Posts tagged ‘newspapering’

November 6, 2009

Daily paper turning yellow? (Not because it’s been on the doorstep for two weeks)

We’ve all noticed the changes, some of them quite severe, to the Ventura County Star in the past 6 months or so. Sections cut, thinner editions overall and to their credit, a reorganized Web site with a lot of fat trimmed away. But leaner, it seams has also turned meaner, and as an editor for the county’s only weekly–historically a venue with a sharper tongue than its daily counterparts–even I find myself wincing.

In her most recent “Cafe Society” column, Lisa McKinnon’s snarky commentary about Hush Lounge (For the record: we reported on Hush’s closing and possible reopening long before the folks at the Star got wind of it) makes me wonder what her intentions are.

Over the years, I’ve had my own epiphanies about this type of “journalism.” Occasionally it’s called for, but for for the most part I no longer find it necessary to wax bitchy in print.

When I was younger and VCReporter was only beginning to find its identity as something other than a vacant community throwaway, and we were finding our alt-weekly voice, it was tempting to approach EVERYTHING from a cynical perspective. We took no prisoners and everyone was fair game.

But time offers perspective and (hopefully) maturity. So a decade later, I’m no longer interested in negative portrayals, with one exception: When justice is served by fearless reporting. Chit chat about the politics and culture of local small business does not qualify.

I can’t help but wonder if the Star is resorting to unfortunate tactics to gain readership. It’s a tough time and I don’t envy the staff there, I empathize. But, it seems to me, in an increasingly hostile and competitive world, isn’t it better to be nice? Choosing kindness and compassion can only benefit everyone.

Ms. McKinnon: Lighten up sister, it’s not easy for anyone right now. Use the power of your pen for good. Everyone has a story and everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

October 8, 2009

VCReporter one year later . . .

behind the curtain

behind the curtain

It’s been one year since I returned to VCReporter to reprise my role as arts editor. It’s a labor of love and I’d be loath to find a more perfect fit.  I feel I’ve accomplished much of what I hoped to, yet there’s so much I wish I could do with the section (art & culture, music/after dark, film/media).

Some things I’ve changed:

  • Added a music column and a gaming column
  • Ceased all coverage of events or people outside the Ventura County line (including CD reviews and “worth the drive.”)
  • Brought some new writers into the fold (Jim Scolari, Claudio Pardo, Erik Hayden, Chris O’Neal, Chris Mastrovito and Alex Field) and kindly waved goodbye to others.
  • Expanded music coverage and brought back the annual music issue.
  • Highly recommended shows in the “after dark” section plus more band photos and weekly picks.
  • Expanded theater coverage, assisted in a “happenings” overhaul and put theater back into arts listings along with additional visual art listings.
  • Arts briefs

What’s still being imagined:

  • A condensed, more magazine-like art & culture section
  • TV column
  • Local music podcast
  • Reporter sponsored music and film events

I hope you continue to read and enjoy the arts and entertainment section of the Reporter and let us know what you like, what you don’t like, what there’s too much of and what there’s not enough of.

Cheers to the year ahead . . . an even better year.

September 17, 2009

BEST OF: the subjectivity of hierarchy and a few of my favorite things in Ventura County

We just put our annual Best Of Ventura County issue to bed after a long but mostly painless labor (depending on who you talk to.) This was not the first time I’ve been involved with the issue but it was my introduction to the back-end/inner workings of the voting process.

I am currently working on an article about the approval process for WAV applicants, which makes for an interesting parallel with “Best Of” on the subject of winning. Just as hundreds of people are coveting one of the affordable artist live/work units in the project, others are hoping to be voted the Best in their category in VCReporter.

Best Mexican food, best band, best citizen, best bartender. . . the list goes on. For those who may not be clear, this is a READER’S POLL. VCReporter staff did not have anything to do with deciding the winners or choosing who would “compete.”

We did however, do our best to make sure it was a fair fight, but there are always those who win when they probably shouldn’t have and others who weren’t voted for and should have been. Were it up to us, many of the winners would have been different. But, it’s not up to us, it’s up to our readers, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye with our beloveds.

