CVIndependent

Sun12152019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I’ll be honest: As I write this column, I am exhausted. November has been one hell of a month here at the Coachella Valley Independent. Here are a few highlights:

• We were again fortunate enough to have a booth at the Greater Palm Springs Pride festival, this year on Nov. 2 and 3. During the two-day fest, we gave out 500 magnetic chip clips with the Independent’s logo, as well as many hundreds of newspapers. Thanks to all of you who stopped by and shared a kind word or three. Also, a personal thank you to Kevin Fitzgerald and Matt King, who helped me out at the booth.

• The following weekend, the Independent hosted the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual Publishers’ Retreat at the Colony Palms Hotel. Our group of publishers—from newspapers in locales ranging from Santa Barbara to Milwaukee, and from Boston to Little Rock—gathered for two days to discuss the media landscape, share ideas, and commiserate over great meals and a cocktail or two. Thanks to all of my fellow publishers who came to Palm Springs; to all of the wonderful people at the Colony Palms; to Willie Rhine and Lucy Kent at Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, which hosted our Friday happy hour; and to our friends at Palm Springs Speaks, who provided tickets to Robert Reich’s speech.

• Finally … we put together our Best of Coachella Valley issue. While I could thank many, many people who helped us produce the fun and informative issue, I have limited space here, so I’ll limit my expressions of gratitude to just two.

First: Beth Allen, our fantastic graphic designer, is the true Best of Coachella Valley MVP. Not only did she design this year’s excellent Best of Coachella Valley logo; she laid out the entire BOCV package for the print edition (which is NOT easy, given the number of moving parts), and she even designed a few late-arriving advertisements. Heck, she wrote three of our staff picks, too. Thanks, Beth; we couldn’t have done this issue without you. Literally.

Second: We also couldn’t do the BOCV issue without you, our amazingly astute and community-minded readers. Thank you for taking the time to head to CVIndependent.com and vote in the two rounds of balloting; I know it can be daunting to face down a slate of almost 130 categories. But you did—and the result is, by far, the valley’s best “Best Of” slate of winners and finalists. Your support is why, as the Independent enters its eighth full year of existence, we do what we do.

Happy holidays, and as always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.—and be sure to pick up our December/Best of Coachella Valley print edition, hitting the streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

I’ll never forget June 26, 2015—the day that gay marriage became legal across the entire United States, thanks to a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

It’s a day I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, and the sheer joy felt as everyone gathered in downtown Palm Springs to rally and celebrate was, in a word, glorious. We’ve come so far, most of us thought.

Now, not even 4 1/2 years later, the mood of many of the people who gathered to celebrate in Palm Springs that night is decidedly different. Today, the mood is somber. And fearful.

This mood has almost everything to do with actions taken by the Trump administration, which has been downright awful to and for the LGBTQ community. For starters: The U.S. Supreme Court is currently debating whether it should be legal for employers to fire employees based on their sexuality and/or trans status. Let me restate that slightly differently: The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2019, is currently debating whether it should be legal for employers to discriminate against employees on a basis that has nothing to do with job performance. The Trump administration, for the record, thinks it should be legal for employers to engage in such discrimination.

Of course, that’s not the only matter involving rights that is now up in the air under the Trump administration. Trans men and women are now banned from joining the military. Abortion rights are under attack nationwide—and it’s possible the U.S. Supreme Court could wind up deliberating the issue, even though Roe v. Wade has been supposedly settled law for 46 years. Even gay marriage could get relitigated, if the Trump administration gets its way.

All of this is why, when the LGBTQ community gathers to celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride, the usually celebratory mood will be tinged with a bit of sorrow. Of anger. Of fear.

Fortunately, there are a lot of local reasons to justify the aforementioned celebratory mood at Pride. You can read about two of those reasons—amazing LGBTQ locals working to improve and expand our local music scene—in stories we recently posted at CVIndependent.com: Brad Guth, the openly gay owner of The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, a former (and current, sort of) metal bar; and DJ Sugarfree, aka Noemi Rodriguez, one of the valley’s top DJs, who is taking steps to improve and diversify the local underground music scene. Those stories are also included in the special Pride Issue package of our November print edition.

