We at the Westside Express — especially Gene Lieb, Kim Yancey and this writer — are realizing the importance of WE. Not only is it the logo of this newspaper, it’s also the newspaper’s virtual motto.
It takes a lot of US — subscribers, advertisers, correspondents and volunteers —to make this work.
This newspaper (WE) is a brave and courageous attempt to revive local journalism, to return to the time when a hometown paper truly reflects and reports on the communities it serves.
During a time in America when thousands of local newspapers are disappearing, WE is reappearing and reviving. So far, with nine issues having rolled off the presses, WE is succeeding. But WE understands its needs, and is getting, the support of a lot of Westside people.
Local businesses are responding with enthusiasm to Gene Lieb’s efforts to get sufficient advertising to enable the newspaper to have enough space to report on city government and schools, feature a sports page with young people’s accomplishments and include an opinion page with letters to the editor.
WE also needs subscribers. It’s hard to recruit people to subscribe to a start-up newspaper. Gene was fortunate to have built on the loyal subscribers to the Dos Palos Sun, the foundation for the Westside Express.
And he has had to vigorously spread the word in Los Banos and Santa Nella that there’s a new paper in town. So far he has been remarkably successful, having almost as many Los Banos subscribers as those who came over from the Dos Palos Sun.
Gene’s subscription success was the result of two important factors. First, Gene needed businesses that were willing to sell copies of the Westside Express so people could see what a good product it is. Besides many businesses in Dos Palos, Gene has added in Los Banos Sorensen’s Hardware, the Chevron station on I Street, Los Banos Fountain and Gifts and the UPS store.
Gene also needed many individuals to spread the word–folks who bought and subscribed to the paper, liked what they read and then told their neighbors and friends. This has indeed happened, as many Westside residents have enthusiastically recommended the Express to people they know.
Another critical component of a local newspaper’s success is having talented people behind the scenes to help make it happen. Gene’s publishing colleague and friend, Hank Vander Veen, provided the talent and time of a whole crew of professionals, including Dennis Wyatt, Sharon Hoffman, Michelle Kendig, Saresa Shutes, Tamara Foreman and Rich Matheson.
Gene was also fortunate to obtain the start-up help of Kim Yancey, longtime local newspaper editor, who has volunteered 20 to 30 hours each week editing stories sent to him.
But what may be the most gratifying success so far is the contribution to the Westside Express of so many writers.
In the golden days of local newspapers, the editorial staff would typically consist of a full-time editor and three to five full-time reporters. In today’s world, a local newspaper doesn’t have this budgetary luxury. Instead, it has to find new ways to report the news and still be fiscally sound.
WE is especially fortunate to have David Borboa and Janet Miller reporting on news from Dos Palos and Firebaugh. Both were anchors of the Dos Palos Sun, Janet writing a column and David doing just about everything else.
Longtime Los Banos columnist Diana Ingram writes her entertaining column, and Michael Martin provides excellent Los Banos sports coverage.
WE has also been lucky to find correspondents like Mike Minor and Malina Duran, two persons with no previous journalistic experience, to cover the news in Los Banos. They have agreed to go out, interview people and cover stories.
Malina, a recent graduate of the Los Banos Campus of Merced College, has been particularly valuable. She has appeared in person at Los Banos city council meetings, planning commission meetings and school board meetings, the first time a journalist has done that in Los Banos in years.
Malina has also quickly caught on to the skill and art of reporting–writing clear, detailed and accurate stories, which, believe me, is not easy. And so has Mike Minor.
WE has been even more fortunate to get the help of many people who also believe in the importance of a local newspaper to contribute stories to the Westside Express. These include Los Banos resident Donna McCall, who is now doing the Whistlestop calendar of upcoming events.
Many of those who provide stories and photos to the Express report on what’s happening in their organization. These include Dr. Mark Marshall from the Los Banos Unified School District, Joe Heim from Los Banos Parks and Recreation, Chris White from the Water Exchange Contractors, James Leonard and Jessica Moran from Merced College, Dr. Philip Yu from the hospital and Nola Ramirez and Noemi Muniz from the Los Banos and Santa Nella branches of the Merced County Library,
WE has also been fortunate to have community residents step up to volunteer their time and writing skills to provide stories on topics that interest them and their readers.
These include Rob Robinson and Jason Hawkins on commuting, Mark Koehler on gardening, Dan Nelson on Los Banos history, Tim McNally on education, Joanne Hoefer on books, Lisa Roper-Parolise on life coaching and Priscilla Del Bosque on being a nomad from Oro Loma.
WE has also had a gratifying response from local pastors, including the Reverends Mike Neu (St. John’s Lutheran), Steve Hammond (Bethel Community), John Schmoll (St. Joseph’s), Nate Ogan (Calvary Baptist ), Jordan Harris (Cornerstone) and Ron Bailey (New Beginnings). Their rotating pastor’s column provides both information and inspiration.
And WE has received from other persons one-time features and opinions, including two high school students and a local author.
Yes, WE has been fortunate. And many, many people on the Westside have told us how much they appreciate a true, in-depth local newspaper with broad community coverage.
So far, so good. But WE has just started. We’ll continue to need businesses to advertise, current subscribers to recruit new subscribers and present and future writers to correspond and contribute.
“It takes a village” has become a cliché, so let me instead say “It takes a community” or to be more exact with the Express, “It takes a Westside” to enable a local newspaper to succeed in our times.
WE expresses gratitude to all who have made WE successful so far, and WE adds, “Keep it up!”