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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The November 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent—our annual Pride Issue—is hitting streets this week.

But before I discuss all of the great stuff you’ll find therein … an apology: Election Day 2018 is almost here—and I am not happy with how we’ve covered things this year.

It’s not a matter of quality; I am satisfied with the coverage that we have done. The amount of election coverage we’ve published has been substantial. Locally, we’ve covered the Desert Hot Springs city election; the Palm Desert city election; the District 28 Senate race between Joy Silver and Jeff Stone; the already-decided District 4 Riverside County Board of Supervisors seat; and the already-decided Rancho  Mirage city election. We’ve also done some coverage on election matters involving Desert Healthcare District and the city of Indio, and soon, we will have coverage of the Cathedral City election posted. Finally, we’ve published a fair amount of state election news from our partners at CALmatters.

While that is a lot of election coverage … it’s not enough. As the calendar turned from 2017 to 2018, we set an internal goal of covering all local city elections taking place this year, and we failed. I am embarrassed that we didn’t get to covering the city elections in La Quinta, Coachella and Indian Wells. I also wish we’d have been able to do more state coverage—but we just ran out of time and resources.

For that, I apologize. We need to do better, and we are exploring ways to improve moving forward.

Now, on to the good stuff.

Our special Pride print section includes two stories directly relating to the Greater Palm Springs Pride events taking place in November, and two stories regarding fantastic LGBT-related events happening later in the month. (Speaking of Palm Springs Pride: We’ll be at the festival both days—Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4—giving out newspapers and swag, so please stop by and say hello.)

Beyond the Pride stories, we have been doing a lot of other great stuff, from our annual list of Censored Stories—important national and international stories that were under-covered by the mainstream press—to fantastic arts, food and music coverage.

I hope you enjoy what we’re doing. As always, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or input.

One more thing … Happy Pride!

Published in Editor's Note

One of my favorite idioms, often attributed to President John F. Kennedy, is: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

This phrase came to mind one recent morning when I woke up to an email from a manager at a local business. He had agreed to participate in an event with the Independent on the day before, but then changed his mind when he realized the event has an advertising element.

“We have never paid for advertising, and we never will,” the manager wrote.

That phrase, frankly, pissed me off. After all, advertising is what keeps the lights on here at the Independent, and it funds all of the journalism that we do here.

My response to him: “I’m a bit befuddled when you say (your business) ‘never will’ advertise. Seeing as I’ve put every dime (and then some) I have into creating a local business that tries to cover our valley in an ethical, honest, meaningful and substantial way, I’m confused as to why (your business) would categorically rule out supporting my business, when I’ve supported (your business) with my dollars plenty over the years.”

Of course, not all businesses can or should advertise with the Independent (or any other media source, for that matter), and a simple “no thanks” wouldn’t have bothered me in the least. What did bother me is the blanket statement; I read it as saying, more or less: We will never support your business under any circumstances.

On a personal level, I’ll most likely take my dollars elsewhere—to businesses that believe in and support what we do here at the Independent.

Because, well, a rising tide lifts all boats.


In other news, we’ve recently launched two brand-new columns.

In the Opinion section, veteran local writer and broadcaster Steve Kelly is now writing a sports column for us. You can read his inaugural piece, on College of the Desert’s athletic director, Gary Plunkett, here.

As for the Food and Drink section, give a hearty welcome to Kevin Carlow and his new cocktails column. His debut column, on the yumminess of mescal, can be found here.

Be sure to pick up the November 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent; it’s hitting streets this week. Not only is it our annual special Pride Issue; it includes the program for the Independent’s Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, taking place Nov. 11-19.

Happy Pride; enjoy Craft Cocktail Week; and as always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

I never thought I’d hear the leader of the free world extolling the virtues of the gay nightclub.

Yet there he was, President Barack Obama, doing just that, on Sunday, June 12, as we all reeled in shock at the news that an idiot had just killed 49 men and women at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live,” Obama said. “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

Wow,” I thought to myself when I heard the president’s remarks. “He really gets it.”

