CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Some items worth noting as we head into the much-welcomed fall season:

• Thanks to all of you who voted in the first round of our Best of Coachella Valley 2018-2019 readers’ poll.

Whether you voted or not in the first round … well, now’s your chance to vote in the second and final round!

The top three to six finalists (five, in most cases) from the first round are now up for your consideration at CVIndependent.com. Polls are open through Monday, Oct. 29.

Unlike other “Best Of” contests ’round these parts, for the Best of Coachella Valley, we only ask you to vote once per round. While a goal of other “Best Ofs” is for their sponsoring publications to get as much web traffic as possible from people visiting their websites over and over again, we’d rather have everyone vote just one time, so our list of winners can be as fair and accurate as possible.

The winners will be announced on Monday, Nov. 26, at CVIndependent.com, and in our December 2018 print edition.

Thanks. Now … go vote!

A few months ago, I used this space to mention the tariffs that had been placed on imported Canadian newsprint—and how those tariffs were so severe that they were threatening the survival of many U.S. newspapers, because some publications’ print bills were being jacked up by as much as 30-40 percent as a result. (The Independent’s print bill had “only” gone up about 12 percent … which is painful nonetheless.) I also asked concerned readers to contact our elected officials to encourage them to fight these tariffs—which were being requested by just one U.S. paper manufacturer, owned by a private-equity firm.

These tariffs were truly unfair and misguided. If all five U.S. paper mills that make newsprint operated at full capacity (due to the decline in the newspaper industry, there aren’t as many as there used to be), they couldn’t come close to producing enough newsprint for U.S. newspapers.

Well, I have some good news to report: The United States International Trade Commission, after hearing from a number of concerned members of Congress, overturned the tariffs in late August.

Thanks to all of you who heeded the call and spoke out against these tariffs.

Be sure to pick up the October 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting news stands this week. As always, thanks for reading; if you have questions or feedback, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

The president of the United States has yet again called the media the “enemy of the people.”

I am a member of the media. I—like many other journalists I know—work long hours for crappy pay, because I believe in the power and importance of a robust and free press. I am not complaining about the hours and the pay; I chose this profession, this life. I love it so much that I poured every dime I had, and then some, into starting what I thought was a much-needed newspaper in a community I love.

I just wish the president—a common and frequent liar by any measure—would stop calling me an “enemy of the people” when I am exactly the opposite. Note that whenever the president spews this hatred, he almost never uses specifics about what the media got wrong. There’s a reason for this.

I—like many other journalists I know—am sometimes afraid. Several weeks ago, five newspaper people were murdered in their Maryland newsroom. When news of these shootings came out, I was despondent, afraid someone had finally taken the president’s words about reporters and turned them into cold, evil action. I was strangely relieved when word came out that the gunman was apparently motivated by a long-standing obsession with the newspaper, and not anything the president said.

However, it’s only a matter of time before somebody does turn the president’s words into action. I have received death threats before. It’s a weird feeling to sit down at your desk, open your email, and see a letter from someone, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, who is threatening to take your life. It’s not fun.

Many of my colleagues at other newspapers tell me they’ve seen an uptick in threats and hatred thrown their way ever since the president took office. As a result, they’ve been beefing up security. My good friend Mary Duan, of the Monterey County Weekly, recently wrote a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review about the increases in security and protective measures the paper has enacted over the years. As of now, anyone wanting to enter the building must be buzzed in. However, there’s a problem: The Monterey County Weekly’s office building has a glass door … like the one the Capital Gazette shooter blasted through to gain access to his victims.

“So it is that the Weekly will once again add security to our funky, midcentury-modern building. Instead of being able to walk straight up to the glass door, visitors will first stop at a high steel gate that will go up across the approach to the building,” Mary wrote.

The only reason the Independent has not beefed up office security is that, well, we don’t have an office. I work from home … where the door is always locked, and where I have a security system and a gun.

It does not matter what one’s political views are. It’s wrong and irresponsible to be hostile to the idea of a free press. It’s terrible to insult and demean journalists for just doing their jobs.

It’s fascist, authoritarian and evil to call the free press the “enemy of the people.”

This is the note from the editor in our August 2018 print edition, hitting the streets this week. Like this article? Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent via our tip jar.

Published in Editor's Note

As the July print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent hits the streets this week, I have decidedly mixed feelings.

On the good side … I am pretty happy with the issue. One of the news stories inside of it is Kevin Fitzgerald’s update on the legal drama surrounding California’s End of Life Option Act. In recent weeks, the law—which gives terminally ill people with less than six months to live the chance to get life-ending drugs and then use them, if they so choose—was ruled unconstitutional and suspended, before being reinstated on appeal. The ultimate fate of the End of Life Option Act probably won’t be decided for a while—in fact, it probably won’t until the Supreme Court of California gets involved.

