Much to our chagrin, our guest editorial writers even said nice things, although we gave them permission to offer their suggestions for our improvement. We are honored to include the distinguished comments of Bob McKenzie, Bill Monning and Jackie Lambert in our special anniversary edition.
Happy 10th, Coast Weekly
Keep on truckin''
By Bob McKenzie
I congratulate Coast Weekly on its 10th anniversary. Thanks for letting me participate in that anniversary by offering a few thoughts about Coast Weekly and the place it has in local news.
Let me confess I''m a news junkie. I''ve trimmed my newspaper reading to four dailies and four weeklies but I still wander onto the Internet when I have a moment to sample other newspapers around the country. I follow public affairs quite closely and have for several decades; a rule I learned long ago is "don''t rely on one news source" for information about anything.
I also confess I read only the first half of Coast Weekly; the second half, largely entertainment features, is of little interest to me. But the first half, local public affairs news and in-depth examination of issues and controversies, is must reading for me every Thursday morning (or Wednesday night if I get my "woof woof e-mail" early; more on that later).
Weekly newspapers fill a necessary role in many (perhaps most?) communities. They cannot be first on breaking stories most of the time but they do, by and large, enjoy the luxury of examining public affairs issues in more depth than the comparatively hit-and-run dailies. And therein is Coast Weekly''s strength. Time after time, Coast Weekly gets into local issues in more depth than any newspaper around. Most of the time, that''s a good thing (apologies to Martha Stewart).
But sometimes not. The Coast Weekly cover story last year on Marc Del Piero and Peninsula water issues included a truly tasteless front cover and a largely pointless article. The number of unattributed remarks and unidentified sources may have set a record for interesting but unelucidating speculation per column inch.
And once in a while, a little too much political bias shows through. Take last week''s cover story on big box retail (a phrase which has passed into common usage but not designed to invite rational public discourse or examination). How does describing big retailers as "corporate carnivores" or repetitive use of variations of the phrase "mega-retailers" do anything but appeal to a certain political passion rather than reason? That''s not to say the piece wasn''t well written (it was) or well researched (it was, to a point); but a bias, in my opinion, got in the way of significant issues worth examining. Before someone argues that public policy issues could use a little more passion and a little less reason, let me refer them to the "Federalist Papers," wherein are found the most excellent arguments ever made against passion in public policy deliberations.
A couple of knocks about a couple of stories doesn''t alter my fundamental belief about Coast Weekly: it is must reading for me each week (the front half, remember) and a worthwhile source of news and information on local public affairs issues. Almost invariably, Coast Weekly does a good job of providing more depth on local issues. And the public, the true "owners" of freedom of the press, are better off for that.
The somewhat new column "Squid" is arguably my favorite feature of Coast Weekly. The sometimes biting satire and sarcasm is refreshing and fun reading even when I don''t agree; and so far, it seems to take an equal opportunity approach in terms of targets. No one is safe from the barbs of Squid! It seems to me Squid is quintessentially in the mainstream of American journalism and probably a lot of fun for the writers as well.
Speaking of new things, I think Coast Weekly''s new Website is outstanding! I''m delighted to get the "woof woof" e-mail alerting me to the stories and features in the latest edition, complete with dynamic links so I can jump right to them. And I love being able to download the stories I want to save for future use. No other area newspaper combines coverage of local issues with a Website like this. Congratulations on that, too!
Coast Weekly, long may you publish and prosper!
Bob McKenzie is a CPA; he and his wife, Sheryl, operate McKenzie & Associates, a governmental/public affairs and political consulting firm.
Accolades, grievances, and thoughts for the next 10.
By Bill Monning
Happy Birthday! As Monterey County''s most widely circulated independent publication for the past 10 years, Coast Weekly is deserving of strong accolades, minor criticisms, and encouragement for its continued growth and viability.
It is indeed appropriate to applaud Coast Weekly for its consistent presentation of well researched, in-depth, and timely investigative journalism. I consider CW''s coverage of the environment, land use, water, labor, and political campaigns to be exceptional. CW''s reporting has often served to provoke broader public discourse on important issues and has prompted second generation news coverage by both print and electronic news outlets.
Examples of CW''s leadership in bringing important issues to public attention include its early and ongoing coverage of methyl bromide as an environmental and public health issue; coverage of county government administration including the management of Natividad Medical Center; reporting on land use and planning issues; plus the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of a New Los Padres Dam on the Carmel River.
CW has also looked at Fort Ord''s reuse as impacted by environmental toxins and unexploded ordnance; attacks on civil rights; coverage of election campaigns and electoral reform efforts including campaign finance reform initiatives. With a relatively small crew of full-time staff and reporters, the articles on these and other issues reflect hours of research, investigation, interviews, and thoughtful analysis.
As a free, countywide publication, the paper provides open access for community dialogue and discourse on important issues. The letters to the editor and Public Forum sections offer readers a means to agree or disagree with CW''s analysis or reporting on the issues.
CW''s open public access has also featured perspectives not always deemed newsworthy by other media. Public Forum pieces on the death penalty case of Mumia Abu Jamal and the U.S. Army''s School of the Americas (SOA) serve as examples of how CW has informed local readers on issues of national and international importance.
CW has also distinguished itself in the area of election campaign coverage. The grids that present candidates'' responses to a common set of questions provide a most valuable tool for voters. The only improvement I would recommend in the election coverage would be to publish the candidate responses earlier so that the increasing number of absentee voters might benefit. This, I realize, is a tall order amidst the time pressures of political campaigns and the challenge to obtain responses to candidate questionnaires.