Your “best” Mexican food is not mine. Your favorite artist is not mine. Your favorite band is also not mine. Because I am informed about music and have a long history as a listener, does that mean I can determine who the “best” musician is? Maybe my favorite Mexican food isn’t really authentic but someone else’s is. Which of us can say what the best is? If 200 people say Katy Perry is the best female vocalist in the world, but Joni Mitchell says Eryka Badu is, who is right? It’s a popularity contest and it’s a matter of taste–which we all know there is no accounting for. That said, here are a few of my Ventura County bests:

Art Gallery:
Winner=Red Brick Gallery
My Pick=Artists’s Union Gallery

Best Local Band:
Winner=Rey Fresco
My Pick=tie between All Seeing Eyes & Dirty Words (<3 ❤ <3)

Best Live Music Venue:
My Pick=The Lodge (Exquisite sound, comfortable and cool)

Best Annual Cultural Event
Winner=Casa Pacifica Wine & Food
My Pick=ArtWalk Ventura (Say what you will, I always enjoy it)

Best Mexican Food
My Pick=El Rey

Best Breakfast
Winner=Allison’s Country Cafe
My Pick=Art’s Corner Cafe (Corner cakes and campfire combo… mmmmm)

Best Gift Shop
Winner=B on Main
My Pick=B on Main (Carol knows her stuff)

Best Chiropractor
Winner=Logan Osland
My Pick=Daniel O Schnieder (He’s a magic man.. yaaaaa)

June 5, 2009


Since I re-entered the VCReporter fold 8 (wow) months ago, I’ve been feeling the pinch of too little space to adequately cover the vast number of events and interesting people in the county.

So.. I’ve been mulling different ways to do more with less, make the most of my limited real estate, looking at how other weeklies and magazines do it. Hopefully I’ll be able to begin playing with some ideas and make them tangible, within the next few weeks. I would love to know what people feel they are not seeing enough of, or seeing too much of,  in the arts and entertainment section.

One thing we’re launching next week is our new music column by Camarillo resident Chris Mastrovito. I’m really excited to welcome Chris has he as exactly the kind of enthusiasm for local music that I was looking for. Plus–he can write!

Chris will be giving us a scene report every other week, give or take, with highlights from the weekend and juicy bits from the nether regions of practice pads throughout the county.  Please give us your feedback regarding a&e content. We are paying attention.

April 9, 2009


I hate to say it but the continuing failure of the newspaper industry is almost, almost justifiable when its figureheads show their ignorance of new media technologies, publicly no less. Google’s CEO Eric E. Schmidt spoke at a newspaper convention recently, and was forced to answer uninformed questions from newspaper executives about Google’s news snippets and headlines.

Google is a search engine, people. It drives traffic TO your publication online. It is not your competitor. Think outside column width. Google is your friend, duh.

January 10, 2009

Calendars and resistance to change

From the time I was about 12 until my early -mid ’20s, every Sunday morning (whether morning was at 8 a.m or 3 p.m.) I would furiously flip through the delicious layers of the Los Angeles Times to find the Calendar section.

Back then it was all about music critics Robert Hilburn (loved and hated by many) and later Kristine McKenna. Despite his frequently annoying perspectives and overuse of adjectives, Hilburn was pretty much the final word on music in the greater Los Angeles area. Come to think of it, he’s probably one of the reasons I was attracted to journalism (along with Hunter Thompson and of course Lester Bangs, who yes, I am old enough to have read in Creem magazine).

My love affair with the Sunday Calendar endured through my adolescence, the punk years and the trying to be “normal” years, until with one bold editorial decision from the Times staff, everything changed.

What had previously been a pull-out, non-glossy, weekly magazine style section was replaced with a non-descript, unwieldy monster, the full length in inches of the rest of the paper.

It was a departure I couldn’t warm up to and after about 3 weeks of failed attempts, I gave up entirely.

On a recent Sunday morning, freshly pressed coffee in hand, I sat at my table and read the Los Angeles Times Calendar cover to cover, with my previous relish.  I was sated. 20 years later and I’m finally over the Calendar’s format change. It occurs to me what a creature of habit I am and I’m sure I’m not alone. I wonder if the Reporter has any such loyal readers who would be as ruffled by such a change?

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