CVIndependent

Wed08212019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

13 Jan 2013

Not Worthy of Fishwrap: 'Desert Post Weekly' a Lesson in How Not to Do a Newspaper

Written by 

What's 32 pages, has a total of zero locally produced stories, and is most decidedly not read all over—because there's nothing in it to read?

The Desert Post Weekly, that's what.

This week's edition (Jan. 10-16) is notable in that there are a grand total of zero locally written articles. Zero. None.

The content in the issue, owned by The Desert Sun and its parent company, Gannett, consists of:

  • "The Burning Question," in which four people affiliated with the paper—people for whom I have a great deal of sympathy, as they're forced by Gannett to put their name on this embarrassment of a publication—disclosed their personal highlights of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. (However, the festival was only about halfway over by the time the DPW went to press. To which I reply: WTF?) After that 46 words (yes, I counted) were:
  • A quarter-page or so of events listings. Apparently, only five worthy things are happening this week in the Coachella Valley, because that's all that's there.
  • A page of music crap from USA Today that has no local ties whatsoever. (There must be no local bands in the Coachella Valley to cover. Oh, wait ...)
  • Two pages dedicated to mountains in Southern California from McClatchy-Tribune Media Services. Yes, mountains. Did you know that Southern California has mountains? In the winter? OMG!
  • Two Associated Press film reviews.
  • Three pages of movie listings. (At least someone presumably local took the time to type in the local theaters at which the films in question are playing.)
  • A page of classified ads, followed by 19 pages of legal notices. Those legal notices are presumably the reason why the DPW still exists: Gannett can pass notices that don't require publication in a daily from The Desert Sun to the much-lower-circulation DPW—saving a lot of money on newsprint in the process.
  • A crossword and a sudoku puzzle from King Features.

That's it. 32 pages, and the only local editorial content consists of five events listings, someone typing in theaters, and four answers to a premature question.

This bothers me, because I love alternative publications—I have edited two of them, worked at a third, and served on the alternative newspaper trade group's board of directors. Heck, I moved here to launch the one you're reading right now.

And the crud that the DPW has become chaps my figurative hide, because once upon a time, the Desert Post Weekly was an honest-to-goodness real alternative newspaper. 

It's hard to find, in public at least, a copy of the DPW from the first half of the Aughts, back when it was a real newspaper. (I tried; I contacted the Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage public libraries, and was told they didn't have copies of the DPW, old or new.) DPW does not have a website (Let me repeat that so it can sink in: In 2013, there's a newspaper that does not have a website!), so there are no online archives to peruse.

However, the Internet does offer some documentation of the Desert Post Weekly before Gannett bought it and slowly started squeezing its life away. You can find a fair number of links and references to old stories, and the Wayback Machine has some snapshots of www.desertpostweekly.com back when it was an actual thing. A capture from Jan. 20, 2002, shows a preview webpage promising that the paper is about to go online, and includes a graphic with a rotation of old DPW covers touting stories about imprisoned women caught in the drug war; dowsing; the McVeigh execution; "America's obsession with reality TV" (a prophesy, perhaps?); "Will e-books replace the real thing?" (more prophesy); and gambling addiction.

In other words, real stories. In a real newspaper.

The paper carrying that once-proud name today is a sad joke, a paper in which there's no there there. If Gannett had any decency—and it does not, as the company has proven time and time again—it would retire the Desert Post Weekly with some dignity.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Dean M Gray Saturday, 12 January 2013 21:08 posted by Dean M Gray

    How refreshing it is for someone to echo what I have been saying and writing about since 2003. The Desert Post Weakly is useless and an insulting waste of newsprint.

    I was so offended I did something about it in 2008 starting the Desert Valley Star [now Desert Star Weekly] It only took five years and an unimaginable amount of time and money to arrive at printing 12,000 copies every week distributed to over 800 locations and enjoying 5,000 unique online viewers. Why did we invest that kind of time and money if we didn't believe in what we were doing?

    The answer is because I am a reader and a writer much inspired in 1968 by the LA Free Press (one of the first Alternative Weekly tabloids and founding partner of the Underground Press Syndicate, now named the Association of Alternative Newsmedia) and appalled that the Desert Post Weakly degenerated into irrelevance.

    The lack of any help was a painful lesson. Perhaps I alone found it offensive that the Alternative Weekly Network listed Gannett's DPW as members and forever refused to boot them off the member list, giving them preferred status for national advertising even though they never paid their membership dues.

    However, it is far more than that and really knowing the history of the DPW or print publications in the region over the years requires more than a look with the Wayback machine. Also really knowing product distribution here in the Coachella Valley requires more than a couple phone calls to the libraries.

    The DPW serves to publish legal notices and for Gannet to give away value added advertising. Why retire a product that is generating valuable revenue at little expense?

    Since we sold the Desert Star Weekly last April to Community News Group of Los Angeles it was transformed to a "community newspaper" with an admitted editorial police to not publish anything controversial. Therefore it recycles press releases in the guise of stories, blatantly endorsing incumbents and the status quo and selling out stories to the advertisers. Nothing alternative about that! Although a move calculated to attract advertisers the change seems to have proven a failed strategy as ad count continues to diminish, distribution returns increase and online viewers slide.

    No offense. It simply ain't what it used to be.

    So, forget about the DPW and the DSW. The CV Independent has a formidable challenge. What about the CV Weekly; isn't that your real competition? Do you have experienced depth of staff plus deep enough pockets to overcome the inertia they enjoy?

    Best of luck to you...

    Report

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.