In addition to the well-deserved plaudits for CW''s investigative journalism and commitment to coverage of alternative viewpoints, the paper''s regular fine coverage of the arts, music, cafes, restaurants, and movie reviews is also deserving of broad community respect and appreciation.
CW''s first decade anniversary recognition presents an opportunity to offer some suggestions for the future.
Among my petty grievances is CW''s continued use of the "MoCo" abbreviation which conjures a less than pleasant image (read: snot) among the county''s many Spanish speakers! And, who is this mysterious Squid person? And, who makes up the micro font sayings that appear on the margins of the front page of each edition? Shouldn''t loyal readers be entitled to periodic revelations of these well-kept CW secrets?
On a more serious note, I wonder why, with the exception of election and ballot initiative endorsements, CW has refrained from advancing editorial opinions on key issues and controversies in the county. I believe many readers would welcome the opportunity to consider an editorial opinion advanced by the editors on issues that the paper has researched and investigated. While not all readers would agree with your conclusions on some issues of controversy, a well-formulated editorial might promote a healthy level of principled community discourse. The Squid commentaries offer an insight to CW viewpoints with a refreshing levity and humor but they fail to advance a serious editorial platform.
As the global divide between the haves and the have-nots grows grotesquely wider, I believe a focus on the plight of the poor in Monterey County should be presented as a barometer of how our community and nation are faring. And, what about the virtually invisible but growing state prison populations in Soledad? Those condemned to lives in captivity provide a potential rich source of poetry, art, commentary, and social analyses. How many committed crimes of violence vs. economic or drug-related crimes? How much are we spending on incarceration vs. education?
During CW''s next decade of service I would like to see a continued and expanded focus on the impacts of managed health care on the county''s poor and uninsured workers and a continued vigilance on the risks presented by toxic pesticides to our health and environment.
Coverage of education needs to go beyond the reporting of test scores and per capita spending levels to look at our evolving definition of education in the new millenium and the role of the arts, music, literature, diverse historical perspectives, appropriate technology, and the inclusion of social responsibility as a value to be taught at all levels of public and private education. And the periodic coverage of international issues and Monterey County''s growing international community is a vital component of our changing community''s composition. How do these patterns relate to global population trends, family planning, housing, health care, economic democracy and globalization?
In connection with CW''s continued commitment to in-depth coverage of the issues, I urge CW to continue its periodic highlighting of nonprofit organizations, community activists, artists, and educators. CW''s profiling of "ordinary people" as local heroes is worthy of a continuing focus as there is no shortage of people who are making a difference in the development of Monterey County as one of the greatest places to live on the planet.
Thanks for a decade of investigative journalism, comprehensive coverage of the arts and community culture, and for CW''s ever-present sense of humor.
Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary. Here''s to the next 10 years and beyond!
Bill Monning is an attorney, community activist, educator, and host of a weekly radio program on KAZU 90.3 FM, Fridays from noon-1pm.
CW at 10
What it means to me.
By Jackie Lambert
Webster''s Dictionary defines "meaning" as: Something one wishes to convey, especially through language; significance. As Coast Weekly prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, it is appropriate to ask the meaning of all this. How can this publication continue to grow when so many others have fallen by the wayside?
Coast Weekly provides us with a means to stay connected to one another through the arts and entertainment, to share in our common culture and experience new ones. While entertainment is considered "empty calories" by some (and indeed some popular forms of entertainment could lead to brain-death if taken in regular doses), the meaning of entertainment goes beyond pure enjoyment and distraction. Entertainment provides us with a means to gather together, to share a common experience. It provides us with a vehicle to view some of the fruits of human creativity and imagination. Through the medium of entertainment, we experience the best and worst of human behavior without personal consequence. It is the modern-day equivalent to the village camp fire where we come to share a common history and create a common myth.
In my opinion, however, CW''s greatest value to the community lies in its role as an independent voice in the cookie-cutter world of news-gathering organizations. Which means that it serves not only as an independent voice, but at times, the only discordant voice in the arena of public commentary.
Media mega-mergers are threatening to make the First Amendment''s provision for a free press moot. What government cannot lawfully do to censor information, the corporate structure can do most effectively- since corporations are not democracies, and need to be accountable only to their stockholders. A sweeping generalization of the American corporate culture would be the example of the cybernetic culture of "Star Trek" fame, "the Borg." Borg culture is comprised of one dominant leader and millions of drones sharing but a single consciousness. Needless to say, this type of structure is perfectly suited to dampen free thought and expression. Because, if two people always agree, one of them is not thinking.
With the continuing corporatization (OK, I made that word up) of journalism in America, it makes community owned and operated publications all the more important. CW Publisher Bradley Zeve has made it his business to get involved in community affairs. We often see charitable events signifying sponsorship by Coast Weekly. This is the type of involvement that we can''t get anywhere else. The folks who work for CW live with us, volunteer with us and play with us. This means that they know who we are and can provide a perspective and commitment to the community.
While I do enjoy the intelligent, irreverent and conversational style of the of this publication, I most certainly do not agree with all of the opinions expressed in Coast Weekly. Actually, it would be safe to say that I do not agree with a majority of opinions expressed in Coast Weekly. I do, however, have great appreciation for those opinions because, if nothing else, CW helps us to better define our own beliefs and values. This means it provides its audience with a vehicle for thought-provoking debate.
So, what is the significance of having Coast Weekly thriving and growing after 10 years ? The fact that it does strive to serve the local community. Happy Birthday, Coast Weekly. Here''s wishing you many more!
Jackie Lambert is a Seaside resident.