Speaking of Kevin’s ongoing coverage of the End of Life Option Act: We just learned that it has won a national award. The Association of Alternative Newsmedia has named Kevin and the Independent as a finalist in the Beat Reporting category for publications with a circulation less than 40,000. This is the second year in a row, and the third time in four years, that the Independent has won an AAN Award—despite the fact that we’re one of the smallest publications in the association. I couldn’t be more proud.

On the not-so-good side … I felt disheartened when I looked over this year’s list of AAN Award finalists—because a whole lot of amazing journalism was done in 2017 by publications that have since been gutted. The Houston Press nabbed eight awards—largely for work done before the owners laid off almost the entire staff and eliminated the print edition after a loss of business due to Hurricane Harvey. LA Weekly won seven—for journalism done before new ownership took over late last year and annihilated the staff.

Meanwhile, here at home, the Independent, like many Coachella Valley businesses, is trudging through the economically slow part of the year. Let me make it clear: We’re on firm financial footing, and we aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean our figurative financial belts aren’t tighter than we’d like them to be.

Therefore, I am asking all of you brilliant, insightful readers for your financial support. We don’t charge for our content, online or in print; it’s free and open to all, and always will be. That said … great stories—like Kevin’s End of Life Option Act coverage—cost money to produce, edit and publish. So, if you have a buck or two to spare, I ask you to consider heading to our Supporters of the Independent page—or, heck, send us a check. Even $5 or $10 is greatly appreciated.

Whether or not you have that extra buck or two to send our way … as always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any feedback.

Published in Editor's Note

A couple of weeks ago, I received a notice from my printer saying the Independent’s print costs were going to go up.

I saw this coming … but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Here’s what’s going on: Because of a complaint from one—yes, just one—hedge-fund-owned paper mill in Washington state, the Commerce Department has slapped tariffs of up to 32 percent on newsprint imports from Canadian paper mills. (The exact tariffs vary from company to company.)

Of course, those costs are being passed on to the consumer—in this case, newspapers, including the Independent. In other words … because of these tariffs, newspapers, including the Independent, may need to make serious cuts to the journalism we produce.

Canadian newsprint is vital to the American newspaper industry. Only five paper mills in the U.S. still produce newsprint—and even if all five of those mills ran at full capacity, they’d only be able to produce a fraction of the newsprint needed in this country. Some 25 paper mills in Canada fill the gap—and as a result, about 75 percent of American newspaper publishers use Canadian newsprint, according to a recent Columbia Journalism Review piece.

Not only is just one paper mill asking for these tariffs; pretty much everyone else in the United States—including other paper mills—is opposed to them.

“The Commerce Department definitely is open for business for these types of complaints,” said Paul Boyle, from the newspaper trade association News Media Alliance, to the Columbia Journalism Review. “They want to push and show that they’re trying to protect American jobs and potentially create manufacturing opportunities for businesses in the United States, which is a laudable goal. But anyone who’s in the newsprint industry knows that the decline in newsprint manufacturing has everything to do with the shift from print newspapers to digital, and nothing to do with prices on products coming from Canada.”

This mess has led to the formation of a coalition called Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers, or STOPP. While there is encouraging movement in the battle against these tariffs—including a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in May that could stop the tariffs temporarily—print bills are already on the rise … as I learned from that notice from my printer a few weeks back.

Want to help? Please contact our federal representatives—Rep. Raul Ruiz and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris—and ask them to fight these tariffs. I’ll be doing just that after I send this issue to press.

The actions of a company with just 300 employees is needlessly threatening the newspaper industry, which employs 600,000 people nationally—and, of course, produces the journalism on which the country depends. That’s not right.

As always, thanks for reading. Also, be sure to pick up the June 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

The last month has been crazy for those of us here at the Coachella Valley Independent.

Brian Blueskye was dealing with all the musical craziness April brings to the valley—including those really big festivals out in Indio that you may have heard of. He also talked to activist and organizer Cleve Jones for what serves as our May print edition cover; read that at CVIndependent.com on Friday, May 4.

Meanwhile, as my injured arm has healed (trust me, folks—dislocating one’s elbow is not very fun), I’ve been busy with my usual newspaper duties. I also took a trip to San Francisco to see Jamiroquai, one of my all-time-favorite bands (that’s one thing crossed off the ol’ bucket list!), and I joined some of my fellow alternative-newspaper publishers at an all-expenses-paid conference in Whistler, British Columbia, put on by a company called Maven.

I have been in the journalism business for more than two decades, and I can assure you that publishers aren’t often offered all-expenses-paid, no-strings-attached trips to luxury hotels at five-star resorts. OK, it never happens. That’s why my dozen or so alternative-newspaper colleagues and I were baffled by the whole thing as we gathered—with another 300 or so conference-goers—in Whistler on April 11.

