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This was supposed to be a very different Note From the Editor.

I’d planned to write about our fabulously successful Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party (see several photos below) and then discuss our January 2016 print-edition cover story, which was supposed to be about discrimination at a local institution. (We’re still working on that piece; look for it in the near future.)

However, all of that changed on Dec. 10, when my friend George Zander, a well-known community activist, suddenly passed away.

George and his husband, Chris, were attacked in downtown Palm Springs on Nov. 1 in what police are calling a hate crime. After a brief altercation with a man who used the word “faggot,” George and Chris were attacked by that man and another man moments later in front of Sherman’s. Chris suffered a concussion after taking a tire iron to the head. George suffered a broken hip in the scuffle.

Post-attack, things seemed to be going OK. Chris was recovering from his injuries; George’s hip surgery was successful, and he was home after stints in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility. The police think they’ve caught the perpetrators, and the community was beautifully rallying behind George and Chris.

But on the morning of Dec. 10, George was rushed to Desert Regional Medical Center due to an emergency. He was gone within minutes. Chris told the world via Facebook that George died in his arms.

What all of this means in terms of the prosecution of the thugs who allegedly did this remained to be determined as of our press deadline.

What it means to the community is heartbreak.

Here at the Independent, we shifted gears and decided to make George the topic of the cover story in the January 2016 print edition, which is hitting streets this week. Brian Blueskye did a fantastic job of showing all that George has done over the years to help the afflicted in the Coachella Valley.

I last saw George on Nov. 18, the day after the benefit show on behalf of the Zanders that the Independent put together with Chill Bar. He was still in the rehab facility at the time; he went home several days later. George was typical George: His spirits were high, and he was already plotting his next bit of activism, telling me about something he’d recently learned about that he thought deserved media attention.

Once the holiday craziness is behind us, I am going to pursue that story that George told me about. If what George told me is correct, and it probably is, it’ll be an excellent piece. Look for that soon.

In the meantime, enjoy a handful of photos from the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party below.

Published in Editor's Note

Two years ago this month, a couple hundred people—Independent contributors, friends, advertisers and readers—gathered at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs to celebrate the launch of our monthly print edition, and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com.

Well, a lot has happened regarding the Independent in the 24 months since then. First and foremost, we’ve managed to keep going, distributing 24 quality print editions and publishing at least three pieces every weekday at CVIndependent.com. We launched our Independent Market, which has delighted readers and advertisers alike by bringing them together with half-price gift certificates. We won a national journalism award. We launched our Supporters of the Independent program. And most gratifyingly, we’ve gained a lot of readers and fans.

I think it’s time to celebrate again, yes?

Join the Independent staff and contributors from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, at Chill Bar, 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, for our Third Anniversary Party. There will be fantastic music, drink specials, door prizes and all sorts of other great stuff. You can also learn more about the Independent’s programs, including the Independent Market, the Supporters of the Independent, and the Independent’s new CV Job Center website, which we just launched.

Also, a tip: If you come up to me and say, “Hi, the Independent rocks!” I may just give you a card for a free drink.

One other thing we’ll be celebrating that night: The completion of the biggest journalism project the Independent has ever tackled.

In mid-September, I set up interviews with all 14 of the candidates for Palm Springs mayor and City Council; Brian Blueskye did the same thing with eight of the nine Desert Hot Springs candidates. (One DHS City Council candidate refused to respond to numerous messages from Brian.)

I asked all of the Palm Springs candidates a set of 10 questions; Brian asked all the DHS candidates a set of 10 questions. We let the candidates answer. We typed up those answers—and you can find the results at CVIndependent.com.

As always, thanks for reading. See you at Chill on Oct. 16!

Published in Editor's Note

One of the traditional jobs of the alternative press has been to cover the faults and foibles of other local media. After all, if we don’t do it, who else will?

Here at the Independent, we have not been doing that as much as I’d like. Sure, we’ve done some stuff here and there—railing on the advertising that masquerades as editorial coverage in other local publications, for example. But I think we could, and should, be doing it more.

This is one reason why I am excited about, of all things, our recent Restaurant News Bites column. Much of the column, which I wrote, focuses on a lazy, inaccurate story one local TV-news operation did—unfairly maligning a local business in the process.

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

That’s just one of the things we’ve done recently about which I am excited. After a summer hiatus, we’re welcoming back Deidre Pike’s fantastic wine column, Sniff the Cap. Our news section has recently been packed with great stories—on the financial dilemma facing local water agencies as they try to meet state-mandated conservation goals; on a unique operation the Palm Springs Police Department is conducting to curb bicycle theft; and on the phenomenon that is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. That Bernie Sanders story was done for us by a writer for Seven Days, the alternative newspaper in Burlington, Vt.—the place where Sanders got his political start more than three decades ago, when he became the city’s mayor.

