Indy Digest: Sept. 13, 2021
In January 2000—a month or so shy of my 25th birthday—I became the editor of the Reno News & Review, my hometown alternative-weekly newspaper. That same month, I attended my first alternative-weekly conference, in San Francisco.
I was a bit star-struck by the legendary nature of the “hosts” of the conference, the competing San Francisco Bay Guardian and SF Weekly. Competing, actually, is a gross understatement: The owners of the papers—Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann and New Times (later Village Voice Media) executive editor Michael Lacey—despised each other. Still, their papers served the city of San Francisco well, doing amazing work
A few years later, the locally owned Bay Guardian filed an antitrust lawsuit against New Times, the owner of SF Weekly, accusing the company of selling dirt-cheap ads in an effort to harm the Bay Guardian. In 2008, the Bay Guardian won the suit—and a shocking $21 million verdict. After appeals were exhausted, the two companies agreed to an undisclosed settlement in early 2011.
Both papers were sold relatively soon thereafter, and were actually owned by the same company for a spell. While they both continued to do good work, their revenue and page counts continued to decline. Nonetheless, it was something of a shock when, in 2014, the owners of the 40-year-old Bay Guardian closed it down.
Meanwhile, SF Weekly soldiered on, changing hands several times, but still publishing.
Then came the news last week. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: “Come October, San Francisco will be a city without an alternative weekly. After more than 40 years, SF Weekly, San Francisco’s last-standing alt weekly, will cease publication ‘for the foreseeable future’ at the end of the month, the paper’s editor in chief, Carly Schwartz, confirmed Friday.”
That Chronicle piece also contains this line: “News of the pause, first reported by Stuart Schuffman, a blogger better known as Broke-Ass Stuart, was not entirely surprising; alt weeklies around the nation have struggled for more than a decade to stay afloat. That, however, didn’t make the loss any less sharp.”
As for that claim that alternative newspapers as a whole have struggled for more than a decade now: While there is a degree of truth to that statement—a disconcerting number of alt papers have folded in recent years, with many others making deep cuts—it disregards the fact that a lot of alternative newspapers continue to do really well. It also ignores the fact that some new alternative newspapers have launched over the last decade … like, for example, the one you’re reading now.
I could go on and on about the reasons why some alternative newspapers—or, heck, all news publications—have died, while others live on … but I won’t. I will say this, however: A lot of the people bemoaning the death a beloved local newspaper share the blame in that paper’s demise.
A bunch of businesses owners who claim to be sad to see a newspaper go declined to advertise in that publication. Instead, they spent their ad dollars on Facebook, or Google, or Yelp. Or maybe rather than spending money with a newspaper, they hired an advertising agency to try to get “free” coverage from that publication.
A bunch of readers sorry to see a newspaper shutter failed to support that newspaper by subscribing to it or even telling advertising businesses that they saw that business’ ad in the newspaper.
This is an oversimplification, yes, and many newspaper owners certainly have hastened their publications’ demise by doing stupid things and failing to innovate. (See: Gannett, the owner of The Desert Sun.) But the point remains: If news publications don’t get support from the people they serve, they will die.
This is a topic I’ll be discussing next Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 5:30 p.m., along with the Palm Springs Post’s Mark Talkington, during ONE PS’ “Talk of the Town: CV’s Independent Publishers: Building Personal Connections.” This is a virtual event via Zoom; learn more here.
I hope you can join us for the discussion. But if you can’t, please make sure you’re supporting the local media sources you value and appreciate (and I hope the Independent is one of those media sources). Please.
From the Independent
CV History: Dr. June Robertson McCarroll Was the Valley’s First Woman Doctor—but She’s Best Known for a Transportation Innovation
By Greg Niemann
September 10, 2021
Dr. June Robertson McCarroll was the first woman doctor in the Coachella Valley. However, she’s best known as the person who originated the idea of painting a line down the center of the road to help prevent automobile accidents.
By Matt King
September 13, 2021
Learn a bit about standout metal guitarist Ruben Torres, known for his work in both Call Upon Your Gods and In the Name of the Dead.
By Bob Grimm
September 13, 2021
Malignant is an enjoyable junk food movie that should delight ’80s horror enthusiasts, and nothing more.
• The recall election is tomorrow, and CalMatters’ Emily Hoeven offers a nice roundup of news heading into the big day—including the fact that the Republicans are already gearing up to cast the election as illegitimate: “The polls have also illuminated another core force in the recall: fundamental distrust of government and authority. ‘There is no way I am going to believe it’ if (Gavin) Newsom wins, recall supporter Matt Francistold the Los Angeles Times. ‘I really believe that the silent majority is huge and I think that the polls are incorrect,’recall volunteer Linda Rich said.” Sigh.
