Bad news travels fast.
By "bad," I mean "not correct"-as in, "wrong."
I don't generally like to write about my own paper. It's the same line of thinking that feeds my distaste for writers including themselves in their stories; if you're going to write in first-person, I tell my writers, you'd better have a damn good reason.
Sure, I've violated my own rule several times since CityBeat began, but I think I've had good reason. I did it when we launched on Aug. 21, 2002. I did it again when this paper was admitted into the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. And I did it when the U-T's Bob Kittle threw a tantrum over CityBeat's inclusion on KPBS' "Editors Roundtable" radio program and characterized our brand of journalism as "trash" in an e-mail to highly placed folks at KPBS and San Diego State University.
I didn't write about the paper a month ago when we celebrated our first anniversary (though one could argue I had a good reason to do so-when we started, some said we didn't stand a chance). But a conversation last week has given me what I think might be a compelling reason to do it again.
The chat was with a member of the local alternative media, who told associate editor Kelly Davis and me that there is a perception among San Diego's network of young leftists that CityBeat is the local version of a mass-produced, cookie-cutter product made by some huge newspaper factory that spits out CityBeats across the country. This revelation coincided roughly with some lively e-mail exchanges CityBeat writers have had with a few young radicals in town, and some things are starting to make sense to me.
In recent weeks, I've been wringing my hands over the response we've received from San Diego's youthful activists, some of whom have hit us with the sort of venomous missives typically reserved for the mainstream media. Gradually, we've realized that they don't know what they're talking about. With equal amounts of dismay and relief, we've learned that they don't really even read the paper. One young woman revealed this when she commented that CityBeat is not political and doesn't even try to be. Initially, we thought that comment bewildering, given that CityBeat's front section is filled with progressive political news and commentary every week.
(As an aside, just as we were learning that some of our critics don't read us, we were struck by the realization that many young activists in town tend to rant about large-scale national and global issues but ignore the local issues over which they could actually exert some influence, but that's another story.)
With that, in the off chance one of them actually sees this week's issue, let's clear the air:
San Diego CityBeat is owned by Southland Publishing Inc., which, over the past three years, has grown from one little weekly in Ventura, Calif., into a small chain of independent papers. Southland bought the Pasadena Weekly in 2001. Then, in 2002, it bought San Diego's SLAMM music magazine and turned it into CityBeat, a full-fledged alternative weekly (we borrowed the name from our friends at Cincinnati CityBeat, but there's no deeper affiliation than that). Earlier this year, Southland Publishing acquired the assets of the former New Times Los Angeles and launched L.A. CityBeat and its closely tied sister publication, L.A. ValleyBeat. That's it.
True, some of us parachuted into San Diego last year to start this paper; publisher Charles Gerencser came from the Pasadena paper, and Kelly Davis and I came from Ventura. But the guy who does our local political coverage, John R. Lamb, has been doing journalism in San Diego since 1982. Futhermore, the man that made CityBeat happen, Southland "group publisher" David Comden, has very close ties to San Diego, having lived here for the better part of two decades. Combined, we have progressive-weekly experience up and down California, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Ventura, Sacramento, Marin and Chico.
There has been some degree of story sharing among Southland's papers (San Diego CityBeat has so far published one L.A. CityBeat article, a recent cover story on the band Jane's Addiction), but all our editorial decisions are made here. Southland Publishing offers us absolutely zero input on editorial matters.
CityBeat's here to do a couple of things: continue what had been SLAMM's coverage of the music scene and bring it to a wider audience, and provide an independent, progressive viewpoint on city, state, national and global social and political issues. Now, let's move on.