THIRTY YEARS AGO SEEMS LIKE FOREVER AGO. Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel in 1988 (Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs, too), Congressman Jimmy Panetta was only 19 years old. Desktop computers were in just 15 percent of households, and if you were lucky enough to have one, you stored your data on a 20-megabyte hard drive or floppy disk. Mobile phones were also new and rare – it would have cost you more than $4,000 in today’s dollars to own one. Anthony Kennedy was appointed to the Supreme Court (he just retired). Oliver North was indicted for conspiracy in the Iran-Contra Affair. Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Bigstarring Tom Hanks made it big in Hollywood, and Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine was a sensation. Dianne Reeves appeared at the 31st Monterey Jazz Festival – she just sang at the 61st last month.
And 1,578 weeks ago, in the fall of 1988, Monterey County Weekly launched. (It was calledCoast Weekly back then, for you old-timers.)
We didn’t have a solid business plan but a feisty journalistic one (we hadn’t come from business school): Put out the best damn newspaper possible; cover the news, arts, culture and entertainment with great reporting, writing and design; support the business community with creative ads that worked; make enough money to pay the staff, printer and other bills on time; repeat. We were motivated to compete against the stodgy dailies and weeklies, had come of age during the civil rights movement and Watergate, had been raised by the G.I. generation, and were determined to offer a fresh, independent voice, one that might serve this dynamic, complicated community. We were determined to create the best weekly calendar of events and report on the arts and cultural scene with gusto. We wanted a sharp newspaper and – when appropriate – one with a sense of humor. We didn’t want to be predictable, but did want to be reliable. We didn’t want to be confused with plain vanilla, and wanted to be an important ingredient for your weekly diet.
For those of you who have done the same job for 30 years or more, or have been married or in a long-term relationship over that amount of time, you’ll appreciate that we often didn’t really know what we were doing, nor the best way to proceed. We didn’t know the best way to navigate around unforeseen landmines nor to gracefully resolve the challenge-of-the-day. TheWeekly has faced many, many obstacles – financial, personal, cultural, technological – it’s humbling to know we’ve survived, much less thrived and are even in full stride during this noisy, tumultuous time.
And you’ll be happy to know we still vigorously disagree about the best path forward to continue to be relevant, and valued, about what’s most important or pressing to remain a vital media company.
But we’ve made it, at least this far, and have yet to miss a single press deadline. If the Weekly is new to you, if this is your first issue, we hope you enjoy it and we earn your trust. And if this is the 1,578th straight week you’ve had the Weekly in your hands, we want to thank you, deeply. We mean it.
It’s not news that the media world has been turned upside down since our courageous and naive beginnings. But the corporatization of media had begun before we began, with daily newspapers, radio and TV all becoming commodities of a fewer, bigger companies or venture capitalists. Their emphasis was on the bottom line, the financial one, at the expense of their journalistic missions.
The need for an alternative media then, and now, has not lessened. Although Google, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist in the 1980s, the centralization of the news and media was already full on.
I’m grateful that the Weekly has been able to stand tall in these winds of change. We’re proud we’ve grown to become the largest circulated newspaper in the county, with a circulation four times greater than our competitors, but that didn’t come easy. We’ve been working hard to support our advertisers, and help them be successful. We’ve been devoted to ensure you can easily find a Weekly convenient to your workplace or home, same place, same time, every Thursday. We’re diligent about the placement and condition of our red racks on the street, and grateful to all the businesses that have the Weekly inside their enterprise for you, too. Our team is devoted, and exceptional (and 46 percent of the Weekly staff has been here 10 years or more).
Ultimately, we all know we have to earn your readership, every week. We’re committed to telling great stories to help us all better navigate and mine the best life possible in Monterey County. We fight for our First Amendment rights in the courts, to ensure we (and hence, you too) have access to documents and stories that should be in the public realm. We’ve fought some darker forces that think their money will keep the truth in the shadows, away from you. But as many have learned, we’re tenacious.
Despite so many of our weekly brethren shrinking or failing, properties including the Village Voice or the SF Bay Guardian, this community clearly continues to support Monterey County Weekly. We are grateful. It’s taken perseverance to publish as a local and independent media – it hasn’t all been easy nor fun. It’s taken some great supporters to stand us up when we’ve faltered, and to forgive us when we’ve erred. We are devoted to our craft, and this community. And we want to continue to earn your respect and trust.
There’s 30 years of Monterey County Weekly to celebrate today. Thank you all who have participated in Monterey County Gives!, a special project of the Weekly that we’ve created with some great partners – Community Foundation for Monterey County, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Neumeier Poma Investment Counsel and the Cannery Row Company. MCGives! has raised and donated over $17 million since inception for the nonprofit community; this year’s campaign kicks off Nov. 8. Look for that upcoming issue, and please, choose at least one nonprofit to support.
We work hard at the Weekly – we have no choice, really, as there is so much to know and report on and do to produce a newspaper that reflects the diversity and uniqueness of our county. We also like to play hard. Please join us Oct. 27 for our 30th Anniversary Party and Halloween Ball, at the Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey, a fundraiser for Monterey County Gives!. The Monophonics are headlining the show (they’re on tour, and great) but it will be the costume party that shows off you, the true Best of Monterey County®. Thank you again. See you soon.