Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: March 13, 2023

As we wait to see if failing banks push the country into some sort of economic collapse this week (kidding) (at least I hope I’m kidding), let’s look at a company that is also failing—failing its customers, that is.

The Nieman Journalism Lab—part of Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation, whose goal is “to promote and elevate the standards of journalism”—last week published a piece headlined “The scale of local news destruction in Gannett’s markets is astonishing.”

Gannett is the parent company of The Desert Sun. This piece, by Joshua Benton, lays out what an awful, awful corporation Gannett has become—especially since its merger with GateHouse in 2019.

An excerpt:

At the end of 2018 — the last full pre-merger year — the two companies had a total of 27,600 employees, according to a Gannett spokesperson. The merger closed in mid-November 2019, by which time it had about 25,000 and was diving headlong into a hunt for “inefficiencies.”

By December 31, 2019, the combined company was down to 21,255. By the end of 2020, that had dropped to 18,141. A year later: 13,800. And its most recent SEC filing reports that, as of the end of 2022, Gannett had just 11,200 U.S. employees remaining (plus another roughly 3,000 overseas, mostly in the U.K.).

In other words, Gannett has eliminated half of its jobs in four years. It’s as if, instead of merging America’s two largest newspaper chains, one of them was simply wiped off the face of the earth.

That’s a cut substantially deeper than the rate of newspaper revenue decline. Why? Well, one reason is that to get the merger done, Gannett had to take out a giant loan at high interest rates, meaning hundreds of millions in revenues have had to be redirected to debt payments. To put it in perspective: In Q4 2022, digital subscriptions at Gannett newspapers—all of them—brought in a total of $35.5 million. But the company spent more than that, $47.3 million, just on debt payments.

The article goes on to point out how over this same time period, the circulation at Gannett papers has been plummeting—at a rate much faster than non-Gannett papers are experiencing.

Whatever your feelings may be regarding The Desert Sun and Gannett’s other newspapers, one huge consequence of this merger and Gannett’s inept corporate upper-management is undeniably bad: There are fewer journalists covering these communities, including our own. A LOT fewer.

Given Gannett’s remaining debt load and its steep downward trajectory, things are only going to get worse.

What I am about to say is undeniably self-serving, but it’s also undeniably true: It’s never been more important to support—as advertisers, as financial supporters, as readers—independent local media sources. Whether you appreciate hard news, or arts coverage, or compelling commentary, the continuance of that coverage depends on your support.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

The Foilies 2023: Recognizing the Worst in Government Transparency

By the Electronic Frontier Foundation and MuckRock News

March 13th, 2023

Each year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and MuckRock News, in partnership with the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, publish this list of freedom-of-information ne’er-do-wells to celebrate Sunshine Week (March 12-18)—an annual event to raise the profile of the democratic concept of government transparency.

A Writer’s Legacy: DET’s Excellent Production of New Play ‘Kafka’s Joke’ Tells the Story of the Troubled Scribe

By Bonnie Gilgallon

March 12th, 2023

In Kafka’s Joke, the story about the famed writer’s work is told with great humor—through the eyes of Franz Kafka’s ghost.

Classics Gone Crazy: Stewart Copeland Brings Reworked Police Hits and a Full Orchestra to Fantasy Springs

By Matt King

March 12th, 2023

Stewart Copeland is bringing his “Police Deranged for Orchestra” show to Fantasy Springs on Saturday, March 25. Police classics like “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle,” and “Every Breath You Take” will be performed with the help of a full orchestra—alongside Copeland’s classic and experimental drumming, of course.

After the Pageants: Brand-New Play ‘Aces’ Is a Light yet Hilarious Show

By Bonnie Gilgallon

March 11th, 2023

Resplendent in gorgeous, glittery gowns, each former Miss USA takes her place onstage. They are asked to reveal what led them into the pageant circuit. As they tell their stories, their unique personalities begin to emerge.

That Mythological Vibe: The Heavy Psych Sounds Festival Celebrates Hard Rock and Desert-Rock History

By Matt King

March 10th, 2023

The Heavy Psych Sounds Records label has been showcasing its roster of doom, psych and stoner-rock artists at festivals in various countries. Now the label is bringing the fest to Joshua Tree.

Not Fully Realized: ‘Scream VI’ Takes a Big Step Backward After Last Year’s Franchise-Redeeming Reboot

By Bob Grimm

March 13th, 2023

While Scream VI is better than the Wes Craven sequels, it takes a step back from the revitalized feel of last year’s triumph. This feels like more of the same.