As always, thanks for reading; contact me if you have questions or comments. Also, be sure to pick up the November 2019 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting newsstands this week—and be sure to drop by our booth at Palm Springs Pride!

Published in Editor's Note

October is a big month for the Coachella Valley Independent.

Late in the month, we’ll mark the Independent’s seventh birthday. We posted our first bit of content at CVIndependent.com on Oct. 25, 2012, which means that on Oct. 25, 2019, we’ll start our eighth year of publication.

This is also the month in which we mark the anniversary of the monthly print edition: After quarterlies in April and July of 2013, we started our monthly print-publication schedule in October 2013. Our October 2019 issue is our 75th print edition!

While these milestones are certainly worth celebrating … frankly, we’re too busy to party. (However, if you want to give us a present to thank us for all of this great content … that’d be swell. Just click on the tip-jar icon. Thank you!)

For one thing … we’re busy because it’s Best of Coachella Valley voting season. Thanks to all of you who cast your ballots during the nomination round! On Monday, Sept. 30, we’ll announce this year’s slate of finalists in the 130 or so categories, and start the second and final round of voting.

Voting will take place through Monday, Oct. 28. You can only vote once—yeah, we’re different from other publications in that way; we prefer having a true and honest slate of finalists and winners over racking up the extra page views we’d get if we allowed ballot-box-stuffing. We’ll announce the winners at CVIndependent.com on Monday, Nov. 25, and in our December print edition. Congrats to all the finalists, and thanks in advance to all of you who will vote!

For another thing … we’re busy adding writers and content. Astute readers have noticed some new bylines in recent months—and we’re still adding more.

Do you think you have what it takes to be an Independent contributor? If so, drop me a line. We’re particularly looking for people to write about music, the visual arts, marijuana and the outdoors/hiking, plus we’re always looking for people who can write compelling, local features.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: Unlike some other, skeezier publications, we pay our writers. Yes, we pay real money! If you’re interested, drop me a line.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, comments or suggestions—and be sure to pick up the October 2019 print edition, hitting newsstands this week.

Published in Editor's Note

Here’s some information on two important goings-on this month:

• Best of Coachella Valley voting is now under way!

First-round (nomination) voting in our annual readers’ poll is taking place through Friday, Sept. 13. Click on the link above, and you'll be sent to the open ballot—you fill in the blank in each category.

The top vote-getters will advance to the final round of voting, which will take place at CVIndependent.com from Monday, Sept. 30, through Monday, Oct. 28. The Best of Coachella Valley results will be announced at CVIndependent.com on Monday, Nov. 25, and in our special December print edition.

We run our readers’ poll a little bit differently than those other publications run theirs: For the Best of Coachella Valley, we ask readers to vote only once per round. The goal of other “Best Of” readers’ polls is for the publication to get as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites over and over again to vote. Not us: We’d rather have readers vote just once per round, so our list of winners can be as fair as possible.

If you haven’t voted already … what are you waiting for? Get yourself to CVIndependent.com!

• Some bad news for local media on the circulation front: Kroger, the Cincinnati-based supermarket behemoth, has decided not to renew its agreement with DistribuTech to distribute free publications in its stores around the country.

What does this mean? Barring a change of heart, or Kroger making some sort of arrangement with another distribution company (both of which are unlikely), as of sometime in September, you’ll no longer be able to pick up the print version of the Independent—or any other free publication—at the Ralph’s stores in the Coachella Valley.

This move by Kroger is a very bad thing for both the media and the public. As our friends at the Memphis Flyer in Tennessee put it: “Kroger was providing a true community service with its free publications distribution … because ‘free’ information is often the only information available for a great many of our citizens. They may not be able to afford a subscription to the daily paper or the latest issue of Vanity Fair, but they can pick up (publications like the Independent) on their way out of the grocery store and get some insight into what’s happening in their community.”

