Sunday, April 19, 2009

R.I.P. Russian River Monthly

On April 17, 2009, Writers and staff for the "Russian River Monthly" received emails from General Manager Zelda Michaels announcing that the well-respected and much-loved 13-year-old local newspaper has folded. "This is a letter I hoped never to write," Ms. Michaels sadly acknowledges, and goes on to explain that the publisher (who has backed the paper as a silent partner and prefers to remain anonymous) pulled the plug because advertising goals have not been met and "anticipated sales would most likely continue to fall short". (NOTE: I strongly & vehemently disagree with this pessimistic assessment of the paper's future prospects!)

People close to the "Russian River Monthly" provide various theories regarding the cause of the publication's demise, including: The current recession, which has hit "Russian River Monthly" readers and advertisers particularly hard; Lack of "counter copies" which would would have delivered more ad views to well-heeled visitors; Stiff competition from the "West County Gazette" (which circulates in more affluent parts of the county, and can afford to charge less for ads because its publisher, Vesta Copestakes, is an amazing one-woman-show who employs no writers or staff), and; Lack of strong leadership and vision.

Observers also hint at acrimonious struggles amongst mutually hostile factions within the newspaper. The two most frequently-mentioned groups consist of: (1) People who feel that founding member and Managing Editor, John DeSalvio (aka "The Mayor of Guerneville"), is egotistical, irresponsible, and utterly impossible to work with; and (2) um ... John DeSalvio.

Although the departure of the "Russian River Monthly" for the local toxic landfill coincides with the departure of John DeSalvio for Burbank, CA (in the grand scheme of things, are these twain destinations truly so far apart?), these events are unrelated. Although Mr. DeSalvio has long served as the public face of our local newspaper and has made many important contributions, he is not actually the publisher (contrary to common belief) ... um ... unless he actually IS. The publisher IS anonymous, after all.

Personally, I'm sad to see the "Russian River Monthly" go. And not just because I'm losing my glamorous job as a human interest columnist and am now once again relegated to the drab role of "hausfrau".

Although I truly enjoy reading Ms. Copestakes' "The West County Gazette" & Johanna Lynch's "Russian River Times" & appreciate everything they do for our community, the "Russian River Monthly" was the only local paper that consistently provided high-quality reporting and objective journalism. The sort of quality you can only get by actually paying reporters, columnists, and editors to stay on top of things and go to all those bored (oops, I mean "board") meetings -- even if it is only a measly five cents per word.

I sure hope other local publishers can pick up the slack.


The Lighthouse Keeper said...

I don't think local publishers will pick up the slack. They're amateurs.I wish I had $10K sitting around that I could use to re-launch this paper. We would do things right, in a professional manner, without the stupid dysfunctional bullshit that plagues so many Boomer-run enterprises around here.

Rio Nido Gardynerd! said...

Yeah, I wish I also had $10k to ummmm... advertise in the local paper I guess. Now where are we going to get our news? Thank goodness for the Rattina otherwise we would be forced to buy the "other" paper. Wait a second, is there irony in the fact that we are losing our newspaper yet get our news online? Nah!

Anonymous said...

I'll be VERY sad to see the Monthly gone...No other
local paper is really local for those of us who live in Monte Rio & Guerneville.

Russian River Rattina said...

I'm glad some of you consider me to be a source for news. Alas, this blog can never replace the reporting of Elise Roberts, Lynn Millar & all the others.

wonderlust said...

It IS a bit disconcerting that so many papers are shutting down. I know local papers are vulnerable in this financial climate. Glad I found RRR to take up 'some' slack. I live in Rio Nido, too. Will be looking in more.

Anonymous said...

It's so heartening to hear that someone other than me and the rest of the Russian River Monthly staff miss the paper. I will always be proud to have worked on this well-balanced and respectful paper.