More News

Our partners at Calmatters take a California-centered look at what the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank may mean in California. A snippet: “The state as a whole need not panic just yet, said Emily Mandel, an economist who monitors state finances for Moody’s Analytics. The bank’s failure is ‘more a symptom of ongoing weakness in the tech industry rather than a sea change,’ she said. Still, California lawmakers are facing a $20 billion-plus deficit. Roughly half of the state’s personal income tax revenue comes from the top 1 percent of earners, most of whom get paid in stocks and other financial instruments. That’s why the possibility of additional tech sector hiccups and financial market gyrations aren’t likely to be welcome news in the Capitol.” 

In some parts of California, the state is planning on using floodwaters to recharge depleted aquifers. The Los Angeles Times says: “With torrential rains drenching California, state water regulators have endorsed a plan to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River to replenish groundwater that has been depleted by heavy agricultural pumping during three years of record drought. The State Water Resources Control Board approved a request by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to take more than 600,000 acre-feet from the river and send much of that water flowing to areas where it can spread out, soak into the ground and percolate down to the aquifer beneath the San Joaquin Valley. The amount of water that’s set to be rerouted under the plan is more than the annual supply for the city of Los Angeles. Some of the water will also be routed to wildlife refuges along the San Joaquin River starting next week, officials said. The plan is intended to address potential flood risks, capitalize on California’s near-record snowpack and capture some of the high flows from the latest extreme storms to store water underground.”

Seeing as we need all the help we can get against climate change, this is encouraging. From CNN: “Scientists have set out a way to suck planet-heating carbon pollution from the air, turn it into sodium bicarbonate and store it in oceans, according to a new paper. The technique could be up to three times more efficient than current carbon capture technology, say the authors of the study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Tackling the climate crisis means drastically reducing the burning of fossil fuels, which releases planet-heating pollution. But because humans have already pumped so much of this pollution into the atmosphere and are unlikely to sufficiently reduce emissions in the near term, scientists say we also need to remove it from the air.”

A California legislator is mounting a longshot effort to give incarcerated Californians the right to vote. Capital and Main reports: “‘I think democracy thrives when everybody can participate,’ says California Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Culver City). In February Bryan introduced a groundbreaking state constitutional amendment that would allow the approximately 115,000 inmates incarcerated in California prisons to vote in local, state and national elections. Bryan is advancing the legislation, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4, at a time when many states are making it harder for citizens to vote. He calls it a needed pushback in an era of concerted campaigns in many states to limit participation by Black and other voters of color. … California would not be the first state in the nation to support a suffrage measure for the incarcerated—Vermont and Maine grant voting rights to those in prison. But Bryan’s bill faces considerable obstacles. The constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote by the state Legislature, no easy feat, after which it would go onto a ballot statewide.”

• An actor-turned-artist is showing off some of his locally focused work. From a news release: “Local artist Joe Dietl has a brand-new show of original pieces inspired by life in the city since moving to town from Los Angeles five years ago. A former comedy actor, known for his work in the successful gay web series ‘Where the Bears Are,’ Joe has made a new life for himself as an artist here in the Coachella Valley. His new pieces reflect what he views as ‘Iconic Palm Springs Locales.’ His idea of what constitutes ‘iconic’ might differ from those visiting the city, because each locale has special meaning to him, the artist, and the local gay community to which he belongs. … The Opening Cocktail reception is Thursday, March 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dietlart Gallery, 4629 Sunny Dunes Road.” Learn more at

And finally … if you’re someone who would appreciate vegan chocolate, take note of this Associated Press report: “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are getting the vegan treatment. The Hershey Co. said Tuesday that Reese’s Plant Based Peanut Butter Cups, which go on sale this month, will be its first vegan chocolates sold nationally. A second plant-based offering, Hershey’s Plant Based Extra Creamy with Almonds and Sea Salt, will follow in April. The chocolates are made with oats instead of milk, Hershey said. Hershey has experimented with vegan chocolate before. It sold an oat-based chocolate bar called Oat Made in some test markets starting in 2021. But the new products will be the first sold throughout the U.S. under the ‘Plant Based’ label.”

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As mentioned above, we need reader support. As the daily continues its downward spiral, readers are asking us to do more—and we’re heeding the call as best we can; for example, we recently added our new nonprofits section … after The Desert Sun eliminated its nonprofits section. However, all of this takes money. If you have the financial ability to help, and you value independent local journalism, please click the button below and become a Supporter of the Independent. As always, thanks for reading!

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...