Ever since I was an intern at the Reno News & Review in the summer of 1996, I have been something of a newsweekly nerd.
Every time I’d visit a new city, I’d scour newsracks and bookstores for the local newsweekly. I love the mix of hard-hitting local news, compelling commentaries and unmatched arts-and-culture coverage.
Sometime in the mid 2000s, I visited the Coachella Valley for the first time, when my significant other and I came to visit a friend. I did my usual find-the-newsweekly thing … and I couldn’t find one. There was the Desert Post Weekly, a weak Gannett-owned faux-newsweekly in which the locally produced stories could be counted on one hand. There was The Desert Entertainer, which seemed to specialize in coverage of events that took place at the local casinos. And that was it.
Meanwhile, Garrett and I started to fall in love with the place—the culture, the mountains, the diversity, and so many other things.
I decided to look into starting a real newsweekly in the Coachella Valley. Over several years, I crunched numbers, did interviews and got bids; I put together a business plan; and in the spring of 2008, I presented the plan to Wick Communications, the company I have worked for since November 2001, and for which I have been the editor of the Tucson Weekly since January 2003.
My plan was to start a print weekly, the Coachella Valley Independent, with a staff of about seven folks—in other words, I wanted to hit the ground running. However, the budgeted first-year financial loss—in the neighborhood of a quarter-million bucks—was unappetizing to the Wick folks, and understandably, they said no, especially since the economy was at that point showing sides of weirdness. Several months later, we’d all begin to realize that weirdness was actually the first manifestations of the Great Recession.
In the years since, I have visited the Coachella Valley several times every year, falling in love with the area a little more each time. During every trip, I’d think of that business plan. And I’d pick up every publication I could find. Some publications—the Desert Star Weekly and then later, the Coachella Valley Weekly—came. Others—like the LGBT-focused The Bottom Line—went. While some of the valley’s publications had their positive moments (as well as not-so-positive ones), I learned some of them were selling editorial articles to advertisers—and not labeling those articles as advertorials. That, combined with the continuing mediocrity of the daily Desert Sun, was disheartening.
As it stands right now, if a Coachella Valley reader wants honest community news coverage, or an unbiased food review, or just good, compelling writing, where can they go?
Enter the Coachella Valley Independent.
I, along with my partner, Garrett, have decided it’s time to make the leap. I have given my notice at the Tucson Weekly, and in January, we’re moving to the Coachella Valley so I can dedicate myself to the Independent full-time. We’re winging it as we do this on our own; the plan is to spend a good chunk of the year building up the publication online, and if all goes well, in the fall, we’ll launch a print version.
Seeing as we’re building this from nothing, there will be growing pains. We started the website from scratch, and as of now, it’s probably about one-third built. (Call it our very, very beta version.) Most of the content currently on the site is nowhere as in-depth as the content will be when we’re here full-time. And we’re doing this on a budget that makes the word “shoestring” sound generous.
But we’re going to pull this off. We love good, honest, true, fun journalism, and the positive effect it can have on communities. As we say on the (very, very beta version’s) “about” page: “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. For example: Some other publications in this valley do puff-piece reviews or feature stories on advertisers to make said advertisers happy. We will never, ever do that. If we lose an advertiser due to an unflattering story, a negative review or something else, so be it.”
Welcome to the Coachella Valley Independent.