Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - January 29, 2010

Celebrating 10 years of the Pleasanton Weekly

As a new decade begins, this newspaper looks back and to the future

by Janet Pelletier

It's hard to believe it's a new decade. It's even more difficult for the staff of the Pleasanton Weekly to fathom that 10 years ago, this newspaper was just setting down roots here in this picturesque town we all call home.

This month, the Weekly celebrates the 10-year mark of covering Pleasanton politics, city government, schools, neighborhoods and families in the 94566 and 94588 area codes.

Here's how publisher and editor Jeb Bing introduced Pleasanton's only weekly paper back in our very first issue, dated Jan. 28, 2000:

"Welcome to the Pleasanton Weekly, your window on every aspect of our community. We'll be in your mailbox or at your business and in street newsstands around town every Friday, delivered free of charge and focusing exclusively on Pleasanton."

The Weekly is owned by Embarcadero Media and its flagship paper is the Palo Alto Weekly, which has been publishing for more than 30 years. Embarcadero also owns and publishes The Pacific Sun in Marin County and The Almanac and the Mountain View Voice on the Peninsula.

Although the staff at the Weekly -- and even its design -- has changed a bit over the last 10 years, the mission has stayed the same -- "It's all about Pleasanton."

From Eagle Scout awards, to military homecomings, to long City Council, school board and planning commission meetings, to controversial development projects, to mayoral elections and ballot measures, to local athletes making headlines on the national scale, we've immersed ourselves in everything that makes this city tick.

At its core, the newspaper hasn't changed dramatically over the past 10 years, offering in tabloid style the Around Pleasanton column, Newsfront, Streetwise, Opinion, Community Pulse, Transitions, Living, Sports, Calendar, Fogster Classifieds and Real Estate. In 2003, our staff spent the summer putting together the very first InfoPleasanton, which is a yearly guide on recreation, kid's stuff, facts and stats about Pleasanton, community organizations, arts and entertainment and sports and outdoor groups and activities. We also started Best of Pleasanton (now known as Readers Choice), which has become a staple for all things that are great in Pleasanton. Every summer, the Weekly receives hundreds of ballots from readers selecting their favorite restaurants, meeting places, dry cleaners, veterinarians and the best place to get a traffic ticket.

One thing that has changed about the Pleasanton Weekly in more recent years is our online presence. As the Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area remains at the forefront in technology, and as newspapers recognize readers' interest in getting their news online, we've answered that call. Our sister paper, the Palo Alto Weekly, was the first newspaper in the country to offer news online. Pleasanton Weekly remodeled its website, www.pleasantonweekly.com, in 2007, offering news -- both breaking and in-depth coverage -- a community discussion forum, online calendar and classified posting, and movie reviews.

The forum, known to most as TownSquare, has proved to be the most popular feature of the website remodel. Readers have told us that allowing users to post their own topics as well as comment on others, has opened a new line of communication for residents to speak openly about their concerns and interests without having to be identified. It's also given staff a plethora of story ideas that may otherwise have never come to light. Of course, with anonymity comes some unruliness, which has kept the editorial staff vigilantly monitoring the forum, but there is a sense that this open exchange trumps a few negative posters.

A year ago, another feature of pleasantonweekly.com was added. Pleasanton Express is a daily email sent to readers' inboxes that has a rundown of the day's top headlines, calendar picks and forum topics. It's another way the paper is trying to reach residents who are constantly on-the-go.

The aim has always been to support the community in which the paper covers, and that has been accomplished through a couple of ways.

The Weekly has sponsored a number of events supporting the downtown through the Pleasanton Downtown Association. For the past few years, the Weekly has been the title sponsor for the summer Concerts in the Park series, which draws hundreds to Lions Wayside Park for live music performances. Newspaper president Gina Channell-Allen and editor Jeb Bing are also a regular sight at the annual holiday parade and tree lighting and Bing is the voice of the Veterans Day parade. The Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund was created in 2002 with the goal of giving back to local nonprofits that help the underinsured, homeless, abused, senior citizens, children and other vulnerable populations. During our 2009 Holiday Fund campaign, we celebrated having the unique opportunity to raise more than triple the previous campaign through matching federal dollars. When the receipts came in a couple weeks ago, it was announced that $465,000 will help needy families in Pleasanton and the greater Tri-Valley.

To end on a light note, maybe our most lasting legacy, is something that began accidentally. Former Pleasanton Police Chief Tim Neal, who retired in 2006, thought it would be funny to email a photo of himself at the Statue of Liberty, holding a copy of the paper. After the photo was published, the Weekly began receiving a barrage of vacation photos from residents. Thus, Take Us Along was born. Nine years later, Take Us Along is going strong with thousands of photos sent and emailed.

Saying thanks

"This year, the Pleasanton community celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Pleasanton Weekly. For the past 10 years, the Pleasanton Weekly has chronicled the politics, the achievements, and the pulse of this place that we call home. What else can we say about the Pleasanton Weekly? Plenty!

American playwright Arthur Miller once said that a good newspaper is 'a nation talking to itself.' Indeed, the Pleasanton Weekly very carefully explores the issues and challenges that bring us together.

Sometimes, this careful scrutiny spawns dialogue amongst us that facilitates resolve or compromise. Despite the final result, I think the important thing to note is that the Pleasanton Weekly gets us thinking, talking, and sometimes doing. In doing, the action might mean spearheading a campaign to help our schools, build a park or run for City Council.

We are very fortunate to have a publication that focuses all of its attention on Pleasanton and recognizes the accomplishments of our youth, honors our military and tells the story of our community.

Happy 10th Anniversary and thank you Gina, Jeb, Janet, Emily and the rest of the Pleasanton Weekly staff for all that you do!"

Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton)

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