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Adios Monterey Bay Partisan. Viva Voices of Monterey Bay



I was surprised when I realized  the Monterey Bay Partisan was born more than three years ago. Time truly does condense as we grow into our crotchety years. It seems more like three months.

Either way, the Partisan is nearing its last fight and its last typo. But, and it is a big but, there is cause for celebration because the Partisan’s impending fadeout is precipitated by the advent of something bigger and better. It’s a new online news source for the region and it is called Voices of Monterey Bay.

In a soft opening, the web site has been operating for a few days now and the full kickoff is coming soon. You’ll want to read about the details at the Voices site but here’s the Readers’ Digest version. It is the brainchild of former Monterey County Weekly Editor Mary Duan, former Monterey Herald reporter Julie Reynolds Martinez and Joe Livernois, who preceded me as editor of the Herald. I’ll be coming on board as a contributing writer, specializing in investigative efforts, and other journalists will be signing on as well.

The people behind Voices of Monterey Bay are thinking big – much bigger than us Partisan types ever did. It’s a non-profit with charitable status, which means your absolutely critical donations will be tax deductible. A morsel of seed money is in hand but look for plenty of opportunities to help create a budget solid enough to support some solid full-time journalism with a focus on identifying and solving problems. Voices has aligned itself with a Southern California nonprofit that nurtures fledgling news operation and it is seeking financial help from various foundations – and from you. To the greatest extent possible, the Voices report will be bilingual.

This is happening for the same reason I started the Partisan back in 2014 – to supplement the shrinking news report from other sources. Don’t get me started about what isn’t covered in the Herald anymore. The Weekly is fast becoming the dominant source of print news locally and, one can hope, it will continue to grow into that role.

I am proud of a few things we did at the Partisan. I’m very proud of the number of community contributions to the report and those many wonderful essays on politics and dachsunds by Larry Parsons. I think we have done a halfway decent job covering politics, environmental issues and the antics of Cal Am. We kicked a few butts that needed kicking. We plan to maintain an archive after we stop adding content in the coming weeks.

The Partisan proprietor, preparing to sign off

None of this would have been possible without the able and patient contributions of our techmeister, Paul Skolnick, a retired TV journalist who worked without compensation or recognition. Back when I was a newsroom manager, I was smart enough to hire folks smarter than me. I accomplished the same thing by coaxing Skolnick and Parsons to come aboard.

We had several pieces that helped readers interpret the mess that is Peninsula water politics, and we published numerous contributed commentaries that cleared up misunderstandings about inclusionary housing, land use, transportation issues and other topics. Regular contributors included Bill Hood, Jim Toy, Jane Haines, George Riley, Joe Livernois, Bill McCrone, Glenn Robinson and Celeste Akkad, all writing about important topics.

Our biggest financial backer has been winemaker Tony Dann, who has already agreed to help get Voices launched. Other significant contributors included Gillian Taylor, Jane Haines, Michael Stamp, Dan and Jeanne Turner, Larry Parrish, Bill Leone, Lou Panetta and others too numerous to name. I also loved all those $10 checks that wound up in my mailbox. Thank you all.

I hope we have occasionally enlightened and entertained. I am exceedingly grateful for your support and I urge you now to transfer it to Voices of Monterey Bay.


Wrong conceptAlways trying to stay one step ahead of the pack for discriminating readers of the Monterey Bay Partisan, I’m doing a little self-accountability project.

Many leading pundits, in an odd but self-congratulating gesture, used the end of 2015 to look at how well their predictions for the year stood up when all was said and done.

Really, just about all was said and done by Dec. 31. Much of it by Republican Party front man and performance artist Donald Trump, who capped the year conjugating schlong (which remains outlawed in many red states and proposed for a ban in the 2012 GOP platform).

Trump saved a full-throated defense of aerosol hair spray for men, one of the great issues of modern times, in his final stump speech of the year. Make American comb-overs tough as plastic, erosion-proof and great again.