Visions nightclub in Reno, Nev., was my place of solidarity and empowerment at a time when I really needed it. It was in the late ’90s; I had just graduated from college and moved back to my hometown after breaking up with my fiancée. I was coming to terms with the fact that I was gay—a fact that would not sit well with many of my friends who, like me, were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon).

I was not out to anyone but a handful of friends. Heck, I was barely out to myself. But every Saturday night, those friends and I could be found at Visions, chatting, flirting and accepting ourselves. Inside this gay nightclub, I was authentic—and I was safe.

I’ve come a long way in the two decades or so since then. So, too, has society. However, for me and many, many others—both gay and straight—bars and nightclubs are still places to come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

The Independent and Brian Blueskye organized nine concerts last year to both promote local musicians and raise money for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Food Bank. We also assembled a fundraising concert to help out Chris and George Zander after they were senselessly attacked. My softball team and I have hosted two “Thirst for Life” fundraisers on behalf of the Desert AIDS Project.

All of those took place at Chill Bar Palm Springs and the Scorpion Room nightclub. It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent. Be sure to pick up the July 2016 print edition, hitting streets this week across the Coachella Valley.

Published in Editor's Note

I was not having a good day.

I’d just dropped off my car at the dealership. I was looking at almost $500 in maintenance and repairs—at a time when my budget didn’t have that $500 to spare.

I’d planned on waiting for my car at the dealership, but the service adviser recommended that he call the shuttle to take me home. The work could take a while, he said. I agreed; after all, I had a lot of work I needed to get done.

As I sat in the customers’ lounge and waited for the shuttle to arrive, I looked out at the sunny sky and tried, unsuccessfully, to ward off the unpleasant mood that was settling in. My sad feelings were snowballing … stress, money worries, tiredness, etc. I was missing my husband, whose work has taken him to San Francisco—while I remain tied to the Coachella Valley thanks to my business. Worst of all, doubt was setting in.

Am I doing the right thing? Is all of this—the long hours, the tight budget, the absence from my husband—worth it?

My mental malaise was interrupted by the service adviser’s voice. “Hey, buddy. The shuttle’s here.”

I grabbed my computer bag, walked outside and climbed into the van. I was the only passenger. As we pulled onto East Palm Canyon Drive, the driver commented on the amazing weather we’ve been having.

“Yeah, it’s gorgeous,” I said. “Too bad I have to spend the day inside working.”

“Oh, yeah?” the driver responded. “What kind of work do you do?”

“I own a local newspaper, the Coachella Valley Independent.”

The driver’s eyes lit up as turned his head to look at me. “Really? I love the Independent! I pick it up all the time at one of the dealers.”

He went on to explain that the restaurant-news column was his favorite feature, because he gets news from it that he can find nowhere else. We spent the rest of the short drive chatting about food and restaurant gossip.

As the van pulled up to my apartment complex, the driver turned and shook my hand. “It was great to meet you,” he said. “I really appreciate what you do.”

The doubt that had been settling in was gone. This is why I do what I do.

Thank you very much, Mr. Shuttle Driver. Thanks also to everyone else who offers kind words and constructive criticism regarding the Independent. The comments always seem to come at the perfect time. Really.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent—and be sure to pick up the April 2016 print edition, being distributed at 375 locations valley-wide this week.

Published in Editor's Note

We’ve reached that time of year when it seems like there’s a big-deal event happening almost every weekend—a time of year which feverishly continues until the Stagecoach music festival closes out “season” in late April/early May.

Two of February’s biggest local events revolve around art: Modernism Week and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair. Of course, we’re previewing both goings on. First, Brian Blueskye has penned a fantastic feature on modernist artist Nat Reed (whose art graces the cover of the February print version) as an entree into Modernism Week. Second, we use art—what else?—to preview the goings-on at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

However, our new arts coverage doesn’t end there. The valley’s theater season is in full swing, and you can peruse reviews of two shows that are on the current boards: Desert Rose’s Angels in America and CV Rep’s A Class Act. For the more literary-minded, I’d like to direct you to a book excerpt from Independent contributor Alexis Hunter. Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For is a fantastic read.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention some goings-on in our Food and Drink section. I am sorry to report this is the final Sniff the Cap column by Deidre Pike, who has been writing about wine for the Independent since our launch. (That is, unless I can talk her into staying. Hey, I gotta try.) Deidre has been a friend and colleague of mine for two decades now, and her words added so much to this newspaper; she’ll be missed.

