right? Actually, it’s not simple at all.

The story behind the story: Brian worked on this piece, off and on, for six weeks. This was initially slated to be last month’s cover story, but we shelved it because, after two weeks of work (again, off and on), we were still figuring things out.

Turns out we weren’t, and aren’t, the only ones still figuring things out. The law, signed into effect by Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago, mandates this: If local governments don’t hold their elections on the same dates as statewide/federal elections, and they have been seeing a significantly lower turnout than statewide/federal elections, they have to move their elections to the same dates as those statewide/federal elections.

Unfortunately, the language in this new law is confusing as hell. This has left cities, school boards, water boards and other local governments around the state scratching their figurative heads as they try to determine whether or not they, in fact, have to move their election dates. Locally, three cities may or may not be affected by this new law. One has decided to move its election immediately; another has decided not to move its election for now; and the third doesn’t yet know what it is doing.

Because of all the confusion, some officials were slow to get back to Brian; others never did get back to him. Of course, Brian, too, needed to take a lot of time to figure out what the law meant (while working on everything else he had to work on, of course).

Some other publications in town are satisfied with running press releases. Yet others are content with simple, easy, space-filling pieces. (And don’t get me started on the publications that take paid advertising and present it as editorial, without disclosing that.)

Here at the Independent, we don’t do any of that. While we’re far from perfect, we do our best to make sure our reporting is fair and accurate—even if we tackle a complex issue, and it takes us six months to figure things out.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent. Don’t hesitate to contact me with feedback or questions, and be sure to pick up the October 2017 print edition, hitting streets this week.

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It’s been an eventful month for me and the Coachella Valley Independent. Here are some notes and thoughts.

• I was fortunate enough to attend the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. It was a wonderful gathering of motivated independent journalists from around North America.

Make no mistake: Some (but not all) independent local newspapers are struggling. However, those of us in the industry are working on finding new ways to bring readers the news they need—and coming up with innovative ways to pay for it.

Some alternative newspapers—from Boston to Little Rock to Santa Fe to Baltimore—are starting nonprofits, opening doors to grants and other journalism-funding sources. Others are using new technologies to tell their communities’ stories in fascinating new ways. It was truly exciting to see the energy and excitement displayed by so many editors, writers and publishers.

Oh, and one more tidbit from the conference: I’d previously mentioned that the Independent was a finalist for a national Association of Alternative Newsmedia award. Well, I am elated to report that Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” took first place in the Column category for smaller newspapers. In other words, in the eyes of contest judges, “Know Your Neighbors” is the top column in alternative newspapers with a circulation of less than 45,000 in the entire country.

• We celebrated Anita’s columns, as well as all sorts of other great work the Independent has done over the last five years, from Aug. 1-20 during our Supporters of the Independent membership drive.

I am happy to report that we received some great support during the drive—but not as much as I was anticipating. A sizable handful of readers signed up for memberships at higher levels, but few readers signed up for memberships at the smaller levels.

However, I was honored and touched by the expressions of appreciation we did receive from readers. Take, for example, the letter we received from Eva Mansell, along with a $20 check. “Hi and THANK YOU for what you all do! Wish it could be more, but I’m on a low, fixed income … but I (so) appreciate the (astronomy column), the local issues/politics and articles.”

Thank you, Eva. That letter made my month.

It’s not too late to join Eva in supporting the Independent. Visit CVIndependent.com/Supporters, or write us at the address at the top left.

• Season is almost here … so that means the Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll is here, too! First-round voting in some 130-plus categories is now under way; click here to vote! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions!

As always, thanks for reading. Also, keep your eyes open for the September 2017 print edition of the Independent, hitting the streets of the Coachella Valley in 380-plus locations this week!

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Let’s face it: August is not the best month for business in the Coachella Valley.

If there’s onetime during the year that a restaurant will be closed, it’s probably going to be in August. August is the most popular month for us locals to take vacations—in part because the weather is scorching, and it’s already been scorching for several months, and we’re tired of it.

However, most of us are still here in August. Therefore, news and arts and foodie stuff still happens—and that’s why those of us here at the Independent don’t take the month off, and instead keep working as hard as we always do.

Still … August is not the best month for business in the Coachella Valley, and that goes for us here at the Independent, too. That’s why we have decided to hold our first-ever Supporters of the Independent membership drive this month—and while doing so, we’re going to celebrate some of the great journalism the Independent has done in our almost five years of existence.