Many pundits, of course, failed big when it came to Trump’s campaign. They predicted the near-end of Trumpmania so many times that poor Jeb Bush actually believed some of the losers. The ones who saw Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a political juggernaut should lose their sinecures and be forced to clean Tim Pawlenty’s lumberjack shirts by hand.

I know I’ll be wrong plenty this year, so many times that I’d best get started and confess the errs of my future ways.

— I will be wrong in predicting House Speaker Paul Ryan will shave his beard. I never imagined part of his deal to take the crumby job but still go home weekends was so he could not only to see his young children, but perform with Wisconsin’s top ZZ Top karaoke tribute band.

— I will be wrong again when I predict the Monterey Peninsula would take the opening of the new In ‘N Out burger joint in Seaside in a sophisticated, understated way. I never guessed it would be accompanied by a blimp fleet, laser light show, massive traffic jams and Mayor Ralph Rubio’s unfortunate ribbon-cutting mishap.

— I’ll be red-faced when my bold prediction that Castroville, under the new effort to normalize relations with Cuba, will establish a sister-city bond with a community on the island nation. Seems I was wrong in thinking there’s a place called Castroburg near Havana. Monterey, meanwhile, will add six more sister cities.

— I’ll really have to eat my optimistic words that 2016 will be the year of miracle, when all parties in the gigantic fight over Monterey Peninsula water — including the steelhead — will find common bonds in their existential weariness. Under the peace deal I envisioned, all golf courses would be irrigated for 18 months by desalted tears of joy. But Cal Am’s filing for a rate increase with the CPUC on all tear-supplied waters doomed the fragile agreement.

— Crow will be served on my plate for my rash declaration that Congressman Sam Farr will rescind his retirement and seek another term to take up the cause of shocking abuse suffered by fleas in the American flea-circus industry. Internal polling swiftly shows the popularity of fleas among voters ranks just below bedbugs and slightly above drug-price gouger Martin Shkreli. Farr’s plan to celebrate his re-retirement with an old-fashioned bonfire on the Carmel beach ends in horrible chaos as police disperse the celebrants with perfume-scented pepper spray.

— I will be sadly mistaken by my inability to collect on a $20 wager for correctly predicting Donald Trump will win the GOP nomination in Cleveland this summer. The former reporter colleague with whom I made the bet moves out of the area, denies knowledge of the wager, says he can’t afford to pay because his cat needs a tummy tuck, and, finally, responds to all my pay-up messages with a blanket “Shut up, Larry” Just like the old days in the newsroom.

— With deep shame, I admit my vow to never shut up when there are good fights to fight and Trump hair jokes to make went awry when Monterey Bay Partisan Czar R. Calkins replaces me early in 2016 with the new “cranky geezer” app. The app spits out superior topical humor in mere seconds, while improving on the very old model — me — by spelling words corectly.


How KSBW wounded two egos at once


B2L4F4oIIAA0MME.jpg-largeIf both Pine Cone publisher Paul Miller and I were to sue KSBW for messing up this caption, it would be one heckuva trial. Paul and I would never be able to agree on a lawyer, and we would call entirely different witnesses to try to establish that either of us had been defamed. Expert witnesses would testify that, by definition, there could not have been any injury to the reputations involved. This was from the piece that aired Friday about the media’s exasperation over the sheriff’s race, and how most journalists in the region had voted for Ron Chesshire. Felix Cortez from KSBW would testify that he made an honest mistake telling the graphic editor that the bald guy was Calkins. Officials at Cal Am reacted with confusion and quickly attempted to buy ad space in the Partisan.


The Monterey Bay Partisan is two weeks old now, so I thought some loyal readers might like an update.

With some 200 hits on a good day, traffic has been better than expected, considering that all the writing so far has been mine, a fact that can try even my patience. Technical assistance has been provided thus far by my lovely family and my lovely friend Paul Skolnick. Some of you Fresno types may remember from his Channel 30 days.


Which takes me to Appeal No. 1. I thought I had made it clear early on that I am looking for others to share the writing. After you have liked us on Facebook, after you have hit the share button and gone to the site itself to hit the subscribe button, your work is not done.