There's also Brian Blueskye's in-depth music story on local band the Yip Yops—who just signed an impressive deal with a management company/record label. You won’t believe the story about the chance encounter that ultimately led the Yip Yops to that deal.

By the way: You can find all of the aforementioned stories in the September print issue, hitting streets now.

In other news, I’d like to remind everyone of two things I mentioned last month: First: The initial round of our Best of Coachella Valley voting kicks off here at CVIndependent.com on Monday, Aug. 31.

Second: We’ve finally launched our Supporters of the Independent Program. Like what we do? Consider supporting us with an annual, monthly or one-time contribution. If you consider it and decide to contribute—fantastic! You’ll get some cool perks in return. If you decide against it, or are unable to do so, no worries: Our content, both print and online, will always remain completely free of charge. Find details on the Supporters of the Independent Program on here.

As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

There’s a lot of great stuff going on here at Independent World Headquarters (i.e., my apartment in downtown Palm Springs).

For one thing: We’ll be launching our Supporters of the Independent Program within weeks. We don’t charge a thing for our great content, whether it’s delivered online, via email or in print—and we never will charge a thing for our great content. However, we understand that some readers would happily contribute a small amount of money to the Independent, be it monthly or annually, to help us do what we do. The Supporters of the Independent Program will help readers do just that—while receiving some cool perks in return.

We’re still setting things up and working out the details. Watch CVIndependent.com, as well as our weekly e-Edition, for those details.

For another thing: We’ll be opening up Round 1 voting for the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 on Monday, Aug. 31. We’ll ask you, our readers, to share your top choices in 120 or so categories. We’ll compile the results, and then launch a second round of voting, starting in October, among the top vote-getters in each category. The winners of that poll will be honored and celebrated in our December print issue, and at CVIndependent.com in late November.

Finally … I have a little bragging to do.

The results of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) 2015 Altweekly Awards were announced on Saturday, July 18, at the annual AAN conference, held this year in Salt Lake City, Utah—and the Independent was one of the papers honored.

Brian Blueskye won an award in the Arts Feature category. He earned third place for his coverage of the Palm Springs mural ordinance, which he covered throughout 2014.

While journalism awards are a dime a dozen, the Altweekly Awards, given out each year by AAN, are a fairly big deal. (As of now, this is the only journalism contest the Independent enters.) Seventy-one publications across the United States and Canada, almost all of which are bigger in terms of resources than the Independent, entered this year’s contest. In other words, there’s a lot of competition, so it’s quite an accomplishment to win one.

Congratulations to Brian on the award. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many awards for him—and the Independent as well. Heck, maybe he’ll win one for his most recent big story for the Independent, “In Defense of DHS,” which serves as our August print cover story. Who knows?

In any case, as always, thanks for reading what we do.

Published in Editor's Note

It’s a claim that drives journalists crazy: Why is the media so negative? Why don’t newspapers cover positive news?

For argument’s sake, if we take the position that this claim is accurate (and it’s not; media sources generally give a lot of pixels, airtime or ink to arts, music, food and culture news that is, by its very nature, positive … but that’s a discussion for another time), much of our recent coverage here at the Coachella Valley Independent (including much of the content in our July print issue) is bucking the trend: A lot of our recent stories have landed on the positive side of things.

First: Brian Blueskye’s story on Yucca Valley 18-year-old Aiden Stockman, which is a must-read. I first learned about Aiden at Palm Springs Pride’s Harvey Milk Breakfast in May, at which Aiden and his mother spoke. Tears were flowing as Aiden and his mom talked about Aiden’s struggles with his gender identity—and the amazing acceptance Aiden’s Yucca Valley High School classmates showed him when he finally came out as transgender. However, not everything about Aiden’s story is happy: He faces a lot of obstacles when it comes to employment and his future.

After the Harvey Milk Breakfast, I asked Brian to get in touch with Aiden so we could share this story with a wider audience—and Brian did a fantastic job.

Second: Several of our recent news stories are rather uplifting. I recently penned a piece on the brand-new Sunny Dunes Antique District: A diverse group of businesses (many of which are new) in the area of Sunny Dunes Road just east of Palm Canyon Drive have banded together to work with the city and other groups to develop and promote the cool things going on the area.

Also: A couple of weeks ago, Brane Jevric brought us the story of Kane, a Palm Springs Police K-9 that took the place of a dog that was killed in the line of duty.

Of course, per usual, we’ve been publishing all sorts of great arts, food and music coverage, including a review of a fantastic brand-new revue at the Desert Rose Playhouse, a piece on delicious sour beers made in California, and an exclusive music mix from SynthEtiX, compliments Alex Harrington’s DuneCast.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the July 2015 edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, on newsstands now.

