I've been impressed with the Pleasanton Weekly for a long time. Editor Jeb Bing was a regular on TV30's Media Roundtable, proving updates on the latest happenings in Pleasanton. I was sorry to see that show taken off the air, especially since they discontinued the 580/680 newscast too. Bing is one of those crusty, old newspaper men that you'd see in the newspaper movies of the 30's and 40's. He really fits the role and is a good reporter to boot.
The Pleasanton Weekly is the flagship paper in Embarcadero Publishing's East Bay Division. Embarcadero Publishing was founded in 1979 by Bill Johnson in Palo Alto with the Palo Alto Weekly. The Palo Alto Weekly is still being published in paper format along with several other weekly newspapers in Silicon Valley and the Pleasanton Weekly in the East Bay.
In December of 2008 I met with CEO Bill Johnson and East Bay President Gina Channell-Allen to propose taking over the San Ramon Observer online newspaper, which I had been writing and publishing on my own since 2002. Embarcadero Publishing had just started a Danville Weekly and I thought they should add a San Ramon Observer Weekly too.
Johnson and Allen told me they were planning to start an online San Ramon Express soon and wanted to include my San Ramon Observer commentaries in it. So that's how I got started writing the San Ramon Observer blog in the San Ramon Express.
The Danville Weekly was also converted to an online-only Express, but the Pleasanton Weekly is still published every week in paper format as well as daily online.
I thought the $60 I paid to Support Local Journalism on the Pleasanton Weekly website was for an annual subscription to the weekly newspaper, but Gina Channell-Allen told me it is a donation. Here's her reply to my questions about it.
"Support Local Journalism isn't a fee or charge; it is a donation to make sure we are able to continue bringing quality local journalism to the area. It is completely voluntary. I've seen a couple local news sites try "paywalls," where members have to pay a monthly fee to be able to see stories. For the most part that model doesn't work, so I don't foresee us doing that. However, we have been considering a Support Local Journalism membership campaign in Danville and San Ramon. I think the sites are known and respected, and people will want the sites to continue to be strong. But if someone doesn't want to become a member, they won't be banned from the sites or unsubscribed to the emails, and people who choose not to become supporters of the Pleasanton Support Local Journalism campaign don't stop receiving the paper or emails or access to the site."
The Contra Costa Times offers paid subscriptions for their online versions. I paid $52 or a dollar a day, for a one-year subscription to the online version of the Contra Costa Times. This isn't the same as the Contra Costa Times website. It is an online replica of the printed newspaper. I don't read it every day, but I like having access to the complete daily paper.
Even though the CC Times is local, it is owned by the Bay Area Newsgroup, which is owned by the big newspaper conglomerate, Media News Group. Many of the long-time reporters were laid off after MediaNews merged the Contra Costa and Alameda County newspapers a few years ago. Independent news has been shrinking in the last 20 or 30 years.
The San Ramon Patch is another online paper that appears to be local, and it is staffed by local people and bloggers galore, but the Patch organization is run by America Online. So the Patch is part of a big media conglomerate too.
Embarcadero Publishing really is local media. Along with The Pleasanton Weekly, the East Bay Division publishes the San Ramon Express, Danville Express, and the TriValleyViews, which sort of covers Dublin, but looks like something half-way between Pleasanton and San Ramon (oops that is Dublin).
I asked Gina if some of the $60 I paid on the Pleasanton Weekly website helps support the San Ramon and Danville Expresses. Here's what she said:
"First, thank you for supporting us!
You are correct that a small portion goes toward supporting the Danville and San Ramon Expresses because of the way the division is staffed. Jessica (Lipsky) is primarily responsible for the Danville and San Ramon sites and the daily emails. However, the Pleasanton Weekly staff frequently contributes stories that are appropriate for the sites, and Jessica's stories often appear on PleasantonWeekly.com. We all watch over the Town Square forums, and the calendars are done by a Pleasanton Weekly staffer. We've found this is the most efficient use of resources.
Hope this helps, and thank you for writing about it!"
I hope our San Ramon Express readers will contribute something to the Pleasanton Weekly's Support Local Journalism campaign too. We really need these local papers, whether online or in paper format, to cover local issues and events. Big media is often out of touch and controls too much of the mindset of viewers and readers. We need the diversity of thought that our local papers provide, including the Express, the Patch, and even the CC Times.