Indy Digest: Jan. 31, 2022
As of today, the Independent has a new sister newspaper in Reno, Nevada, the Reno News & Review.
The first non-college newspaper byline I ever had came in the Reno News & Review. During the summer of 1996. I got an internship at my hometown alternative weekly newspaper—which, at that point, was just a little more than a year old. It was a great experience; I learned a lot; and I made some lifelong friendships.
That was my first stint at the RN&R. My second came a year and a half or so later. After I graduated from college, I worked for The Associated Press’ San Francisco bureau for five months, before deciding to move back to Reno to deal with personal and family matters. The RN&R had just hired a new staff writer who was unable to start for about two months, so I filled the gap as a temp staff writer, before moving on to a small daily newspaper in Sparks, Nevada.
My third stint came about a year and a half later. The RN&R’s news editor position was open; I applied and got the job. Not quite six months later, the editor departed, and the owner offered me that job. I accepted—and became the editor of my hometown weekly a few weeks shy of my 25th birthday.
I left not quite two years later, in the scary craziness that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. I moved to Las Vegas and went to work for Las Vegas CityLife as a political reporter and news editor. A little more than a year later, I was offered the job of editor at CityLife’s sister newspaper, the Tucson Weekly. I spent 10 years there—and then my now-husband and I decided to move to Palm Springs to start the Independent. That happened little more than nine years ago.
Through the years, I kept in touch with the RN&R. My writing would show up in the newspaper from time to time; I maintained friendships with many of the paper’s reporters. I was a regular online reader, and always picked up a copy when I was in Reno to visit family. I stayed in contact the owners, Jeff von Kaenel and Deborah Redmond; I even served with Jeff on a board for a couple of years.
Then came March 2020.
The RN&R, like a lot of newspapers, suspended its print edition. Because almost all of the newspaper’s ad revenue vanished instantly, the staff was let go. In the almost two years since, the paper has had a digital comeback, of sorts, thanks largely to the work of Frank X. Mullen, a longtime investigative reporter (and Nevada Newspaper Hall of Famer), who came out of retirement to help the RN&R survive.
This brings us to last April, when my husband I went home to visit our parents for the first time since the pandemic arrived. I kept seeing RN&R Best Of plaques on restaurant walls, and came across a couple of empty RN&R news racks. Also, it seemed like every friend we saw asked me a variation of the question: “Hey, do you know if the Reno News & Review is ever coming back?” I replied that Frank X. Mullen was doing some great stuff online, but beyond that, I didn’t know.
Reno was missing the RN&R.
This led me to email Jeff and Deborah when I got home to Palm Springs. I thanked them for keeping the paper alive for so long, and told them to reach out if there was anything I could to help out the RN&R.
Jeff and Deborah replied—and that started off the series of conversations that culminated in Coachella Valley Independent LLC becoming the RN&R’s owner as of today.
As I said in a letter to RN&R readers that was posted last week: “Never in a million years did I think we’d get to where we are now, with my company becoming the RN&R’s new owner and steward. I reached out to see if I could offer a helping hand as someone with Reno roots and a lot of newspaper experience—not to acquire anything. But the universe had other plans.”
Rest assured: As I start my fourth stint with the Reno News & Review, nothing will change with the Independent. I’ll still be here as the editor and publisher; these Indy Digests will keep arriving from yours truly in your inbox twice a week. I may be a little more frazzled than normal, and I’ll be spending more time in Reno (not a bad thing, since my mom and my husband’s dad live there)—but Palm Springs is home, and I love the Independent more than ever.
From the Independent
Restaurant News Bites: A Look at Palm Springs’ Food Ware Ordinance; TKB’s New Digs; and More!
By Charles Drabkin
January 28, 2022
A new Thai restaurant in Rancho Mirage; bidding farewell to Frankie’s Italian Bakery; Chad Gardner’s growing empire; and more!
The Venue Report, February 2022: Toto, ‘Jersey Boys,’ Built to Spill—and More!
By Matt King
January 31, 2022
A look at some of the Coachella Valley’s top entertainment offerings in February.
February Astronomy: Jupiter Departs the Evening Sky, Allowing the Stars to Shine—Literally
By Robert Victor
January 31, 2022
February’s skies feature a lot of planets in the early morning hours.
Righteously Good: Season 2 of ‘Gemstones’ Offers a Lot of Weird, Profane Hilarity
By Bob Grimm
January 31, 2022
The Righteous Gemstones proves there’s something supremely funny about a bunch of born-again Christian televangelists dropping constant F-bombs.
• The amount of SARS-CoV-2 in Palm Springs’ wastewater continues to decline. Here are the results of testing done last Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 24 and 25. As the report states: “The number of copies recorded at the City’s wastewater treatment plant continues to decrease. As you can see from the chart the numbers are still much higher than where we were in October, but the third straight week of declining numbers is encouraging.” Fingers crossed the numbers now—which we’ll learn about next Monday—are even better.