Published in Editor's Note

Our country’s justice system is broken—and a recent Independent story, by Brian Blueskye, illustrates that painful fact.

Meet Kimberly Long. The Corona resident was convicted of murdering her boyfriend after a day of drinking back in 2003—even though all the available evidence seems to exonerate her. Her case is one of the 18 that the San Diego-based California Innocence Project has taken up; here’s hoping the project’s attorneys can achieve justice for Kimberly Long and her family very soon.

Another example: My good friend Brian Burghart continues his work on Fatal Encounters, a crowd-sourced database of people killed during interactions with law enforcement. As we explained in an article last December—and as Brian himself has explained during TV interviews on everything from Al Jazeera to The Daily Show—he is trying to fill a void: There is no national database of people killed by law-enforcement officers, even though there is a semi-epidemic of such killings happening around the country, especially in the West. Therefore, he set out to create a database going back to the start of the year 2000. If you have time and expertise, please consider helping him out.

(As a side note: Brian, who is the editor of the Reno News & Review, and Fatal Encounters were just announced as finalists in the 2015 Association of Alternative Media Awards. Now, a little bragging: So were the Independent and writer Brian Blueskye, for his coverage of the Palm Springs mural ordinance. Congrats!)

Of course, there are also the examples of the unrest-catalyzing police-related deaths in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

However, I am optimistic that our justice system can be fixed, at least partially. It’s a good sign that the Fatal Encounters site exists and is getting so much attention. It’s great to see that people are taking actions to make their voices heard in Baltimore and Ferguson and fight against police brutality and racism. It’s fantastic that groups like the California Innocence Project exist to help those wrongly imprisoned—and 11 of the project’s clients are now free, as we hope Kimberly Long will be soon.

You’ll learn a lot from Brian’s piece on Kimberly Long, which serves as the cover story of our June print issue. You’ll get a lot out of the rest of our content, both online and print, as well.

As always, thank you for reading the Coachella Valley Independent.

Published in Editor's Note

It was two years ago this month that the first print edition of the Independent hit the streets of the Coachella Valley—three months after the “official” launch of CVIndependent.com.

Through 28 months of online publication and 21 print editions (two quarterlies and 19 monthlies, if you’re keeping score) so far, we’ve constantly strived to be a true alternative publication—in other words, cover topics that have gotten short shrift in the other local media.

One of those topics was music. Since Day 1, we’ve made an effort to cover as wide of a variety of music as possible—and I am proud of how we’ve done. This brings us to the topic of our second annual Music Issue, which is hitting streets this week. Some of the Music Issue stories have already been posted at CVIndependent.com; the remainder will be posted soon. We have a total of 10 stories previewing acts who will be performing at Coachella or Stagecoach, plus tons of other great music coverage.

Another undercovered topic we’ve been tackling: Issues in the East Valley. I am proud to say you can find two features that focus on the East Valley in this month’s print edition. Kevin Fitzgerald brings us the story of Agua4All, an effort to bring safe drinking water to areas of the eastern Coachella Valley where there has been none; you can read about that at CVIndependent.com on Friday. Also: Brian Blueskye tells the story of Martha’s Village and Kitchen, a fantastic nonprofit in Indio that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping the valley’s homeless.

Finally, I want to mention something we won’t be covering. Yet another topic that’s been undercovered in the valley is theater. For two years now, we’ve made every effort to ethically and fairly review all local productions that run for more than one week—and we’ve done just that.

However, at least for now, we won’t be reviewing Desert Theatreworks shows. After a review of the company’s production of Lost in Yonkers, company management stopped granting us review tickets. It’s worth noting that although Desert Theatreworks’ management took the time to berate the reviewer after the review was published, emails and a phone call from me to discuss the matter went unreturned.

Desert Theatreworks is now the second local company to do this; Palm Canyon Theatre has been denying the Independent review tickets for more than a year now.

The truth hurts sometimes, eh?

Published in Editor's Note

As festival season heads into full swing, I can’t help but wonder: How involved is the average Coachella Valley local in these big events?

Take the Palm Springs International Film Festival, for example. I’ve heard grousing that the festival, which started out as a smaller event designed primarily for locals, has grown into an event that’s more for L.A. and film-industry folks, and less for Coachella Valley residents. (When you consider how hard it is for locals to get tickets to some of the bigger film-fest events and screenings, you may realize that those grousers have a point.)

This brings us to a couple of February’s bigger events—especially Modernism Week. I have a confession to make: I have never attended a Modernism Week event. The same goes for many of my friends.

Why haven’t I ever attended a Modernism Week event? While it’s true that many Modernism Week tours sell out weeks and months in advance, it’s also true that a lot of other events—good events, some of which are low-cost or free—don’t sell out. Therefore, I can’t blame a lack of availability.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that when it comes to the behemoth series of events that is Modernism Week (which includes many hundreds of things to do), I didn’t really know where to start. Hence the “Modernism 101” story.