• Related: CalMatters also looks at how a faulty poll may have changed the course of the recall election by motivating freaked-out pro-Newsom forces: “First, there was aUC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies pollon July 27, which showed that likely voters were just about evenly split on whether or not Gov. Gavin Newsom deserves to keep his job.A few days later came an even more alarming set offigures from SurveyUSA: A majority of likely voters, 51%, wanted to fire Newsom, compared to a mere 40% who did not. … In its next poll, released at the end of August, SurveyUSA issued amea culpain amemo addendumthat said the prior poll may have misworded a question and inadvertently inflated the ‘yes’ on recall numbers.”
• The other big statewide news item as of late—wildfires—received some attention from President Biden today, as The Associated Press explains: “President Joe Biden on Monday pointed to wildfires burning through the West to argue for his $3.5 trillion rebuilding plans, calling year-round fires and other extreme weather a climate change reality the nation can no longer ignore. ‘Even some of my less believing friends are all of a sudden having an altar call,’ Biden said of those who have sought to minimize the risks posed by climate change. ‘They’re seeing the Lord.’ The president spoke during a briefing from officials in California’s emergency services office. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote Tuesday and was set to appear with Biden later Monday in Long Beach, participated. Biden was also setting out on an aerial tour of fire damage.”
• Related: A group of climate scientists, writing for The Conversation, sheds some light on the specific damage climate change has done to the Western wildfire dynamic: “In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released in May 2021, our team of fire and climate scientists and engineers found that forest fires are now reaching higher, normally wetter elevations. And they are burning there at rates unprecedented in recent fire history. Two fires burning in northern California in 2021—the Dixie and Caldor fires—are examples: They were the first and second wildfires on record to cross the Sierra Nevada crest and burn on both sides. While historical fire suppression and other forest management practices play a role in the West’s worsening fire problem, the high-elevation forests we studied have had little human intervention. The results provide a clear indication that climate change is enabling these normally wet forests to burn.”
• If you’re a veteran who has concerns about Alzheimer’s disease, or you know one, take note. According to a news release: “The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is holding a free webinar for California veterans and their families on Thursday, September 16 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. to provide them with information about brain health, memory screenings and veterans benefits. Individuals can register for the free ‘Brain Health Awareness for Veterans’ webinar at www.alzfdn.org/veterans. Veterans may be at a higher risk for dementia based on their military experiences. A traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or being a prisoner of war can all increase the chances of developing dementia, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. … According to the state of California, there are nearly 1.6 million veterans living in California, making it the state with the highest number of veterans in the country.”
• COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 and up could begin in a little more than a month or so. Reuters says: “Top U.S. health officials believe that Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine could be authorized for children aged 5-11 years old by the end of October, two sources familiar with the situation said on Friday. The timeline is based on the expectation that Pfizer, which developed the shot with Germany’s BioNTech, will have enough data from clinical trials to seek emergency use authorization (EUA) for that age group from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) towards the end of this month, the sources said. They anticipate the FDA could make a decision on whether the shot is safe and effective in younger children within three weeks of the EUA submission.”
• The CDC dropped three studies on Friday, all of which showed how amazingly effective the COVID-19 vaccines have been at decreasing deaths and hospitalizations—although there is evidence that some vaccines are better than others. As The Washington Post says: “People who were not fully vaccinated this spring and summer were more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19, than those who were fully vaccinated, according to one of three major studies published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlight the continued efficacy of all three vaccines amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. … While the three vaccines were collectively 86 percent effective in preventing hospitalization, protection was significantly higher among Moderna vaccine recipients (95 percent) than among those who got Pfizer-BioNTech (80 percent) or Johnson & Johnson (60 percent).”
• And finally … The Press-Enterprise, using public records, has pieced together a fascinating record of the back and forth among public officials regarding the mid-July rally featuring Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene—a rally which was repeatedly moved, cancelled and rescheduled, before ultimately drawing a sparse crowd outside of Riverside City Hall: “What follows is a timeline of how those nine days played out, as told in more than 500 emails, text messages and social media posts released by the city of Riverside to the Southern California News Group in response to a California Public Records Act request. The records reveal behind-the-scenes comments from city leaders, discussions about security and at least one city council member’s concerns for his own safety.” Hooray for public records!
Support the Independent!
I made my case regarding the need for readers to support media sources they value up above. If the Independent is indeed one of local media sources you value and appreciate, and you have the means to offer your support, click the button below to do so. Thanks, as always, for reading!