CVIndependent

Mon04222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

I was dismayed by a recent post someone made in a local Facebook group. The gist of it was that this man was lonely and unable to find a partner, decent Chinese food and enough good friends in the cliquish town of Palm Springs—and he was debating moving somewhere else.

While I am complete agreement with him regarding the Chinese food, the rest of his post … well, it bummed me out and confused me.

First, my heart goes out to him; loneliness is one of the worst feelings a human can experience. Second … I’ve had the exact opposite experience in the Coachella Valley: This is one of the most wonderful, welcoming and exciting places in which I’ve lived.

Because I was partnered when I moved here, I can’t speak to the dating portion of his experience—but I have not found the Coachella Valley to be cliquish at all. A clique is defined as “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.” While there are, in fact, many small groups of people with shared or other features in common who spend time together here, I’ve been welcomed with open arms into numerous groups I’ve endeavored to join. I’ve forged lasting friendships through my softball league. I’ve made friends and contacts through the business groups I’ve joined. I’ve made countless buddies via my work, and the nonprofits I support, and simply by being an active member of this community.

I think the Independent adequately represents the vibe of the Coachella Valley—and I can’t imagine any reasonable person would fail to be charmed and welcomed by the community reflected within these pages, online and in print. Looking at recent coverage: From Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” columns on a young writer who overcame a debilitating illness and a young radio host who says movies saved his life, to Robert Victor’s implorations in his astronomy column to join him and the other members of the Astronomical Society of the Desert, to Stephen Berger’s exploration of the community effort that led to Desert X, to Brian Blueskye’s ongoing coverage of the amazing talent within our local music community, to our food and drink writers’ continuous tough but fair coverage of our slowly growing culinary scene … considering all of this coverage, how could the Coachella Valley possibly be the closed-minded, unwelcoming place this person sees?

I hope this man finds happiness and companionship in his next place of residence—the kind of happiness and companionship the Coachella Valley has bestowed upon me.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, criticisms, compliments or comments. Also, be sure to pick up the March 2019 print edition, hitting the streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

A confession: I’ve been in a bit of a funk as of late.

I was dismayed by, among other things, the seemingly continually depressing news from the newspaper world. To the west, the once-mighty LA Weekly is in dire straits—with print editions down to 24 pages thanks to the ineptitude of new ownership. To the north, Oakland’s East Bay Express recently laid off the majority of its staff due to an employment-related legal decision that did not go its way. And here in the valley, the owner of The Desert Sun, Gannett, just laid off a bunch of reporters, and is in the midst of a takeover attempt by a hedge-fund-owned company known for gobbling up newspapers and making deep cuts to improve profitability.

Sigh.

Then I started to assemble our February print issue … and I started to feel a lot better about things.

Yeah, the state of the journalism world still stinks (although we’re doing OK here), but it was impossible not to be inspired by all of the great things happening in our community. The aforementioned February print edition is our Art Issue, thanks to the behemoth cultural events February brings—Modernism Week and Art Palm Springs. Beyond stories on those events, which will be posted next week, we have coverage of upcoming happenings ranging from a wine event benefiting the amazing Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, to the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival (more wine!), and from the classic 1960s group The Lettermen playing at the McCallum Theatre, to the traveling HUMP! porn short-film festival (yes, you read that correctly) coming to the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our very own Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, which is an event I love (yes, I am biased, but I’d love it if I didn’t have anything to do with it), because it places a spotlight on amazing drinks created by the valley’s most talented bartenders—and does so while benefiting two great charities: Desert AIDS Project, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent—and be sure to pick up our February 2019 print edition, hitting streets this week. I hope our stories uplift you like they did me.

Published in Editor's Note

As the Independent officially begins its seventh year, I want to talk about something important: Charts.

Yes. Charts.

Our January 2019 print edition is hitting streets this week, and we originally had a different cover story planned for it. However, the piece got delayed, so we went to Plan B: an intriguing piece we had posted at CVIndependent.com about the California School Dashboard (caschooldashboard.org), the recently updated school-ratings system from the California Department of Education.

The story came to us from our partners at CALmatters, “a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.” (It’s a fantastic organization, and I highly recommend supporting CALmatters with a few bucks if possible; we run one or two stories from them per week at CVIndependent.com.) However, the piece was written for a statewide audience—and as you may have noticed, California is kind of big, what with the 39.5 million people and stuff.

Therefore, we decided to take the statewide piece; add local data from the California School Dashboard; and figure out a way to present said data in a compelling, easy-to-understand way. I called Beth Allen, our fantastic cover/cover story designer, to discuss the matter.

