Thursday, February 12, 2004
My adventures with this newspaper began 805 issues ago, in a cramped office in Carmel. The carpets were stained and covered with wax—a result of the archaic process of newspaper layout, from the days of typesetters, photostat cameras, film paper (run in galleys) and wax. Our bathroom was converted into a darkroom so we could develop our own photographs. It smelled like chemicals. Every day we battled meter maids in an effort to avoid one more parking ticket. And every month I dealt with a cantankerous landlord who taught me a few lessons, most important: I’d be better off without a landlord.
I report to you now, 15 years later, from a spacious, modern, high-tech and landlord-free office in Seaside. Much has improved.
Back in 1988, there was a newspaper called Coasting, The Easy Going Entertainment Guide. It was a small publication—aimed mostly at tourists—and one of its five owners, Sioux Scott, passed away. The others put it up for sale, with its circulation of 10,000 copies in Carmel, Pacific Grove and Monterey.
That September I bought Coasting, and announced to our readers my hope that we could do two things: become “the comprehensive resource for entertainment on the Central Coast,” and expand our editorial product to “better profile the people and issues vital to the community.”
I wrote at the time: “A good weekly newspaper can enable the community to better utilize its resources while providing a unique perspective on its opportunities and direction.” Maybe that sounded a little naive, but I was young and so was the newspaper.
The changes started right away. By February, 1989—15 years ago this week—we announced our new name, Coast Weekly. We started reporting on local news, added a weekly cover story that typically ran about 3,000 words (just last month, we published our longest story ever, more than 6,500 words). We expanded our circulation area––a project that continues–– delivering papers to Big Sur, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, Sand City, Marina, Moss Landing, Prunedale, Salinas and the Salinas Valley. We placed our bright red racks around town, and went from a crew of four drivers to our current 18. The staff grew from 12 to nearly 30. (It now takes 50-plus people per week to put this newspaper in your hands—including freelance reporters, photographers and drivers.) We began having Coast Weekly’s circulation monitored by outside auditors, in accordance with newspaper industry standards.
Over the years, the improvements continued. We introduced guaranteed classifieds to the marketplace, and became the first newspaper to circulate countywide, enabling advertisers the opportunity to reach both the Salinas area and the Monterey Peninsula with one buy. We were the first local newspaper with a Web site.
Today the Weekly is the most-read publication in Monterey County. It has an audited circulation 15 percent greater than the Herald’s and more than double the Californian’s. We print twice as many pages per week as we did in 1988.
Most important, we have deepened our editorial commitment to publish a newspaper that is valuable to you and is worth your time. This purpose has proven more vital since 1988, as we’ve witnessed in our county the local version of a national trend: the corporate dominance of the media.
A look at the local media landscape is telling. As elsewhere, most media in Monterey County is now owned by national conglomerates: the Herald by Knight-Ridder; the Salinas Californian by Gannett; every local television station and more than 90 percent of the local radio stations by Clear Channel or Mappleton. How this plays out in the news you see every day is evident from my perspective at the helm of the Weekly. In my 15 years here, I have seen five publishers come and go at both the Herald and the Californian (that’s ten total). Changes of leadership at the top result in a loss of context for local news coverage. Worse, in these specific cases, top-down, bottom-line directives from out-of-town bosses ensure profits are king, even if the newsrooms suffer (or in the case of local radio, are eliminated altogether).
Meanwhile, we have continued to expand our efforts to deliver smart, in-depth reports about the most important local issues, as well as comprehensive coverage about local arts and entertainment, every week. And when the Weekly sent a reporter to Iraq in December, he was the first local reporter to go to the frontline of the war, and also the first reporter from any metro weekly in the country.
I’m proud to report that not only is Monterey County’s most-read newspaper local and independent, but the Weekly is modestly profitable, while being true to our mission: To inspire independent thinking and conscious action, etc.
The Weekly has won more than 50 awards for editorial content and design, including national awards for investigative reporting, as well as for arts and entertainment coverage, and the most prestigious statewide newspaper honor, for public service.
But while winning awards is meaningful to us, we’re most proud of the dynamic relationship we have with you––our readers––and the community.
Many readers let us know the Weekly is vital, fun to read, and provocative. On the other hand, the Weekly makes its share of enemies simply by doing its job—reporting the tough stories, and taking controversial stances. In general, it’s the kind of thought-provoking relationship any newspaper hopes to have with its community and for that we want to thank you for your support, criticism and suggestions.
We also strive to show our appreciation: Over the years, we have
sponsored thousands of local events. And the Weekly’s Community
Fund, launched in 2000, has raised nearly $200,000 for local
Since we became Coast Weekly, the world has experienced a technology boom, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook us and the economy, Fort Ord closed as a military base and reopened with a state university, El Niño rains flooded us twice, housing went from an abundance after Fort Ord’s closure to unavailable and unaffordable, soldiers have been to Iraq twice under two President Bushs, Monterey Bay was designated a National Marine Sanctuary, squid have come and gone and come again, major fires raged in Big Sur, Salinas grew way past 100,000 population, Leon Panetta rose pretty damn far, while the dam on Carmel River, voted down more times than up, remained a developer’s dream.
And here at the Weekly we’ve gone from installing our first fax machine in 1988 to running a high-speed computer network with mega-bandwidth on every desk.
Through all of this, I’ve been blessed with an intelligent, dedicated staff motivated to create a quality newspaper; some of our current staff have been on this journey nearly from the beginning. And even while our vision always seems to exceed our resources, every one of us here at the Weekly shares a commitment to make this the best newspaper in Monterey County.
And now, an announcement. After a two-year discussion, we’ve concluded that it’s time for this newspaper to change its name, to better reflect this community we’re intensely proud of–– who and where we are. We’re still the same organization, with the same local ownership, with the same mission. But starting this week we fly under a new flag: Monterey County Weekly.
This name better expresses our commitment to the communities of the Monterey Peninsula and the Salinas Valley. It gives our newspaper greater freedom to report the direct connections between the coastal and the valley neighborhoods, to illuminate the people and issues that make this county unique and so special.
You can still reach us at our Seaside office, 394-5656; Classifieds is at 393-3939. Find us on the Web at www.MontereyCountyWeekly.com.
Thank you for your support during all these years. We’ll keep working hard to deserve it. And keep those letters coming. Your voice is important.
Bradley Zeve is the Executive Editor and Ceo of the MOnterey county Weekly.