YIPPEE!!! I am TOTALLY thrilled to read Vesta Copestake's announcement in her latest West County Gazette that she has recently launched an online (Web) version of her Forestville, CA-based monthly newspaper. You can check it out for yourself at www.westcountygazette.com. It looks as professional, cleanly- laid out, & information-packed as the print version of her publication.
I'm a huge fan of Ms. Copestake, as well as of Johanna Lynch, who publishes the Russian River Times out of Monte Rio, CA each month. These two energetic, intelligent, community-oriented women -- with generous support from local writers & advertisers -- manage to cover just about everything that's going on from Santa Rosa to Gualala, cut through the bureaucrat-ese, & succinctly explain how these various issues & developments would affect us & why we should care. They also publish listings for local events, meetings & volunteer opportunities.
What sets these two newspapers apart from two other excellent & more polished local publications (the Russian River Monthly & the West County Times) & makes me eagerly look forward to reading them each month are the passionately stated opinions of the publishers & their readers. Ms. Copestakes & Ms. Lynch make no pretense towards journalistic objectivity & clearly state their personal views. But since they care about our small, rural community & the people in it (many of whom they personally know & see day-to-day), they do make every effort to be responsible, balanced & fair. An awful lot of research, interviewing & thought seems to go into their writing, & they are also both firmly committed to publishing any reasonable (& occasionally UNreasonable) opinion or letter to the editor. They violate the cardinal rule taught in Journalism 101 -- never say "I" -- with cheerfully deliberate exuberance, because their newspapers are published as a labor of love.
I appreciate the West County Gazette & the Russian River Times because I used to publish an alternative community newspaper during my early 20's in the large, North-Eastern city in which I then lived, with a similar format, network of contributors & advertisers, & level of circulation (a free, black & white, tabloid/fold, newsprint monthly with approximately 42-60 pages & a circulation of 10,000, which was supported by a steady & devoted group of advertisers & volunteer contributors). Like Ms. Copestakes & Ms. Lynch, I was passionate, outspoken & idealistic & wanted to provide our readers -- who were ignored by the more mainstream media -- with coverage of information they cared about & a forum for their views.
Unlike them, I was only able to do this for three years before I threw in the towel. Publishing an alternative community newspaper is an interesting, personally fulfilling, & sometimes awfully danged FUN occupation. I loved it & often look back on those years as among the happiest of my life. But it also involves an awful lot of grinding, unrelenting hard work & pulling multiple all-nighters in order to deliver the paper to the printer on time. And then there's all the ad sales, circulation, book-keeping, administration & other odious tasks which nobody wants to do & you hence wind up doing yourself in order to support the writing, editing, design, & networking stuff you would rather be doing. I lived in a very expensive area & eventually got burnt-out on working so hard for such a small (& frequently fluctuating) amount of money.
Yet these women have been producing these fabulous, ad-hoc newspapers year-after-year. I can't even begin to express my gratitude. But here's a start: Thank you. You GO girls!