That’s where the charts come in.

Making charts like this is no easy task. The data has to be pulled from the website, checked, compellingly designed, and checked again. Given there are 78 schools within the three local school districts, and the state measured four to six criteria for each, that means there were about 350 data points we had to track. (In order to keep our sanity somewhat in check, we pulled and presented the data from only the schools within the three school districts here.)

The most taxing portion of this work fell to Beth—and not only did she refuse to complain; she was excited about it, because she understood how compelling and important this data is. As we discovered, 37 percent of the schools within our local districts had the lowest rating in at least one category. That’s not good.

We felt this is information our readers should know. That’s why we spent all the time pulling the data, crunching the numbers, getting the extra print space to present the data, laying it all out, and checking it all. This is not easy work—but good journalism isn’t supposed to be easy, is it?

See the results for yourself with the revised version of the story, charts included, here.

As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions, concerns or feedback—and be sure to check out the January 2019 print edition.

Published in Editor's Note

It’s been a fascinating month of November here at the Independent, with the election and, of course, the Best of Coachella Valley. But I get to all of the greatness that is the Best of Coachella Valley stuff, I need to bring up a couple of stories we posted last week, because they have to do with one worst tragedies in modern California history—and the fact similar tragedies are likely to keep happening over and over again due to our new reality.

As of this writing, the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County has claimed 88 lives—a number that is sure to rise, since more than 150 people have not yet been accounted for. More than 18,700 buildings—the majority of those homes—have been destroyed, including almost the entire town of Paradise.

Let’s put that in perspective: Paradise and Desert Hot Springs are about the same size in terms of population. Paradise is larger than Rancho Mirage. And it’s essentially gone.

One of the stories came to us compliments of our friends at the Chico News & Review. It starts out with one of the most harrowing, terrifying and heartbreaking stories of survival and loss that you’ll ever read. It concludes with a link to a GoFundMe page for Chico News & Review staffers who lost their homes in the Camp Fire. This one holds a special place in my heart—not only are these fellow newspaper people; I started my career working for the News & Review company, so I ask you to contribute if you can. Thank you.

Meanwhile, life goes on here in our amazing Coachella Valley—and that brings me to the Independent’s fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll.

A record number of people voted in this year’s two rounds of polling, and we’re excited to present the results of that vote, along with features on some of the winners, and some additional “Best Of” selections by Independent staff and contributors.

I have a lot of people to thank here, including Beth Allen, who did the layout for the whole Best of Coachella Valley section in the print edition; and Brian Blueskye and Kevin Fitzgerald, who contributed our features. Huge thanks also go to all of our fantastic advertisers—and most of all, to the readers who navigated nearly 130 categories on our ballot to vote.

Please join us to celebrate all of our winners at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show, taking place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub in Palm Springs. After we give out the awards, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music will perform; admission is free.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. I encourage you to pick up the December 2018 print edition, on newsstands now. Finally … have a fantastic and fruitful holiday season!

Published in Editor's Note

The November 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent—our annual Pride Issue—is hitting streets this week.

But before I discuss all of the great stuff you’ll find therein … an apology: Election Day 2018 is almost here—and I am not happy with how we’ve covered things this year.

It’s not a matter of quality; I am satisfied with the coverage that we have done. The amount of election coverage we’ve published has been substantial. Locally, we’ve covered the Desert Hot Springs city election; the Palm Desert city election; the District 28 Senate race between Joy Silver and Jeff Stone; the already-decided District 4 Riverside County Board of Supervisors seat; and the already-decided Rancho  Mirage city election. We’ve also done some coverage on election matters involving Desert Healthcare District and the city of Indio, and soon, we will have coverage of the Cathedral City election posted. Finally, we’ve published a fair amount of state election news from our partners at CALmatters.

While that is a lot of election coverage … it’s not enough. As the calendar turned from 2017 to 2018, we set an internal goal of covering all local city elections taking place this year, and we failed. I am embarrassed that we didn’t get to covering the city elections in La Quinta, Coachella and Indian Wells. I also wish we’d have been able to do more state coverage—but we just ran out of time and resources.

For that, I apologize. We need to do better, and we are exploring ways to improve moving forward.

Now, on to the good stuff.

Our special Pride print section includes two stories directly relating to the Greater Palm Springs Pride events taking place in November, and two stories regarding fantastic LGBT-related events happening later in the month. (Speaking of Palm Springs Pride: We’ll be at the festival both days—Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4—giving out newspapers and swag, so please stop by and say hello.)

