CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent. Don’t hesitate to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.—and be sure to check out the August 2019 print edition, hitting streets now.

Published in Editor's Note

Dear Readers: Many of ustedes must be scratching your heads right now: “What happened to ¡Ask a Mexican!” You’re preguntando yourselves, “Who the hell is this cholo nerd where the Mexican logo used to be?”

It is I, gentle cabrones, your eternal Mexican: Gustavo Arellano, child of immigrants from Zacatecas, one of whom came to el Norte in 1969 in the trunk of a Chevy driven by a hippie chick from Huntington Beach. And I’m triste to say that this columna is coming to an end.

My day job during the life of ¡Ask a Mexican! was at OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County, where I was born and raised. (Don’t believe The Real Housewives of Orange County: there’s a chingo of raza here.) I started as a staff writer, then became managing editor, then was editor for nearly six years until Oct. 13, when I resigned instead of laying off half my staff like the Weekly’s owner wanted me to. No me rajé, and I’ll never regret quitting my dream job, because I know I did the right thing.

With me leaving the Weekly, I also must leave behind ¡Ask a Mexican! See, I don’t own the trademark to the title, and I can’t pay muchos pesos for something that the Weekly’s owner (or the ones before him) should’ve given to me as a gift for 13 years of being the hardest-working Mexican this side of Beto Durán.

I thought about continuing under a different name (¡Ask a Pocho! ¡Query a Mexican! ¡Pregunta, Pendejo!) But then I realized I don’t have to continue the column anymore. See, I’ve been to el cerro. And I’ve seen the Promised Land of Aztlán.

It sure doesn’t seem like that at a time when millions of our friends and familia are at risk of deportation, when Donald Trump wants to build a border wall (Man, where’s Alex Lora when you need him?) and when gabachos keep mistaking Día de los Muertos for Halloween. But we’re now at a place where whip-smart humor is at the touch of a meme, and where our political and economic power continues to soar like voladores totonacos. We live in an era when everyone can be a defender of la raza against gabachos, whether said gabas assault us or try to claim Rick Bayless is great.

In other words, ¡Ask a Mexican! is no longer necessary, because Mexicans have won a war that began when Sir Francis Drake sunk the Spanish Armada. We’re here, y no nos vamos. We’re victims no longer; we’re actually chingonxs. And the sooner Mexicans realize this, the better we’ll be.

I’ll let others debate whether my attempt to fight racism with satire and stats was visionary or just vendido. I’ll still answer questions about Mexicans on The Tom Leykis Show on the last Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. (tune in to blowmeuptom.com), because doing so keeps my mind Julio Cesar Chavez sharp and not Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. soft.

But in text, no más. I will let ¡Ask a Mexican! die, and let its passing join the pantheon of gabacho atrocities against Mexicans, like the U.S. stealing half of Mexico, or Rick Bayless.

I wish modern-day journalism allowed me more space, but it doesn’t, so my thanks must be brief. Gracias to friends, Marge, family, my chica; all the papers that carried my columna over the years; Santo Niño de Atocha; Will Swaim; Daniel Hernandez; David Kuhn; and so many more.

Nos vemos, gentle cabrones. Follow me on social media to see what I do next, and hook a compa up with bacanora! No se rajen against evil. Diga no a la piratería ¡Viva la Reconquista! Oh, and #fucktrump.

Email Gustavo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano

Published in Ask a Mexican

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.

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