From today through Aug. 20, we’ll highlight a story from our archives on our social-media platforms each day. Today's piece is the first-ever print edition cover story in the Coachella Valley Independent: "Coachella Valley 2035: Our Region Is Becoming Older, More Latino and a Lot More Crowded," published on March 29, 2013, and the cover story in the April 2013 issue. This piece analyzed local growth projections and talked about the future our valley faces—including serious problems and challenges.

To help us continue doing great stories like this, we are asking you to join our Supporters of the Independent program.

Our content is offered free to all, both in print and online—and it always will be. We don’t have pay walls, and we don’t sell subscriptions. However, a Supporters of the Independent membership gives readers a chance to contribute directly to the Independent and our mission statement: “The Coachella Valley Independent is the valley’s source of independent news, arts coverage, commentary and culture. We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. We want to be a mirror for the entire Coachella Valley. We want to inform, enlighten and entertain. We will never let advertisers determine what we cover, and how we cover things. In other words, we will always tell it how we see it. For example: Some other publications in this valley do puff-piece reviews or feature stories on advertisers to make said advertisers happy. We will never, ever do that. If we lose an advertiser due to an unflattering story, a negative review or something else, so be it.”

I hope you’ll consider joining our Supporters of the Independent program; you can join for as little as $10, and all members get cool perks. For more information, visit CVIndependent.com/supporters.

Also: Please pick up the August 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, now in 380-plus locations across the valley. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

It’s a question I often get asked by people who are unfamiliar with the Coachella Valley Independent: “What sets your newspaper apart from the other local publications out there?”

After briefly mentioning the history of the alternative press (and explaining how the Independent fits into that history), I answer by suggesting what I call, somewhat jokingly, the “Independent Challenge”: “Take five minutes, and thumb through the Independent. Look at the articles, the design, the breadth of coverage, and the quality of the reporting and writing. Then, do the same with any other local publication. You’ll understand the difference right away.”

Yes, I am proud of what we accomplish every day at CVIndependent.com—and I am also proud to announce that for the second time, the Independent is receiving a national journalism award.

The Independent has been named a finalist in the 2017 Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) Awards, this time in the Column category. Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” is one of three finalists in the category for publications with a circulation of 45,000 or less. Judges were impressed by her columns on a post-election meeting of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; the battle against cancer being waged by the wife of a radio-station colleague; and the work by Palm Springs residents to clean up dangerous explosives and other remnants of war in Vietnam via Project RENEW.

A total of 67 publications across the United States and Canada entered the competition, and we’ll find out where we placed on July 29, during the annual AAN Conference in Washington, D.C. You can find a complete list of finalists here.

Two years ago, the Independent’s Brian Blueskye took third place in the Arts Feature category.

While there are a lot of journalism contests out there, the AAN Awards are the only one we enter here at the Independent. It’s a highly competitive contest, and all of the papers we’re competing with have larger staffs and more resources—so winning one of these awards means something.

Congrats, Anita!

Perhaps one of the stories we’ve published over the last month in the Independent will win an award one day. I’m both proud of and alarmed by the article that serves as our July cover story, about the charges being pursued by the federal government against journalist Aaron Cantu. He was covering an Inauguration Day protest that got out of hand—and because he was wearing a shirt that was the same color as the shirts of many of the protesters, he’s being prosecuted. Check it out here.

As always, thank you for reading the Independent. Take the “Independent Challenge” yourself—and email me with questions or feedback at the email address below. Also, watch for our July print edition, being distributed throughout the valley this week.

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We are living in unprecedented times, as far as national politics is concerned.

This thought kept coming to mind as I read the latest installment of Democracy in Crisis published by the Independent. Writer Baynard Woods, simply and briefly, lays out 13 anecdotes that show how authoritarianism is on the rise in our country.

Reporters arrested. Protesters arrested. Conflicts of interest being flouted and going unchecked. Sigh.

However, there’s at least one silver lining I’m finding in all the chaos: It’s clear that great journalism is alive and well in the United States.

Some of the reporting we’ve seen from The New York Times and the Washington Post, just for starters, has been amazing. In recent weeks, these papers exposed the fact that our president apparently revealed classified information to the Russians—jeopardizing, at the very least, relationships with countries with whom we partner on intelligence. They reported that our president apparently asked our FBI director to lay off of an investigation of him—before the president would go on to fire that very FBI director.