Beyond the Pride stories, we have been doing a lot of other great stuff, from our annual list of Censored Stories—important national and international stories that were under-covered by the mainstream press—to fantastic arts, food and music coverage.

I hope you enjoy what we’re doing. As always, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or input.

One more thing … Happy Pride!

Published in Editor's Note

Some items worth noting as we head into the much-welcomed fall season:

• Thanks to all of you who voted in the first round of our Best of Coachella Valley 2018-2019 readers’ poll.

Whether you voted or not in the first round … well, now’s your chance to vote in the second and final round!

The top three to six finalists (five, in most cases) from the first round are now up for your consideration at CVIndependent.com. Polls are open through Monday, Oct. 29.

Unlike other “Best Of” contests ’round these parts, for the Best of Coachella Valley, we only ask you to vote once per round. While a goal of other “Best Ofs” is for their sponsoring publications to get as much web traffic as possible from people visiting their websites over and over again, we’d rather have everyone vote just one time, so our list of winners can be as fair and accurate as possible.

The winners will be announced on Monday, Nov. 26, at CVIndependent.com, and in our December 2018 print edition.

Thanks. Now … go vote!

A few months ago, I used this space to mention the tariffs that had been placed on imported Canadian newsprint—and how those tariffs were so severe that they were threatening the survival of many U.S. newspapers, because some publications’ print bills were being jacked up by as much as 30-40 percent as a result. (The Independent’s print bill had “only” gone up about 12 percent … which is painful nonetheless.) I also asked concerned readers to contact our elected officials to encourage them to fight these tariffs—which were being requested by just one U.S. paper manufacturer, owned by a private-equity firm.

These tariffs were truly unfair and misguided. If all five U.S. paper mills that make newsprint operated at full capacity (due to the decline in the newspaper industry, there aren’t as many as there used to be), they couldn’t come close to producing enough newsprint for U.S. newspapers.

Well, I have some good news to report: The United States International Trade Commission, after hearing from a number of concerned members of Congress, overturned the tariffs in late August.

Thanks to all of you who heeded the call and spoke out against these tariffs.

Be sure to pick up the October 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting news stands this week. As always, thanks for reading; if you have questions or feedback, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

The president of the United States has yet again called the media the “enemy of the people.”

I am a member of the media. I—like many other journalists I know—work long hours for crappy pay, because I believe in the power and importance of a robust and free press. I am not complaining about the hours and the pay; I chose this profession, this life. I love it so much that I poured every dime I had, and then some, into starting what I thought was a much-needed newspaper in a community I love.

I just wish the president—a common and frequent liar by any measure—would stop calling me an “enemy of the people” when I am exactly the opposite. Note that whenever the president spews this hatred, he almost never uses specifics about what the media got wrong. There’s a reason for this.

I—like many other journalists I know—am sometimes afraid. Several weeks ago, five newspaper people were murdered in their Maryland newsroom. When news of these shootings came out, I was despondent, afraid someone had finally taken the president’s words about reporters and turned them into cold, evil action. I was strangely relieved when word came out that the gunman was apparently motivated by a long-standing obsession with the newspaper, and not anything the president said.

However, it’s only a matter of time before somebody does turn the president’s words into action. I have received death threats before. It’s a weird feeling to sit down at your desk, open your email, and see a letter from someone, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, who is threatening to take your life. It’s not fun.

Many of my colleagues at other newspapers tell me they’ve seen an uptick in threats and hatred thrown their way ever since the president took office. As a result, they’ve been beefing up security. My good friend Mary Duan, of the Monterey County Weekly, recently wrote a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review about the increases in security and protective measures the paper has enacted over the years. As of now, anyone wanting to enter the building must be buzzed in. However, there’s a problem: The Monterey County Weekly’s office building has a glass door … like the one the Capital Gazette shooter blasted through to gain access to his victims.

“So it is that the Weekly will once again add security to our funky, midcentury-modern building. Instead of being able to walk straight up to the glass door, visitors will first stop at a high steel gate that will go up across the approach to the building,” Mary wrote.

The only reason the Independent has not beefed up office security is that, well, we don’t have an office. I work from home … where the door is always locked, and where I have a security system and a gun.

It does not matter what one’s political views are. It’s wrong and irresponsible to be hostile to the idea of a free press. It’s terrible to insult and demean journalists for just doing their jobs.