Over the next two days, we learned a little more about Maven. From the Maven website, themaven.net: “Maven is a coalition of mavens operating on a shared digital publishing, advertising and distribution platform, unified under a single media brand. … Dozens of award-winning journalists, best-selling authors, top analysts, important causes and foundations are bringing their organizations to Maven’s coalition of elite content channels.”

It turns out co-founder James Heckman (a veteran of Yahoo!, Fox Interactive Media, Scout and Rivals.com—and his team want to unite as many independent publishers as possible) content providers who have been burned by Facebook and Google’s ever-changing policies and algorithms—under one figurative roof. While the Maven coalition members maintain their brand, identity and ownership (at least I think they do), they share technology and distribution, and become part of one large entity that, in theory, will be attractive to national advertisers. Heckman told us that he doesn’t think small, independent publishers can survive in the online world on their own. Hmm.

Maven claims 90 million monthly unique users as of now, and wants to at least double that.

So … where do the Independent and other alternative-newspaper publishers fit into all of this? I honestly don’t know. I do know we have a lot of questions, and we’re working on getting answers.

In any case, thanks for reading and supporting the Independent. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have comments or questions—and be sure to pick up our May 2018 print edition, now available valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

It was late in the afternoon on Saturday, March 17. I was in San Francisco for a fantastic LGBT business conference, which had just wrapped up. My husband, Garrett—who spends most of his time in San Francisco due to work—and I had decided to take in a movie, and then get some Chinese food afterward, before I headed back to Palm Springs the next morning.

We were hurrying to the 4:30 p.m. showing of Love, Simon, at the Metreon. We were crossing Fourth Street, rushing to get across before the light changed. That’s when I stepped in a small rut in the road, lost my balance and tried to catch myself.

I failed.

I put out my arms to brace myself, and then took a literal tumble toward the sidewalk, coming to a stop just short of the gutter. As I started to get up, Garrett asked me if I was OK. That was when I realized my left forearm was pointing in the wrong direction.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

After Garrett and some passers-by helped me onto a bench, Garrett called 911, as I cradled my left arm with my right. After an excruciatingly long wait—toward the end of it, Garrett actually ordered a Lyft, fearing an ambulance would never come—paramedics finally arrived. I was loaded into the ambulance and taken to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.

Fortunately, I have good insurance, and I received good care. After X-rays—the most painful experience I’ve ever endured—I was diagnosed with a left elbow dislocation. (Such dislocations are rare, apparently; normally, the bones just break.) After a procedure to put my arm back in place—during which, thankfully, I was anesthetized—my arm was placed in a splint and sling, and I was sent on my way.

I mention all of this, because this occurred just before we began production on the April print issue—our annual Music Issue, one of our biggest editorial issues of the year.

Last week, I edited and designed the bulk of the issue with just one arm. It was not easy. However, we were able to get it done for two reasons: First, I am blessed with an amazing group of friends, family members, coworkers and teammates, who constantly reached out to make sure I was OK. Thanks to all of you; you know who you are.

Second … there was no way in hell I was going to allow the issue to be curtailed or delayed in anyway—because it’s a damn good issue.

I must tip my figurative hat (with my right arm, of course) to Brian Blueskye, who not only churned out his usual impressive collection of great music interviews and stories; he also penned a terrific news story, about the businesses affected by a March 7 fire on Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs.

I could go on and on … but instead, I’ll let you go check out all of the great stuff from the issue—much of which has already been posted, and the rest of which will be posted in the coming days.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Contact me with any questions or comments, and be sure to pick up the April 2018 print edition, hitting the streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

I am writing this column on our deadline day for the February print edition—the day we need to finish the issue to transmit it to our printer—and I am writing it a little later than I anticipated.

Why? Well, earlier today, I received this message from Brian Blueskye: “I did an interview with Gary Allan, who’s playing at Fantasy Springs this weekend. About to send that over in a bit.”

That Gary Allan piece is not in the February print issue—Allan’s show will have happened well before February—but it did make it onto CVIndependent.com and into our Jan. 18 weekly e-Edition, after I put aside working on the print edition for a bit to edit and post Brian’s unanticipated, last-minute story.

Why am I telling you all this? I think it’s a nice anecdote that helps explain how what we do here at the Independent is different from what some other local media sources do.

First, it says a lot about Brian Blueskye that he’d take the time to do the last-minute story. He didn’t need to do it; I didn’t expect him to do it; and he did not get paid anything extra to do it. He did it simply because he thought it’d make the Independent better, and therefore serve our readers better.

