On Saturday, July 13, I was sitting in a conference room at the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colo., during the 2019 AAN Awards Ceremony, the finale of the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia conference.
The ceremony honored the amazing and inspiring journalism done last year at alternative newspapers across the United States and Canada—including the Coachella Valley Independent. For the fourth time in five years, we earned an AAN Award, this time an honorable mention in the Column category, for Anita Rufus’ fantastic “Know Your Neighbors.”
As I applauded my friends and colleagues who were going up to accept the various awards, I was watching my cell phone—because I was expecting a call from staff writer Kevin Fitzgerald, with an update on the story we’ve featured on this issue’s cover.
People might assume that I took delight in the Independent publishing and reporting this story, because it deals with possible wrongdoing involving a competitor, of sorts, to the Independent. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: While I am proud of the story, which you can read on Page 12, the content depresses me.
I love the Coachella Valley. This is the first place I’ve lived in that I chose; fate, in some form or another, led me to all of my prior homes. I also love journalism; I wouldn’t have put up with the mediocre-at-best wages and long hours for almost 2 1/2 decades so far otherwise. When I combine these two loves … the state of journalism in the Coachella Valley makes me very, very sad.
I am not talking about The Desert Sun; while its diminished state compared to what it once was is alarming, there are still good journalists there doing some fine work. I am also not talking about Palm Springs Life, which is fantastic as far as city magazines go … although its “prestige” content is clearly not meant for people who don’t make six-figure-or-more incomes, aka the vast majority of us.
I am talking about other publications in the valley, where original reporting and competent writing are nigh impossible to find. The best of the bunch is CV Weekly, the aforementioned competitor, of sorts; within CV Weekly’s pages, one can indeed find some good writing and well-intentioned work, especially regarding support of the local music community. Unfortunately, CV Weekly also regularly sells editorial content—particularly cover stories—and does not disclose that these pieces are actually paid for by the subjects. Not only is this a disservice to CV Weekly’s readers; it’s an unethical practice that every serious journalism organization would condemn. And when that content is posted online without disclosures, it’s a violation of Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
On a personal level … the practice is also quite unfair to those of us who try pretty darn hard to do things ethically and honestly. A great community like the Coachella Valley deserves strong journalism … which is why the Independent is here, even if our efforts are modest and imperfect.