As a result of all this, the Independent will lose five very good distribution spots; the good news is that leaves about 385 other locations where people can pick up the newspaper (including the four local Albertsons stores). If you’re one of the people who usually picks us up at Ralph’s, and you need help finding the paper elsewhere, you have two options: One, click on “Find a Copy” here at CVIndependent.com; or two, email me or call me at 760-904-4208, and I’ll personally let you know the closest distribution spots to you.

One more thing: Please feel free to express your displeasure about this decision to management at your local Ralph’s. Be polite—the decision came from corporate headquarters, not local management—but if enough people complain, perhaps those complaints will make their way back to Cincinnati and change some minds.

As always, thanks for reading—and if you have anything to say, don’t hesitate to email me at the address below. Also, be sure to pick up the September 2019 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

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

In the spring of 2013, my friend Shann Carr invited me to brunch.

Shann at the time was the volunteer coordinator at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, and I was just putting the finishing touches, if memory serves, on the first print edition of the Independent. The brunch—on the patio of the late, lamented Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge—was primarily for Shann’s volunteers, a group of fantastic people Shann thought I should get to know.

At that brunch, Shann introduced me to a music blogger by the name of Brian Blueskye. We chatted a bit, and he expressed interest in doing some freelancing for the Independent.

In the six years since, Brian became the Independent’s first employee (besides myself). He grew as a writer and reporter, winning a national journalism award on his way to becoming the best music journalist in the Coachella Valley. This is the 72nd print edition of the Independent; he’s had multiple bylines 71 of them—all but that very first issue I was finishing up when I met him. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that he’s become one of my best friends.

Because of all this, Brian’s departure from the Independent is decidedly bittersweet: The Desert Sun has, quite wisely, hired him to be the paper’s new arts and entertainment reporter, on the heels of 40-year veteran Bruce Fessier’s retirement. On one hand, the Independent will deeply miss Brian’s work; he’s been such a vital part of the Independent’s DNA that he can’t be replaced. I also have deep concerns about The Desert Sun’s parent company, Gannett, in terms of both ethics and stability. But on the other hand, I am elated for Brian, because The Desert Sun is compensating him at a level that the Independent right now can not afford—at a level that Brian definitely deserves.

While Brian will be missed within these pages, I am excited about the changes we’re making following his departure. Kevin Fitzgerald, whose byline has been appearing in the Independent for almost as long as Brian’s has, is taking our open staff position. Like Brian, Kevin has a national journalism award to his credit for his work in the Independent. While Brian primarily covered music, Kevin’s focus will be on news and features—meaning the Independent’s news coverage will get a decided boost in both quantity and quality. I am elated to welcome Kevin on board as the Independent’s second-ever employee.

As for music and arts coverage, we’re bringing on some new regular freelancers to fill the void—and trust me, they’re going to do a fantastic job. While we’re still fleshing out these additions (drop me a line if you think you should be one of them), here’s info on two of them: Matt King, at the ripe old age of 17, will be covering music; in fact, his first piece, on The Regrettes, appears in the July print edition on newsstands now, and will be posted here at CVIndependent.com on Monday. Don’t underestimate him because of his age; Matt is an excellent writer and musician who knows the local music scene well. As for our other addition: Watch CVIndependent.com for the Independent debut of Andy Lara, a longtime music and culture writer who’s previously written for the Coachella Valley Arts Scene and LAist.

We’ll have more news on all these exciting changes soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent, and be sure to pick up that aforementioned 2019 print edition. Feel free to email me with feedback at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

One of the great joys of running a modern newspaper—and yes, I am being extremely sarcastic—is dealing with the technical side of running a good, functional news website.

While I am mostly happy with how we’ve done with CVIndependent.com, we’ve certainly faced challenges over the years. One of those challenges involves how we’ve dealt with photo galleries.

For the first three years or so of CVIndependent.com, we posted all of our event photo galleries on Flickr, and embedded them on our site using a plug-in program. (Why? It worked well; it saved disk space. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) Well, at some point in 2015, the Flickr folks changed something (eff you, Yahoo!), meaning the plug-in stopped working. The galleries were still visible on Flickr, but not on our own website … which was kind of a problem. From that point on, we hosted our own photo galleries, and I put the task of going back and fixing the now-missing photo galleries on my to-do list.