• The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine now has full FDA approval, as well as—like the Pfizer vaccine before it—a silly new name nobody will probably ever use. ABC News explains: “The FDA reviewed months of additional follow-up data submitted by Moderna to confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19. The FDA also analyzed and kept watch for serious side effects that have proved to be very rare. The vaccine includes a warning about a rare type of heart inflammation that mostly occurs in young men following the second dose. Most cases are mild and resolve quickly. Additionally, FDA reviewed the company’s manufacturing process and facilities. … With full approval, Moderna will now market the vaccine under the brand name, Spikevax. It is the first FDA-approved product for the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company.”
• From our partners at CalMatters: As the state’s Employment Development Department attempts to solve one problem, it’s creating another—and hurting people in need as a result. Emily Hoeven explains: “The (EDD), which last month froze about 345,000 disability insurance claims it flagged as suspicious, announced Thursday that it suspects that a whopping 98% of the 27,000 medical providers associated with those claims are fraudulent. So far, EDD said, only 485 providers have managed to verify their identity. The agency couldn’t say how much money it might have paid for those scam claims. … The agency noted Thursday that some legitimate providers and claimants were ensnared in the mass freeze and will have to go through additional verification procedures before payments can resume. One such claimant is Erick Robles, 35, a Hollister resident and contractor who went on disability this fall. His payments stopped in December, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, and he said that EDD told him ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ (Said Robles): ‘This is like an unfair science experiment.’”
• Riverside County courts have extended the suspension of new jury trials until Feb. 10, because of, well, you know. Read the order here, if you’re so inclined.
• Every so often, a headline comes along that makes me say, and I quote, “WTF?” Except the phrase isn’t abbreviated. Anyway, here’s the latest one, from Politico: “Suicide hotline shares data with for-profit spinoff, raising ethical questions.” Some details: “For Crisis Text Line, an organization with financial backing from some of Silicon Valley’s biggest players, its control of what it has called ‘the largest mental health data set in the world’ highlights new dimensions of the tech privacy debates roiling Washington: Giant companies like Facebook and Google have built great fortunes based on masses of deeply personal data. But information of equal or greater sensitivity is also in the hands of nonprofit groups that fall outside federal regulations on commercial businesses—with little outside control over where that data ends up. Ethics and privacy experts contacted by POLITICO saw several potential problems with the arrangement.”
• Speaking of WTF: WTF is the Biden administration doing here?! From the Los Angeles Times: “The driver of an armored car carrying $712,000 in cash from licensed marijuana dispensaries was heading into Barstow on a Mojave Desert freeway in November when San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies pulled him over. They interrogated him, seized the money and turned it over to the FBI. A few weeks later, deputies stopped the same driver in Rancho Cucamonga, took an additional $350,000 belonging to legal pot stores and gave that cash to the FBI too. Now, the FBI is trying to confiscate the nearly $1.1-million bounty, which it might share with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The FBI says the money is tied to federal drug or money-laundering crimes, but has specified no unlawful conduct and charged no one with a crime. The cash seizures—and another from the same trucking company in Kansas—raise questions about whether the Justice Department under President Biden is moving to disrupt the operations of licensed marijuana businesses in California and other states where pot is legal.”
• Do alarm systems really work this way? Or, should I say, DON’T work this way? From The Press Enterprise comes a story that sounds like it’s part of the plot of every heist movie ever made: “Riverside’s so-called snake burglar has slinked through another business, this time largely avoiding detection by motion sensors to steal silver valued at $15,000. Crown Gold Exchange on Magnolia Avenue at Tyler Street was hit on Jan. 14 after someone burrowed through the wall of a vacant neighboring business, co-owner Cesar Meyer said on Thursday, Jan. 27. … Meyer said he wonders if the burglar is familiar with alarm systems. … The alarm didn’t sound until the burglar rose slightly as he left back through the hole. ‘I think he’s a piece of dirt, but he’s avoiding detection, so he definitely knows what he is doing,’ Meyer said.”
• And finally … if you, like the rest of the world, have gotten hooked on Wordle, you should know game has a new owner. NBC News says: “The New York Times purchased Wordle, the popular online puzzle that has become the latest gaming addiction, the company announced Monday. The newspaper company, famous for its own crossword puzzle known to stump even those with the most in-depth lexicon, said it was ‘thrilled to announce’ the purchase in a news release. It bought Wordle for an undisclosed ‘low seven figures,’ The New York Times reported. Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn-based software engineer who launched the game in October, said the response to his creation has been ‘incredible.'” One quibble: How can something you play once a day be a “gaming addiction”?
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