In related news: We’re looking for a wine columnist! If you think you have the proper knowledge and writing chops, drop me a line; my email address is below.

I’d also like to thank arts writer Victor Barocas for all of his work for the Independent over the last two-plus years. He, too, is leaving the ranks of Independent contributors. (In related news, we’re looking for new visual/fine arts contributors; again, email me if interested.)

As we say goodbye to Deidre and Victor, we’re saying hello a new contributor: Sean Planck. He is now writing a monthly column for the Independent focusing on the local happenings regarding medical marijuana; catch the debut edition of Cannabis in the CV here.

As always, your feedback and comments are appreciated.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent, be it online, or in our print edition; the February issue is now in 370-plus locations across the valley and high desert. Enjoy.

Published in Editor's Note

This was supposed to be a very different Note From the Editor.

I’d planned to write about our fabulously successful Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party (see several photos below) and then discuss our January 2016 print-edition cover story, which was supposed to be about discrimination at a local institution. (We’re still working on that piece; look for it in the near future.)

However, all of that changed on Dec. 10, when my friend George Zander, a well-known community activist, suddenly passed away.

George and his husband, Chris, were attacked in downtown Palm Springs on Nov. 1 in what police are calling a hate crime. After a brief altercation with a man who used the word “faggot,” George and Chris were attacked by that man and another man moments later in front of Sherman’s. Chris suffered a concussion after taking a tire iron to the head. George suffered a broken hip in the scuffle.

Post-attack, things seemed to be going OK. Chris was recovering from his injuries; George’s hip surgery was successful, and he was home after stints in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility. The police think they’ve caught the perpetrators, and the community was beautifully rallying behind George and Chris.

But on the morning of Dec. 10, George was rushed to Desert Regional Medical Center due to an emergency. He was gone within minutes. Chris told the world via Facebook that George died in his arms.

What all of this means in terms of the prosecution of the thugs who allegedly did this remained to be determined as of our press deadline.

What it means to the community is heartbreak.

Here at the Independent, we shifted gears and decided to make George the topic of the cover story in the January 2016 print edition, which is hitting streets this week. Brian Blueskye did a fantastic job of showing all that George has done over the years to help the afflicted in the Coachella Valley.

I last saw George on Nov. 18, the day after the benefit show on behalf of the Zanders that the Independent put together with Chill Bar. He was still in the rehab facility at the time; he went home several days later. George was typical George: His spirits were high, and he was already plotting his next bit of activism, telling me about something he’d recently learned about that he thought deserved media attention.

Once the holiday craziness is behind us, I am going to pursue that story that George told me about. If what George told me is correct, and it probably is, it’ll be an excellent piece. Look for that soon.

In the meantime, enjoy a handful of photos from the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party below.

Published in Editor's Note

Some thoughts percolating through my head this month:

• It was two years ago this month that CVIndependent.com first went live to the world. And it was one year ago this month that the Coachella Valley Independent—after two quarterly print editions—became the monthly print publication that it is today.

So, yeah, October’s kind of an important month for us.

We debated having a big anniversary party, kind of like we did for last year’s print-edition launch and one-year online anniversary, but we decided to hold off and put all of our efforts into creating a kick-ass Best of Coachella Valley party, coming your way most likely in early December. Keep your eye open for more details about that.

By the way, have you voted in the Best of Coachella Valley yet? Round One of voting ends Oct. 3, and the Final Round begins Oct. 8. So, go vote now at CVIndependent.com!

• While the Independent is holding off on an anniversary party, we’re sponsoring All Night Shoes—aka Alex Harrington—as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his FRESH Sessions mixes for CVIndependent.com. Join us at the party: It’s going down at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club at 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11. DJ Day and COLOUR VISION will be joining All Night Shoes for one hell of a dance party—and there’s no cover. See ya there!

• Speaking of anniversaries: An organization that’s quite important to me and the Independent is celebrating 10 years of existence this month.