Then, well, four years went by. You know how it goes.

I was finally spurred to act when Flickr was sold to a new company, and that new company decided it was capping the number of photos for users at 1,000—unless said users ponied up some cash. Well, I didn’t want to pony up some cash for a service we weren’t really using anymore. So about six weeks ago, I started the process of retrieving all the archived photos from Flickr; sorting all the photos back into their proper galleries (because the mass download from Flickr was just huge files of hundreds of unsorted photos each); resizing the photos for our website; and, finally, uploading the galleries into our website’s archives.

I am about two-thirds of the way through that final step. The process has, been in a word, tedious. (Sympathetic? Free to send bourbon.) However, it’s also been oddly nostalgic. Yeah, we’re only talking about photos that are four to seven years old—but, my, how some things have changed. I’ve teared up upon seeing photos of people who are no longer with us … and I’ve grimaced when seeing pics of people who have been disgraced. (Like those photos of Kevin Spacey yukking it up with Will Ferrell at a charity tennis tournament back in March 2014. Or that piece about then-Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developer John Wessman appearing together in February 2013 at the beginning of the Desert Fashion Plaza’s demolition.)

This task has reminded me of that old saying that newspapers are the “rough draft of history.” We’re proud of the rough draft of the Coachella Valley’s history we’ve been doing since October 2012 … and we look forward, with your support, to continuing that draft for many years to come. Want to help? Go to our Supporters of the Independent page, and consider throwing us a few bucks so we can continue producing this free-to-all rough draft.

Thank you for reading—and be sure to grab a copy of the June 2019 print edition, on newsstands now. Feel free to send any questions or feedback to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

I joined the Coachella Valley Independent in 2013, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The Independent has provided me with many opportunities in my journalism career.

Thus, it’s bittersweet to say that as of June 19, I will be stepping down from my position as the assistant editor/staff writer here at the Independent. I have accepted the position of entertainment, culture and celebrity reporter at The Desert Sun.

In the spring of 2013, when I began writing for the Independent, this was a very new publication. The first issue, a quarterly, had just hit newsstands; we would not go monthly in print for six more months. I was new to the journalism profession and didn’t know what to expect. Now, six years later, as I look back at what the Independent has accomplished, as well as my own accomplishments, it feels incredible.

This publication has won three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. The depth of news coverage we have been able to do, with limited resources, on local elections, state legislation, homelessness, LGBT issues and a broad number of other subjects makes me proud. I’m honored to have been part of this publication.

I’ve enjoyed an incredible number of editorial opportunities in our local entertainment scene, covering both Coachella and Stagecoach every year since 2013; interviewing a long list of nationally touring bands; and getting to cover events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival. I’ve also covered numerous great local bands. Some of them have said, “This is our first interview,” when I went to meet with them; many of them are still together in the local music scene, doing great things—and even enjoying some success outside of the valley.

All along, I knew that if I wanted to advance my career, it would probably require that I move outside of the area—which presented a dilemma: I’ve called the Coachella Valley home for 15 years now, and I love it here. That’s why I am so thrilled about this job at The Desert Sun.

On the flip side, I’m sad to be leaving a publication I’ve grown along with over the last six years. This publication has taken on such a diverse range of coverage and is an important voice in our local community, from Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” column to Robert Victor’s monthly astronomy column, and from all the great food and beverage coverage to the fantastic in-depth arts and entertainment coverage.

The mission statement of this publication says it all: “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.” A lot of work and sacrifice goes into putting that mission statement into action, and I hope that people will continue to support the Independent for a long time to come.

Published in Community Voices

After meeting numerous famous and powerful people during almost 25 years in journalism, I’m rarely star-struck or intimidated these days.

In fact, it’s happened to me just twice since I’ve called the Coachella Valley home. The first time was when I met Joyce Bulifant—semi-regular on the classic Match Game back in the 1970s, and co-star of one of my favorite movies ever, Airplane.

The second time was when I met Barbara Keller.

