I figured one of two things would happen. The first, of course, was that it would be a fizzle, a publication that would generate a few chuckles, make a few politicians nervous for a bit, allow a couple of wrinkled newspaper guys one last hurrah or harrumph and then it would be over in time for basketball season.
The second prediction, make that hope, was that something grander would come about, much bigger and better than what you’re looking today. I was hoping the Partisan would quickly become a digital trading house where news stories would be written by us and many others, that there would be essays and manifestos and screeds from the many talented and otherwise remarkable people of this community. Being a naive optimist, as well as a cynical realist, I thought there would be a “staff” of who knows how many, some of them paid, and that when your alarm went off in the morning you’d be hearing the newsreaders at the various stations awaken you with “The Monterey Bay Partisan reported this morning that…..”
I was hoping the Partisan would be “of the community” and not just “about the community.”
As it has turned out, we celebrate our first birthday from some point between those two visions, much closer to No. 1 than to No. 2.
Even so, I think it’s been worthwhile and I believe a goodly number of people in the community agree. I don’t want to give out too many numbers but let’s just say that if things keep going the way they are, we’ll be ahead of the Salinas Californian circulation-wise one of these days. On a good day, as many as 2,000 readers find their way here.
We’ve popped off some decent stories, only a few real scoops but on many occasions we’ve had the first meaningful reports about events that seemed to have lived and died briefly on the pages of other publications before limping off never to be seen again. The best example came on March 11, our piece about how the Public Utilities Commission plans to fine Cal Am Water more than $800,000 for charging customers on the Peninsula for water projects or improvements that don’t exist. The Herald had done a piece but the focus was on how Cal Am thought the fine was bogus. There was virtually nothing about the details of Cal Am’s little scheme. Monterey County Weekly? Nada. KSBW? Sorry, there’s been an accident on Boronda. We’ll get back to you. Carmel Pine Cone? If it had done anything, it might have opined that the state was picking on private enterprise.
Another strong example was our piece from last weekend about the Monterey County grand jury report on the meltdown at Carmel City Hall. Once again, the Herald wrote about it but barely. Now don’t get me wrong. I love the reporting staff at the Herald but when the ownership is working on exit strategies and shopping for thinner newsprint, expectations sink even lower than resources. The Weekly, meanwhile, proved its resourcefulness and served the community by picking up our piece. Truly looking forward to what the Pine Cone will do with the story tomorrow since, after all, the grand jury said much of the blame for what ails Carmel governance these days rests right at the PC’s feet. (BTW, Paul, still waiting for payment for the photo you purloined from us, the one that showed the water pump you said didn’t exist.)
The MBP has done fairly well with most things involving land use and pretty well with the current debate over leases at Fisherman’s Wharf. Amazingly, perhaps tragically, the pages of the Partisan have become THE leading source of information and debate over this hugely important issue. What we’ve got there, of course, is a case of hardball politics. Some of the players on the wharf are big players in other aspects of the community, big advertisers, big everything, so let’s just guess that a lot of big thinking goes into everything the advertising-dependent media do on this issue. Or don’t do. That’s part of what sets us apart. Our only advertising is those annoying little blurbs at the top and side of this page about things that have nothing to do with Monterey County.
Perhaps the most important thing we’ve done so far is to create a place where people in the community, including quite a few people who actually know what they are talking about, can correct the Partisan’s misimpressions, add information and context to the debate and then debate among themselves. Since our inauguration we have had just over 300 posts — news stories mostly, some editorials, quite a few commentaries — and they have generated more than 3,400 responses. In many if not most cases, it has been people responding to other responses.
If there is anywhere else in this community where you can regularly find intelligent discussion of important issues, if there is anywhere else where you can weigh in yourself almost instantly, please let me know because I’d probably want to A. buy them a drink and B. partner with them.
Not bad what we’ve done, but it falls well short of what it could be. We have several strong regular contributors, starting with reporter/columnist/bon vivant Larry Parsons, one of the smartest and best informed people I have ever known. The description applies, too, to our technical guru, Paul Skolnick. We also have been blessed by regular contributions from Bill Hood, Susan Meister, George Riley and a few others. But more are needed. Many more. We know, you’re busy, but are you really that busy?