It’s fascist, authoritarian and evil to call the free press the “enemy of the people.”

This is the note from the editor in our August 2018 print edition, hitting the streets this week. Like this article? Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent via our tip jar.

Published in Editor's Note

As the July print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent hits the streets this week, I have decidedly mixed feelings.

On the good side … I am pretty happy with the issue. One of the news stories inside of it is Kevin Fitzgerald’s update on the legal drama surrounding California’s End of Life Option Act. In recent weeks, the law—which gives terminally ill people with less than six months to live the chance to get life-ending drugs and then use them, if they so choose—was ruled unconstitutional and suspended, before being reinstated on appeal. The ultimate fate of the End of Life Option Act probably won’t be decided for a while—in fact, it probably won’t until the Supreme Court of California gets involved.

Speaking of Kevin’s ongoing coverage of the End of Life Option Act: We just learned that it has won a national award. The Association of Alternative Newsmedia has named Kevin and the Independent as a finalist in the Beat Reporting category for publications with a circulation less than 40,000. This is the second year in a row, and the third time in four years, that the Independent has won an AAN Award—despite the fact that we’re one of the smallest publications in the association. I couldn’t be more proud.

On the not-so-good side … I felt disheartened when I looked over this year’s list of AAN Award finalists—because a whole lot of amazing journalism was done in 2017 by publications that have since been gutted. The Houston Press nabbed eight awards—largely for work done before the owners laid off almost the entire staff and eliminated the print edition after a loss of business due to Hurricane Harvey. LA Weekly won seven—for journalism done before new ownership took over late last year and annihilated the staff.

Meanwhile, here at home, the Independent, like many Coachella Valley businesses, is trudging through the economically slow part of the year. Let me make it clear: We’re on firm financial footing, and we aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean our figurative financial belts aren’t tighter than we’d like them to be.

Therefore, I am asking all of you brilliant, insightful readers for your financial support. We don’t charge for our content, online or in print; it’s free and open to all, and always will be. That said … great stories—like Kevin’s End of Life Option Act coverage—cost money to produce, edit and publish. So, if you have a buck or two to spare, I ask you to consider heading to our Supporters of the Independent page—or, heck, send us a check. Even $5 or $10 is greatly appreciated.

Whether or not you have that extra buck or two to send our way … as always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any feedback.

Published in Editor's Note

A couple of weeks ago, I received a notice from my printer saying the Independent’s print costs were going to go up.

I saw this coming … but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Here’s what’s going on: Because of a complaint from one—yes, just one—hedge-fund-owned paper mill in Washington state, the Commerce Department has slapped tariffs of up to 32 percent on newsprint imports from Canadian paper mills. (The exact tariffs vary from company to company.)

Of course, those costs are being passed on to the consumer—in this case, newspapers, including the Independent. In other words … because of these tariffs, newspapers, including the Independent, may need to make serious cuts to the journalism we produce.

Canadian newsprint is vital to the American newspaper industry. Only five paper mills in the U.S. still produce newsprint—and even if all five of those mills ran at full capacity, they’d only be able to produce a fraction of the newsprint needed in this country. Some 25 paper mills in Canada fill the gap—and as a result, about 75 percent of American newspaper publishers use Canadian newsprint, according to a recent Columbia Journalism Review piece.

Not only is just one paper mill asking for these tariffs; pretty much everyone else in the United States—including other paper mills—is opposed to them.

“The Commerce Department definitely is open for business for these types of complaints,” said Paul Boyle, from the newspaper trade association News Media Alliance, to the Columbia Journalism Review. “They want to push and show that they’re trying to protect American jobs and potentially create manufacturing opportunities for businesses in the United States, which is a laudable goal. But anyone who’s in the newsprint industry knows that the decline in newsprint manufacturing has everything to do with the shift from print newspapers to digital, and nothing to do with prices on products coming from Canada.”

This mess has led to the formation of a coalition called Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers, or STOPP. While there is encouraging movement in the battle against these tariffs—including a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in May that could stop the tariffs temporarily—print bills are already on the rise … as I learned from that notice from my printer a few weeks back.

Want to help? Please contact our federal representatives—Rep. Raul Ruiz and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris—and ask them to fight these tariffs. I’ll be doing just that after I send this issue to press.

The actions of a company with just 300 employees is needlessly threatening the newspaper industry, which employs 600,000 people nationally—and, of course, produces the journalism on which the country depends. That’s not right.

As always, thanks for reading. Also, be sure to pick up the June 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

Page 1 of 6