For the life of me, I have no idea why I was starstruck when I met Joyce Bulifant—I love her, but I’ve been left unflummoxed by bigger stars before. But I do understand why I was intimidated by Barbara Keller, when I somehow found myself sitting next to her at an Equality California Awards host committee meeting: I knew I was in the presence of a person who was truly great.

Barbara Keller passed away at the age of 75 on Monday, April 15.

Barbara was as kind and welcoming as a person could be, but I was star-struck by her reputation, her gravitas, her works. I knew how many local nonprofits and charities she supported—with her money and a whole lot of her time. I’d heard tales about her extreme kindness from friends. And I’d known, by seeing her with my own eyes at various events (almost always with her fantastic husband, Jerry), how simply fabulous she was.

It’s common when someone well-known dies for them to be showered with exaggerated levels of praise and accolades. However, regarding Barbara Keller, there’s no exaggeration: She deserves each and every bit of the love and appreciation she’s received. She was truly a giant of the Coachella Valley. Her death is a huge loss to the community.

“This morning we lost our one and only Barbara Keller. The love she brought to the Desert AIDS Project family changed us forever,” said Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman, in a statement on the day she passed away. “She had been our board’s leader, the Steve Chase’s chief and our clients and mission’s ultimate champion. Words fail to express the gratitude I have for having been the recipient of her friendship, love and mentorship. Barbara Keller equals humanitarian.”

My sincere sympathies go out to Jerry and the rest of her family, as well as her work family at Lulu California Bistro and Acqua California Bistro.

We’ll have more on the life of Barbara Keller in the Independent soon. In the meantime, I invite you to pick up the May 2019 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting the streets this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

April is, in my mind, the weirdest month of the year in the Coachella Valley.

April is a series of contradictions. It’s the craziest month of the year in terms of visitors, thanks to Coachella, Stagecoach, The Dinah and the White Party … yet the snowbirds are starting to leave, and we know May will all of a sudden bring relative calm (and blazing heat). The hotels are all full … yet during Coachella, in the west valley, the nights are fairly quiet.

Here at the Independent, if it’s April, that means it’s time for our annual Music Issue, and that means Brian Blueskye has been crazy-busy working on all of our extra coverage. This year’s issue, however, is a little different from previous Music Issues: Rather than focusing exclusively on the two big festivals, Brian decided to tie things to the local music scene, including the increasing popularity of Latin music. Read all of Brian’s fantastic coverage in the print edition and/or here at CVIndependent.com in the upcoming days.

Our coverage, of course, isn’t all about music; as always, our great columns, news stories, food coverage and arts writing are here, too—and I’d like to draw your attention to one story in particular, because it’s near and dear to my heart.

A couple of weeks ago, we published a story from our partners at CALmatters about the mental-health crisis in California. At the heart of the story is the heartbreaking tale of Elizabeth Brown, a brilliant, gifted college student who killed herself last year. The piece, in gut-wrenching detail, illustrates how our medical system often fails to properly care for people dealing with mental illness, and examines (so far futile) efforts by the state government to fix the problem.

This story hits close to home for me, because I suffer from depression. (What I have to deal with, thank goodness, pales in comparison to the severe problems Elizabeth Brown had.) My life serves as a perfect example of the insidiousness of depression and other mental illnesses: On the outside, things are going well for me. I have an amazing husband, great friends, an exciting social life and a rewarding career with purpose. Yet there are days when it takes every ounce of willpower I have to get going.

I bring this all up not because of me—I am fine, thanks to an amazing support structure, the fact that my illness is not that severe, and access to medication if needed—but because of you: If you often feel down, or anxious, or if you tend to isolate yourself, please get help. Talk to someone. If things get really bad, please use the resources mentioned at the end of the aforementioned story.

If you don’t feel down or anxious … well, someone you love probably does feel that way. Make sure you’re there for your depressed friends and loved ones—and understand that depression often just happens, no matter how things seem to be going in a depressed person’s life. Like I said, mental illness really is insidious.

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Email me with any feedback you may have, and be sure to pick up the April print edition, hitting newsstands this week.

Published in Editor's Note

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