Closer to home, the Los Angeles Times in April published an unprecedented six-part editorial series titled “Our Dishonest President,” which made the clear case that Donald Trump is unfit for office.

As always, smaller news outlets are doing great work, too. Take Democracy in Crisis as an example; it’s a joint project of alternative papers around the country, including the Coachella Valley Independent.

While it’s inspiring and amazing to see all of this great journalism, it’s important to point out that these aforementioned newspapers are operating with a fraction of the resources they had, say, 10 or 15 years ago.

That’s why it’s vital that you support great journalism: Buy a newspaper subscription, or two, or three. Advertise. Pay for online articles. It costs money to do well-reported, well-written, well-edited stories.

In that vein, if you like what the Independent is doing, consider throwing a few bucks our way. Both our print version and CVIndependent.com have always been and always will be free to all—but you can join our Supporters of the Independent program for just $10, or even less. Find details at CVindependent.com/supporters.

By the way, pick up the June 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week and early next week. As always, thanks for reading—and if you have thoughts or feedback, email me anytime.

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One of the biggest issues of the Palm Springs city election back in 2015 was the ever-increasing amount of homelessness in downtown Palm Springs.

While I think the Palm Springs City Council has done an admirable job, more or less, since that November 2015 election, the City Council has done a flat-out awful job of addressing homelessness.

Make sure you read Brian Blueskye’s excellent piece on the state of the homelessness problem in the Coachella Valley. As Brian notes, the problem is getting worse—especially on the west side of the valley—and it’s going to become a full-blown crisis when Roy’s Resource Center, the only west side shelter for the homeless, closes its doors at the end of June.

That means 90 people are going to lose their only shelter—in the midst of the summer heat.

In other news: I also recommend you read Baynard Woods’ recent “Democracy in Crisis” dispatch. It’s a wonderful piece of writing, and one point that Baynard makes has haunted me ever since I first read it: Many critics of President Trump heaped effusive praise on him—for the first time—after he ordered an April 7 missile strike in Syria, following the use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Shaykhun three days prior. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria even went so far as to say that the missile strike marked the moment when “Trump became president of the United States.”

Putting aside the question of whether or not the missile strikes were the right thing to do: What does it say about our country when a violent act of war, justified or not, is the ONE thing that made Donald Trump suddenly become “presidential”?

I’ve been pondering that question now for almost three weeks. I am not at all happy about any of the answers I’ve been able to come up with.

Anyway … for those of you dismayed by the troubling nature of the aforementioned stories, never fear: As always, the Independent has plenty of happy, positive arts, food and music coverage that’ll make you feel a bit better about things.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and be sure to pick up the May 2017 print edition, being distributed valley-wide this week

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A few weeks back, a fantastic discussion ignited in one of the alternative-newsmedia e-mail groups to which I belong. The topic was readership campaigns—advertising campaigns by newspapers to promote themselves to their own readers.

Some of the slogans being used in these campaigns are brilliant—especially the ones created by our friends at The Austin Chronicle in Texas.

You need us. We need you. Support free press. Read us, follow us, advertise with us.

No news is bad news. We need each other.

Truth is truth. Whether you like them or not, facts aren’t fake. We report the news at no cost to you, and no matter the cost to us.

We here at the Independent will be, uh, “borrowing” some of these ideas (with The Austin Chronicle’s blessing, of course).

These truly are unprecedented times in which we’re living. The attacks on the press by the Trump administration are simply shocking. Beyond the insults and slights, Trump and other members of his administration are picking and choosing which reporters get basic access—of course, less-critical media sources get dibs—that is, if any reporters get access.

(The same thing happens on the local level. We recently reached out to Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon to talk about the downtown redevelopment project and its current entanglements; we got a response from the city PR person saying Moon and other city officials were not giving any interviews regarding the criminal proceedings involving the downtown redevelopment project. Three weeks later, Moon and others sat down with KMIR for a special regarding these very topics. Apparently, Moon and the city PR folks feared what types of questions we’d ask. Read more here.)