You need to leave some comments at the end of the pieces your read, AND THEN WRITE YOUR OWN DARNED PIECE. Write about the topics covered here or write about something entirely different. You can write about the potholes on your street or man’s inhumanity to man, especially local man’s inhumanity to local man. Pitch your project or poke holes in someone else’s. Write about Cal Am! Write about the upcoming election! Write about how that darned Monterey County Weekly hasn’t written a word about the Monterey Bay Partisan. I can’t promise you I’ll put everything on the website, but I will tend to err on the side of putting it out there.

Sure, we’re small now, but most great, world-changing ideas started out small. You may wonder why you would write something for a blog with a three-figure circulation. I’ll tell you why. Unless you’re Charles Krauthammer, your writing isn’t getting much play in the local dailies and weeklies. This isn’t supposed to be just Royal Calkins’ blog. It’s supposed to be a community blog. Let’s get this party started. You can find me at calkinsroyal@gmail.com


Which takes me to Appeal No. 2. I am doing this out of passion for journalism and to fill some gaps in the local news and opinion scene (do I have to spell everything out?). I’m not trying to make a living out of it. I’ve got other things to do that actually make me a little money. But, and let me be absolutely clear about this, I COULD USE A LITTLE HELP HERE.

Some wonderful folks approached me after my much-celebrated departure from the Monterey Herald in February and offered to help me launch a site something like this (actually they were thinking bigger and better, but here we are.) A little financial help was extended, accepted, greatly appreciated and depleted before I decided to try to get this moving without the complications that committees can create.

I am finding now that despite that aforementioned passion, expenses can be the enemy of resolve. There are fees for the website host, for the domain name, for this and for that. I hope eventually to be able to pay for some of the contributions that will be prompted by Appeal No. 1. And now some of my wiser friends are telling me that libel insurance is a must if this site is to be as vigorous as the community deserves. And then there’s Freelance Guild dues and that kid in college, etc., etc.

So here’s the plan. I am getting the Monterey Bay Partisan incorporated as a non-profit, and then I will ruthlessly seek out those among you whose extra money is just sitting around looking for something to do. The aim is to raise enough to support some actual journalism, some digging into the things that need digging into, instead of relying on mere opinionizing. Or is that opinionating? At the moment, for instance, I am working on a piece about some surprising security breaches at a local defense facility and a fraud aimed at seniors.

When newspapers started shrinking, one of the first casualties was investigative reporting. As newspapers morph into 24/7 news operations aiming to out-Twitter the competition, what passes for in-depth reporting of any kind will become a memory. I won’t say that blogs like this are the answer, but I don’t see many other candidates out there.

I bring this up now as something akin to market research. I’d like to get some sense of whether the idea of private sponsorships is practicable or not. If you think you might be interested in lending a financial hand, please give me a shout at calkinsroyal@gmail.com. I won’t spread your name around, but if and when I do line up sponsors, I would hope to acknowledge them on the website.

I don’t plan to sell ads. I know how much they can taint the editorial processes. (Actually, it is less of a factor than you might expect at most newspapers, but when it happens it creates a smell that is not quickly forgotten.)

So if you’ve got a few bucks, or a buncha bucks, that could use some exercise, you’ve found the place. Again, send me a note at calkinsroyal@gmail.com, and we can talk about it.


When my friend Paul and I put that profile of a pelican at the top of this page, it never occurred to us that anyone would see anything but a pelican profile. But we have learned the hard way that some people, and you know who you are, look at the pelican and see a high-heeled shoe. Take a look. You’ll see what I mean.

This high-heeled shoe instead of a pelican is not a good thing.Branding and marketing and all.

So look here soon for another change. Obviously, our budget doesn’t allow for any meaningful testing of designs or other factors, but I’m headed out to find something new for the top. Maybe I’ll find a pelican that doesn’t look like a shoe. I have reached out to some photographer friends, hoping they might share some iconic Monterey Bay images but I guess they’re busy trying to come up with sponsorship money instead.

With any luck, I’ll find a beautiful beach scene, or some perfectly photogenic otters. And if you see the otters and think one of them looks like, say, Joe Heston, please don’t tell me.