My goal in doing this piece was to answer a lot of the questions I (and, presumably, other locals) have about Modernism Week—and modernism in general, for that matter. Did I succeed? Judge for yourself.

Our great arts coverage coming to CVIndependent.com this month (and already out in our February print edition): a story on renowned local designer Christopher Kennedy; a piece on the neighborhood tours offered during Modernism Week; and a primer on another cool arts event happening this month: the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

I promise: I will attend at least one or two Modernism Week events this year. If you’re in the same boat that I am, I hope these stories will help you decide to take part in this year’s Modernism Week, too.

I hope you enjoy all of our coverage. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

Welcome to 2015—and, therefore, the start of the third year of the Coachella Valley Independent’s existence.

Regular readers of this space know that I used it last month to thank our readers, our employees, our contributors and our supporters. Well, forgive me for repeating myself a bit—because I have yet more thanks to give.

First, I want to thank the 39 business, organizations and individuals who opened their wallets to donate to the Independent’s first crowd-funding campaign. We did not meet the overly lofty goal we set for our Indiegogo-based effort, but we did raise a fantastic $3,246.

What are we going to do with that money? Well, we’ve already spent a good chunk of it: We just ordered 28 brand-new newspaper racks, which will help us increase and improve our circulation. That means more copies of the Independent getting into more people’s hands—and from our admittedly biased point of view, that’s a very good thing.

We’ll also use some of that money to fund a brand-new events-preview section, which we’ll be launching in our February issue. In other words, due to the generosity of our supporters, we’ll be able to shine an even brighter, more comprehensive light on the goings-on in the Coachella Valley.

Thank you, everyone. For a list of all our crowd-funding supporters, visit our “About” page.

Second, thanks to everyone who attended the party for our first-ever Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll. Dozens of winners joined Independent readers and contributors at Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge on Wednesday, Dec. 3, to celebrate—and a great time was had by all.

The presence of rain—which moved the party, which had been slated for Twin Palms’ lovely patio, indoors—didn’t keep a whole bunch of people from getting their awards, sampling some of Twin Palms’ fantastic food (Gator! Gumbo! Mmmm!) and enjoying a cocktail or two. To view some pictures from the event, check out our Snapshot feature.

Now, it’s time to look forward: We’re kicking off our third year with one of our best print issues ever. It’s chock-full of great stuff, from Kevin Fitzgerald’s extensive piece on the east valley’s political machine, to Brian Blueskye’s fantastic preview of the first-ever El Gato Classic skateboarding event. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments and suggestions.

Thank you for being part of the Independent family.

Published in Editor's Note

The holidays are here, and there are a lot of things for which I am thankful:

• I’m thankful for the Independent’s knowledgeable readers. Our inaugural Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll is complete, and the results are here! With a few categories excepted (In-n-Out has the valley’s Best Burger? Really?!), the results show that our readers, like you, are smart, cultured and local-minded: Very few chains won in our poll, especially when compared with readers’ polls in other publications and/or other cities.

I hope that as many of you readers who voted in the Best of Coachella Valley poll as possible (and, heck, even those of you who didn’t vote … next year, right?) will join us to celebrate the winners at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 3, at multiple-category-winner Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The Best of Coachella Valley Party will feature a brief awards ceremony at 7:15 p.m., and great specials on food and drinks all night.

See you there!

• I’m thankful for the Independent’s fantastic employees and contributors. Specifically, I’m thankful for those Independent designers and scribes who helped me out with our booth at Greater Palm Springs Pride, where we gave out community bags containing newspapers and great deals, as well as mini-flying discs and lots of pens. Thank you to Brian Blueskye, Wayne Acree, Victor Barocas and the indefatigable Valerie-Jean Hume for representing the Independent so proudly! Also, thanks to the readers who stopped by to say hi!

• I’m thankful to everyone who has contributed to our Indiegogo campaign. As I noted last month, we’re trying to raise $10,000 so we can increase our distribution and, most importantly, boost our coverage of news and local events. As of this writing, we’ve received some fantastic support, including a donation from reader Shilo Herrling, who wrote: “I really appreciate the CV Independent, and wish you all the best of luck in your expansion efforts. Unlike many, I don’t think The Desert Sun is a bad paper … but I do like to have options and alternative viewpoints, and CV Independent does a great job!”

Thanks, Shilo!

Despite the support from readers like Shilo, as of this writing, we’re behind the pace we need to be on to reach our goal. Please consider joining Shilo in supporting the Independent; find details on every page here at CVIndepedent.com, and via the short video posted below.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Published in Editor's Note

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