On the positive side, these unprecedented times have forced many media sources to drop the outdated, dishonest myth of “objectivity,” and instead start calling, as the saying goes, a spade a spade. It’s been downright refreshing to see CNN, The New York Times and other mainstream media sources start calling lies, well, lies. Sometimes, there is no “other side” to a story. Truth is truth. Whether you like them or not, facts aren’t fake.

As another of those Austin Chronicle ads says … we really do need you. Without our readers, the Independent is just paper or pixels. I hope you feel like you need us, too. Please, tell your friends about us. Give us feedback. Support our advertisers—and tell them you saw their ad in the Independent. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, please go to CVIndependent.com/Supporters and sign up for our Supporters of the Independent program.

The April 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent—our special Music Issue—is hitting streets valley-wide this week. As always, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to contact me.

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We put the finishing touches on the March print issue on Thursday, Feb. 16. (Yeah, it was a little earlier than normal, because February is a short month, and we have a narrow window with our printer.)

That particular day was, to say the least, a completely bonkers news day. On a local level, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced he was filing corruption charges against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney. According to Hestrin, Pougnet took in $375,000 in bribes. All of a sudden, the status of Palm Springs’ big downtown redevelopment project is very much up in the air.

Meanwhile, on the national level, the president held a press conference during which he sounded completely unhinged—a term I do not use lightly.

He claimed he inherited a mess from the previous administration. He said his administration was a “fine-tuned machine.” He viciously attacked the press for reporting on various leaks from his administration. He called reports that his campaign advisers were in contact with Russia “fake news.”

The New York Times, which is generally rather restrained, put it this way: “The session was marked by an extraordinarily raw and angry defense the likes of which has never been seen in a modern White House. At times abrupt, often rambling, characteristically boastful yet seemingly pained at the portrayals of him, Mr. Trump seemed intent on reproducing the energy and excitement of his campaign after a month of grinding governance. He returned repeatedly to his contest with Hillary Clinton and at one point plaintively pleaded for understanding.”

Holy shit.

This brings us to this March 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is hitting streets now. While the news on the Palm Springs corruption charges broke too close to deadline for us to cover them in any meaningful way—watch for that later—we did include two features in our expanded news section about the mess that is the 45th president’s administration, which you can read online here and here.

Meanwhile, for the second straight month, we’re featuring art—in a big way—on our cover. Why would we do this two months in a row? Well, this month’s subjects—the La Quinta Arts Festival, and the brand-new Desert X—are fantastic. Just for starters, did you know the La Quinta Arts Foundation has given out $1.23 million in scholarships to local young artists over the years? Wow.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent, and be sure to pick up March 2017 print edition at one of 380-plus valley locations.

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If you’re like me, the recent political and societal climate has got you down.

Well, thank goodness our lovely valley is doing its part to offer plenty of mood-improving distractions.

Every February, art takes center stage in Palm Springs, thanks to the Art Palm Springs fair (which is rapidly growing) and Modernism Week (which already really huge). Not-so-coincidentally, we here at the Independent have a tradition of bringing you a selection of stories every February previewing these awesome events.

In the February print edition (hitting streets this week), and next week at CVIndependent.com, Brian Blueskye will bring you a fantastic article on the Royal Hawaiian Estates. This little Polynesian-themed south Palm Springs complex has a fascinating history—and even more fascinating architecture. It’s also the site of one of Modernism Week’s biggest parties.

Also in the new print edition and online next week, Nicole Borgenicht has two companion pieces that show the local side of Art Palm Springs: She talks to owners of two local galleries about what they have in store for the fair, and two local artists whose work will be on display at the fair.

Modernism Week and Art Palm Springs are just the tip of the figurative iceberg as far as Coachella Valley arts events go. This weekend brings the Southwest Arts Festival to Indio, while March brings the La Quinta Arts Festival. Of course, April is dominated by two weekends of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella—and one weekend of the country-tinged Stagecoach Festival.

Now … about that aforementioned political and societal climate: Starting tomorrow at CVIndependent.com, the Independent will publish a new regular column by veteran alt-media scribe Baynard Woods. “Democracy in Crisis” will focus its watchful eye on the actions of the Trump administration. And, man, is there a lot to watch.

In the meantime, I hope the Independent continues to inform you, enlighten you and entertain you.

Be sure to grab the aforementioned February 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, coming to a location near you (if it’s not already there). As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or feedback, please drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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