Photo by Linda Caballero Sotelo
Anti-immigrant defacement at the New Americans Museum
When it comes to CityBeat , the headline above says it all. For years, it's been emblazoned on the paper's t-shirts and promotional material, but for the people who have written or worked at the paper over the years, "Real. Alternative. News." has been more of a mantra than a clever slogan.
Speaking for myself, I've always taken this saying very seriously. Way back in 2004, I approached then CityBeat music editor Troy Johnson at a Casbah show and told him that I wanted to write for the paper. I explained to him that the city's other weekly just didn't speak to me and that I had been following CityBeat since its early days as SLAMM . Perhaps he was impressed with my knowledge of the paper or just my persistence, but he gave me my first shot at writing for a weekly paper. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I thought a lot about how thankful I am that he didn't write me off as some overzealous fanboy.
One of the first news stories I ever wrote for the paper was a day-by-day synopsis of the protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Back then, it seemed it couldn't get any worse than George W. Bush. Boy, were we naïve.
And now here I am, over 10 years later, writing my first official editor's note for the paper. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I visited some family up in the Pacific Northwest and while I was there, I found myself attempting to explain what San Diego CityBeat is many times over.
It's the only alt-weekly in the city.
It's a fantastic mix of local music, arts and news coverage.
It's the weekly in San Diego that people actually read.
Subtle jabs at the competition aside, none of the above descriptions seemed to fully encapsulate all that we do at the paper. In fact, the "alt" prefix has gotten a bit of a bad rep lately thanks to the rise of the alt-right and the seemingly endless stream of alt-news sites (read: fake news sites) that now flood our social media pages.
But make no mistake: While this paper is decidedly left-of-center, there's nothing fake nor is there anything remotely resembling conjecture in the news reporting in CityBeat . Over the years, our little paper has won a wall's worth of journalism awards for our arts and news coverage. We broke stories that otherwise would have gone unreported. We've championed issues like homelessness and government accountability. We've prided ourselves on having the best local arts coverage in town, including having an iconic and respected voice when it comes to music. Our columnists are a multi-cultural assortment of brilliant voices with something important, and often humorous, to say on a range of topics.
None of that will change under my watch. There will be changes made in the next few months and into the new year, but I want to assure readers of our commitment to investigate and report stories that might have slipped through the proverbial cracks.
For example, I recently learned that one of my favorite museums in town, the New Americans Museum, was the victim of a hate crime over the weekend. On Saturday morning, someone walked into the museum and decided to write anti-immigrant messages on pieces within the museum's new Cultural Memory and Immigration exhibition.
"I just, I should've seen it coming in many ways, given that we are the New Americans Museum, but I can't help but be shocked by it," said the museum's Executive Director Linda Caballero-Sotelo when I spoke to her just before this issue went to print.
I'll be reporting more on this story in next week's issue, but it was worth pointing out here in the regard that while Caballero-Sotelo was shocked that it happened in the first place, I was more shocked that only a few small news outlets were reporting on it.
In this strange and scary political epoch that we now live in, this city needs an alt-weekly more than ever. A paper that will seek out the types of stories that other papers might not cover, because, well, they're more worried about the bottom line.
That's not me. That's not us. The next few years are going to be hard on everyone, but readers can depend on us to be true to our roots. To be real. To be alternative. To be newsy. It's who we are. It's who we've always been. Editors come and go, but that will never change.