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24 Feb 2013

Editor's Note: A Taste of Feedback From Coachella Valley Independent Readers

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Editor's Note: A Taste of Feedback From Coachella Valley Independent Readers Pearson Scott Foresman/Wikipedia.com

Watching the birth a brand-new publication has been one of the weirdest, yet coolest experiences of my life.

It’s been one fascinating trip after another. Fighting with the website’s template during the build. Explaining to people, or trying to explain to people, what the Independent is. (“It’s like an alternative newsweekly, but it’s updated daily, and it’s online-only—except for the quarterly we’re printing, starting the first week of April, and we’ll probably increase print frequency later … oh, hell, just go read our mission statement.”) Watching the unique visitors go from single-digits per day to double, and to triple, with four digits just around the corner.

It’s been frustrating and awesome and bizarre and rewarding.

Now that the Independent has a fair number of actual readers (including you, and I thank you for that), we’ve started to get that most vexing of all things to an editor: reader feedback.

One on hand, reader feedback is the most important thing to an editor. We do what we do for our readers, and if our readers aren’t responding, then how in the hell do we know people are reading?

On the other hand, a lot of (but certainly not all) reader feedback is … well, inane at best, and horrifying at worst.

If you’ve ever perused the comments on a large newspaper website, you know what I am talking about. Ignorance! Racism! Name-calling! It’s all there!

Anyway, I wanted to take some time to address two bits of reader feedback we’ve received in recent weeks.

So, the poorest school district in the desert and our only community college found ways to educate the most underserved in the desert … and your point is? Students at (Coachella Valley Unified School District) need help. (College of the Desert)? Guess what, it's the only way a lot of locals can get training and education while staying in the desert. I don't see your point. Biased reporting, too. After all, isn't there another side to these bonds? As in, what are they being used for? Oh, that's right. Construction of new campuses, offering more opportunities for locals. But I can see why you'd leave that out—after all, it wouldn't fit your sensational agenda here.

Krystal Herrera, on "Taxpayers on the Hook for Hundreds of Millions After School Districts Issue ‘Irresponsible’ Bonds”

I appreciate this comment from Krystal (despite her misplaced barbs), even though … well, it shows that she misses the point of Saxon Burns’ story, which we posted on Feb. 15.

I think it’s splendid that our community is investing in schools. Krystal’s right when she says College of the Desert is the best way for locals to get an education without leaving the Coachella Valley. And she’s right when she says students at the Coachella Valley Unified School District need help.

So the issue is not that these school districts issued bonds to bring them much-needed money for much-need construction projects. The issue is the fact that the way in which these schools issued these bonds is literally going to cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more than needed.

College of the Desert and CVUSD could have issued more-traditional bonds and gotten the same amount of money upfront. The problem is, the districts (and, therefore, the taxpayers within those districts) then would have started paying that money back right away. That could have meant tough choices for school administrators if the economy did not continue improving.

Instead, these administrators sold capital appreciation bonds—a type of bond that does not need to be repaid right away. But in exchange for that flexibility, more money—a lot more money—needs to be paid back, over a longer period of time. It’s like buying something with a credit card with zero interest at first—and a ridiculously high interest rate down the line.

In this case, College of the Desert and CVUSD used that credit card knowing that they weren’t going to be making those payments until the ridiculous interest rate kicked in. And we taxpayers are the ones who are getting screwed in the process.

As I said, I really appreciated Krystal’s comment. On the flip side, there’s … this, presented here unedited, which recently appeared in my email inbox with the subject line “CV INDEPENDANT”:

Dear Sir(s);

With great enthusiasm I welcome you to the most media cluttered place on the planet. For a valley of around 300K, there now seems to be a publisher for every 100 residents. I live in LA and I have property in the CV. We have about half of the publiishers here that the CV has.

Oh, and by the way, love your line about 'indepedent journalism', free of the influence from our advertisers. I have a lifetime in publishing and, if you haven't already experienced it, having your biggest advertiser quit because of something you published is the most embarrassing and company-killing thing I can think of. You don't have any advertisers...so, either you will alienate your advertisers or you are independently wealthy and don't need them. Nice line, but complete bullshit.

Let me tell you a cool little story. When I was a young advertising representative I walked into a local car dealership and asked for ads. The GM looked at me and said, 'You know young man, I see or talk to about 50 of you guys a week. If all you publishers and ad people were buying customers, I wouldn't be in the sad shape that I am in.'

Good luck!

Ben Dover

Remember what I said above about “inane at best, and horrifying at worst”?

This is in response to the Independent’s mission statement, which, in part, reads: “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.”

Well, apparently, Mr. “Dover” took umbrage with said statement. And he's about 100k short on the number of people here. Anyway, here’s my response to him:

“I appreciate you reading the Independent, and encourage you to keep doing so. As for the line about independent journalism, Google me, or ask around Tucson journalism circles, or ask around alternative journalism circles, and you'll find that I practice what I preach.

“I hope the Independent's brand of journalism and ethics can heal your cynicism a bit, too. :)”

So, there you go. Keep the feedback coming, folks; we’ll run that feedback, sometimes with responses, periodically in our Opinion section. And, as always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent.

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