Ever since I moved here, I’ve been a part of the Palm Springs Gay Softball League. I’ve played on and helped coach the team now known as The Green Team for almost two years—and I’ve had the time of my life while doing so. (The Independent sponsors The Green Team, too.)

The league will be celebrating the big anniversary at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5, at Demuth Park, on Mesquite Drive just east of El Cielo Road, in Palm Springs. Come and join in the celebration—especially if you are or were once part of the league, or if you want to know more about it. (By the way, you don’t need to be gay, lesbian or bisexual to play in the league; you just need to be a fun person.)

If you can’t make it on Oct. 5, the league plays games on most Sundays between October and May (with a holiday break in January and much of February) at Demuth Park, so come on down.

Congratulations to everyone in the league! Get more information at psgsl.org.

Published in Editor's Note

As we distribute the new print issue of the Independent this week, I can’t help but think: Wait. Isn’t August supposed to be the slow season around these parts? Geez. Things sure aren’t slow here at the Independent offices.

Here are a few things going on that you should know about:

• Mark your calendars: Voting in the Independent’s very first Best of Coachella Valley will kick off in September.

I know what you’re thinking: Does the valley really need another freaking “best of”? Our answer: Yes, the valley does need another freaking “best of,” because we’ll be doing the Best of Coachella Valley right. Here’s how:

In September, public voting will begin in 120-plus categories at CVIndependent.com and BestofCoachellaValley.com. The voting form will include no “finalists” or pre-determined candidates—each category will have a blank field next to it, period. Voters will need to fill out at least 20 of these categories; will only be allowed to vote once; and will need to provide an email address for possible verification purposes. (We will also be watching IP addresses for possible ballot-box-stuffing.)

In October, we’ll tally those results, announce five finalists in each category, and launch a second round of voting among those finalists.

The final results will be announced in our inaugural Best of Coachella Valley issue, in December. (We’ll throw in some great features and staff picks as well.)

It’s gonna be awesome! Watch for details in next month’s print issue and/or at CVIndependent.com.

• Speaking of CVIndependent.com: The Independent Market—our online store—continues to add new deals! This month, while supplies last, customers can get half-off gift certificates to Crave dessert restaurant, La Quinta Brewing Co., Lisa Harrington Pest Control and the Synchronicity: Matter and Psyche Symposium.

However, the Independent Market is now offering another cool thing: Tickets! This month, we’re selling a limited supply of tickets to two shows at the Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms: Rock Formations II, featuring Jello Biafra and Spindrift, on Saturday, Aug. 23; and the Bat Country Labor Day Blast With the Rikk Agnew Band, on Sunday, Aug. 31.

Head on over to CVIndependent.com to get these exclusive deals—and if you want your business included in the Independent Market, drop me a line.

• Finally, I’d like to welcome a new comic strip to the pages and pixels of the Independent. Tom Tomorrow’s “This Modern World,” a staple of the alternative press for decades, will now appear each week at CVIndependent.com, and each month in the print edition.

Welcome, Tom!

As always, folks, thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Published in Editor's Note

Some folks just don’t like change.

That’s one of the messages of Brian Blueskye's profile of Frank Tysen, the local hotelier who has been leading the charge against John Wessman’s hotel/retail development on the site of the former Desert Fashion Plaza. The piece went online last week, and serves as our March print-edition cover story.

Tysen says he’s in favor of downtown redevelopment in Palm Springs—but not this kind of downtown redevelopment. He thinks the proposed Kimpton Hotel is too big, too boxy, too glassy, too L.A. He thinks a new shopping center in Palm Springs is a terrible idea. And he thinks it’s stupid to try to attract younger professionals and millennials as tourists to the Coachella Valley, because they lack the time and money that older visitors have.

I don’t agree with Frank Tysen. I think, in this case, change is good.

To my untrained eyes, the plans for the Kimpton Hotel (a hotel chain which I’ve had nothing but good experiences with on my various travels) look just fine. The height—about the same as the Hyatt next door—doesn’t bother me. A shopping center, if it has the right tenants and support, could work in a revitalized downtown Palm Springs. And up until I gave up my job (and a lot of money) to move here and start the Independent, I was a young professional who spent a lot of time and money in this city as a tourist—so I know he’s wrong there.