Second, it illustrates the fact that we don’t run press releases. Many other local media sources will simply slap a news release—with little to no editing, and certainly no reporting—onto their pages. While news releases may contain valuable information, they’re not journalism.

And here at the Coachella Valley Independent, we do journalism.

In recent weeks, we’ve done some fine journalism, if I do say so myself. Our February print edition, as is the case with most of our February issues, is a bit slanted toward the arts. In it, and here at CVIndependent.com, you’ll find everything from an extended interview with one of the Arts Palm Springs’ Artists of the Year, to a fine piece on the one-year anniversary of Palm Desert’s CREATE Center for the Arts. And in our music section—on consecutive pages in the print edition—we have interviews with Jesika von Rabbit and Engelbert Humperdinck. That has to be a newspaper first, I’d think.

Of course, we’ve been producing great columns and news stories, too.

As always, thanks for reading. Be sure to pick up the February 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, on newsstands now, and feel free to contact me should you have any questions or comments.

Published in Editor's Note

The turn of the calendar from 2017 to 2018 Coachella Valley Independent means we’re kicking off our sixth year of honest, ethical local journalism ’round these parts.

Our first five years have been incredible in many ways. While the Independent has its imperfections and limitations—as do all publications—it has become a part of the fiber of the Coachella Valley, through (so far) 54 print editions and more than 4,200 stories posted here at CVIndependent.com. We’ve won two national journalism awards, honored hundreds of businesses and organizations via four Best of Coachella Valley readers’ polls, and raised many thousands of dollars for local causes through benefit concerts and Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week—which, by the way, is celebrating its second edition come January 19-27. (See more info at PSCraftCocktails.com or in the January print edition.)

However … as a member of the media, these five years have been incredibly difficult.

If you’d have told me when we launched the Independent that we’d be soldiering on after the closures of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Boston Phoenix, the Baltimore City Paper, the Philadelphia City Paper, Las Vegas CityLife and several other venerable alternative newspapers, I’d be stunned. If you’d have told me back then we’d still be publishing a successful print edition after The Village Voice and the Houston Press went online-only, I’d be shocked. If you told me in late 2012/early 2013 the Independent would enter 2018 with a future more secure than that of the LA Weekly, the OC Weekly, the Washington City Paper and the Nashville Scene, I’d probably cry.

And if you’d have told me I’d be publishing a newspaper at a time when the president of the United States actually referred to the media as the enemy of the American people, I’d tell you that was simply not possible.

Yet as we begin 2018, this is where we are.

I say all of this to make a plea I’ve made many times before in this space: Please, please support honest, ethical local media, here and wherever else you may go. We need reader and advertiser support (plus readers supporting our advertisers) now more than ever if we’re going to continue to shine a mirror on our local communities. Please. As for us here at the Independent, find more information at CVIndependent.com/Supporters.

With that exhortation, I thank you for reading, as always. See you at one of our fantastic Cocktail Week venues later in January—and be sure to pick up the January print edition, hitting newsstands this week.

Published in Editor's Note

As you probably know by now, the results of our fourth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll were released earlier this week.

This marks the culmination of a process that started back in August, when Round One voting began. We asked you, our readers, to tell us what your area favorites are, via an open ballot—with no pre-selected finalists or recommendations. We compiled all of those results to determine the slate of Best of Coachella Valley finalists, and then launched the Final Round of voting.

I’d like to thank Brian Blueskye, Mark Duebner and Robyn Tanzer, all of whom put a lot of work into the corresponding December print edition—and all of us at the Independent would like to thank you, the readers, for taking the time to vote in the Best of Coachella Valley.

Other local publications also do “Best Of” readers’ polls … but these Best of Coachella Valley results, while certainly far from perfect, offer a truer sense of what is really the best of the Coachella Valley. Why? We ask readers to vote only once per round—as opposed to some of these other publications’ polls, which encourage readers to vote multiple times. While allowing people to vote multiple times brings those publications’ websites more traffic, it also makes those polls more susceptible to skewed results. We here at the Independent would rather have a truer, more accurate slate of winners and finalists than a temporary bump in website traffic.

I hope you’ll joinus at The Hood Bar and Pizza (the Best Dive Bar winner!), at 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, on Friday, Dec. 15, for annual Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party. We’ll start the awards at 6:30 p.m. sharp; all of the winners who are there will be invited up to accept their awards and say a few words. After the awards, your pick for Best Local Band, The Flusters, will take the stage. The Hood and the Independent will then continue the great music, with sets from Black Water Gospel, Sunday Funeral and Herbert. It’ll truly be a great night as we gather to celebrate the best the Coachella Valley has to offer.

As always, thanks for reading; if you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to send me a note to the email address below. Oh, and be sure to pick up our December 2017 print edition, being distributed this week to more than 380 locations valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

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.

Published in Editor's Note

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