Our intent was not to try to replace any of the news outlets but to supplement their dwindling reports, potentially stirring them to do more. To our way of thinking, a community functions better when people know what’s going on. When the flow of information dries up, the people on the inside, the people calling the shots and making the deals, they have an easier time skimming off the best parts and leaving the rest of us with the leftovers and no understanding of why.
We’d love to see a lot more news and commentary out of the Salinas Valley, where the Californian looks to be on its last breath. Even though our core audience so far is on the Peninsula and most Peninsula people don’t think about Salinas unless they have to, we’re eager to get some Salinas voices into the Partisan. Let me say it again. We’re eager to get some Salinas voices into the Partisan.
The upcoming county elections actually could serve to force Peninsula residents to look across the Lettuce Curtain. Former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue is going to try to gather enough development and ag money to knock Seaside-based Jane Parker off the Board of Supervisors, and feisty Tony Barrera of the Salinas City Council is going to try to pick up enough Peninsula support to knock off Supervisor Fernando “I’ll Vote for Any Construction Project” Armenta. If some Peninsula-Salinas Valley coalitions don’t develop, paradise indeed will be paved.
If you read the news at all, you may know that the Herald is likely to go through another ownership change in the near future. It was nearly a done deal at one point. A hedge fund was going to sell the Herald and rest of the Digital First Media chain to a venture fund, or vice versa, but that fell through. Now, the hedgers are talking to potential buyers everywhere from Tampa to Tonopah. It is our great hope here that the Herald ends up in the hands of people who believe in community journalism, who aren’t profit driven and who want a paper willing to let the light shine on this wonderful region and its inner workings. I do know some people who share that thinking. If you’re interested in learning more about them, shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the bright side are those hardworking and conscientious souls toiling at the Herald, and their equally hardworking and conscientious souls at the Weekly, the TV stations and, yes, even at the Pine Cone. But even combining all of those souls, we’re left with an overall Peninsula news staff of well less than half of what we had a decade ago. So, though, the Partisan finds itself much closer to the failure it feared than the success it dreamed of, we’ll continue plugging along for now.
And, yes, though it makes us stammer and blush and stare at our raggedy shoes, we’re not above accepting birthday presents except from those who want something in return. There’s that Pay Pal button in the top right corner of this page and checks have been known to reach 84 Harper Canyon, Salinas, 93908. If our bank balance ever makes it to four figures, we’ll let you know.
But enough of that. Let’s keep this birthday bash rolling by sending birthday greetings as well to the subscribers and commentors, contributors and critics who have pushed us to be whatever we are. For your contributions financial or otherwise, your support, your constructive criticism and even your reasonable doubts, thanks so much to Tony Dann, Morley Brown, John Dalessio, Julie Engell, John O’Brien, Ron Darling, Robert Powell, Ron Chesshire, Bill Leone, Jeff Haferman, Carolyn Hardy, Scott Miller, Bill Wiegle, Phil Butler, Beverly Bean, Janet Brennan, Willard McCrone, Libby Downey, Dan Turner, Jeanne Turner, Robert Montgomery, Larry Parrish, Alan Haffa, Jane Parker, Linda Anderson, Gordon Smith, Dennis Renault.
Thanks to Steve Collins, Pam Dozier, Jeff Dunn, Marc del Piero, Joe Livernois, Tony Peet, Tisa Roland, Glenn Robinson, Susan Ragsdale-Cronin, Celeste Akkad, Bill Rawson, Bob Lippi, Greg Furey, Dixie Dixon, Nader Agha, Michael Stamp, Dan Laidman, Ann Hill, Brian Baughn, Tom Moore, Marcos Cabrera, Jan Shriner, Karl Pallastrini, Luana Conley, Jane Haines, Nancy Peden, Julia Reynolds. And many others. You know who you are.