While I don’t agree with Tysen, I respect him—and regrettably, a lot of city officials, most notably Mayor Steve Pougnet, have shown a distinct lack of respect for the man.

That bothers me. Tysen isn’t just some loudmouth crank; he’s owned a small business and has made it work in downtown Palm Springs for 25 years. He’s had a distinguished career in architecture and urban planning—including a Guggenheim Fellowship (!)—so he knows what he’s talking about.

Yeah, Tysen may not like change, and I definitely disagree with him. But he deserves respect—and I think you’ll come to the same conclusion after reading Brian Blueskye’s profile of him.


As for some other downtown Palm Springs folks who apparently don’t like change: The Independent’s theater reviewers have seemingly been banned from receiving review tickets from the Palm Canyon Theatre.

Here’s what I know: In the not-quite-a-year that the Independent has been reviewing plays, critics Valerie-Jean Hume and Bonnie Gilgallon have covered a half-dozen Palm Canyon Theatre shows. They thought some shows were so-so; others they really liked; and only one review, arguably, was more negative than positive (of October’s The Sound of Music).

Well, something in Bonnie Gilgallon’s recent review of Les Miserables must have upset the folks at the PCT. Valerie-Jean Hume recently called to arrange to see a performance of the latest show, 9 to 5 (which opens this week)—and was told that theater managers were meeting to determine whether they’d continue offering press comps to us. The woman to whom V.J. spoke said she’d call back after the meeting.

V.J. never received a return call, so she called back the PCT and left a message, which went unreturned. I then called to find out what was going on, and left a message. As of this writing, I, too, have yet to receive a return call.

I don’t know what’s going on. I do know that in my lengthy career as an editor, I have never had a theater company ban any of my reviewers from receiving press tickets (even after reviews that could be classified as scathing)—much less issue a ban without the courtesy of an explanation.

If the theater ever gets back to me, I’ll let you know what’s up. But as of now, it seems the Palm Canyon Theatre doesn’t like the change that the Independent has brought to town—namely, honest theater reviewers who tell it like it is.

Published in Editor's Note

I recently received an email from a person who works at a local advertising agency, requesting coverage of an event.

“Or all features given to advertisers?” the email said. “If so I understand.”

Sigh.

I sent a polite reply, explaining that advertising has nothing to do with our editorial coverage. (And, yes, we did cover the event, even though we didn’t receive any advertising—simply because it was an event worthy of coverage.)

Sadly, emails like this to Independent World Headquarters are fairly common. These days—and in this valley, in particular—it’s fairly common for “legitimate” publications to sell editorial coverage along with advertising. This is an ethically questionable practice to begin with—and it’s downright wrong for publications to sell coverage without labeling that coverage as advertising. Yet it happens all the time.

Every journalism school in the country teaches classes warning against “pay for play” practices—and it turns out that many in the advertising industry warn against it, too.

The American Advertising Federation (of which the Independent, as well as almost every local advertising agency, is a member) is part of an Institute for Advertising Ethics, in partnership with the Reynolds Journalism Institute of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In 2011, that Institute for Advertising Ethics released a list of eight advertising “principles and practices.”

The introduction to the list, in part, reads: “The eight Principles and Practices presented here are the foundation on which the Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE) was created. They are based on the premise that all forms of communications, including advertising, should always do what is right for consumers, which in turn is right for business as well. For while we are in an age of unparalleled change, this overriding truth never changes.” (Emphasis is theirs.)

As for Principle No. 3, it reads: “Advertisers should clearly distinguish advertising, public relations and corporate communications from news and editorial content and entertainment, both online and offline.”

That’s why we here at the Coachella Valley Independent never, ever promise editorial coverage as part of an advertising deal, nor will we ever write/publish something just to make an existing advertiser happy. As it says in our mission statement: “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.”

Allene Arthur, the locally legendary columnist for The Desert Sun who recently turned 90, is the subject of a lovely feature we recently published. She summed up this issue best: “I write for the reader—not the advertiser or the people being written about, but the reader!”

Amen, Allene.

Published in Editor's Note

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