By Jim Smith
One of the many distinctions Venice holds is that of being the only city in North America with a progressive newspaper run by an all-volunteer collective. Even back in the heyday of alternative newspapers – the Sixties – most were owned by one person, usually a man.
In Southern California, there was the venerable Los Angeles Free Press, owned by Art Kunkin, and the OB Rag, which now has a website <OBRag.org>, was initiated in Ocean Beach in 1970 by Publisher Frank Gormlie. Countless other papers started up, published an issue or two, and disappeared.
Meanwhile, mainstream newspapers, some of which have been around for more than 100 years, are ceasing publication. Most have been bought up by newspaper chains which are beholden to Wall Street. The Los Angeles Times, long the plaything of the Chandler family of Pasadena, is now in the clutches of the Chicago Tribune (which might explain all those articles about Chicago). The Tribune Corporation was run out of New York City by a victorious strike at the Daily News before it turned its attention to the L.A. Times.
Thanks to a compliant Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the ban was lifted in 2007 on any media company owning both a TV Station and a newspaper in the same city. The Tribune, which owned Gene Autry’s old station, Channel 5, was free to also buy the Times. Channels 13 and 11 both became the property of Fox, neatly ending “independent” television. Like other greedy corporations, Tribune ate too much and had to declare bankruptcy. Earlier this year, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the ban. Now, the new FCC Chairperson, Obama-appointee Julius Genachowski, wants to re-overturn it to the applause of the media corporations.
In the olden days, big wheels in small and large towns would own a newspaper for prestige, not for profit. That all changed as Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Thompson, the New York Times Inc. and other big corporations bought up papers by the bushel full and changed them into bland purveyors of the Truth as seen by Corporate America.
Here in Venice, the Beachhead continues to chug along blissfully unaffected by the ups and downs of the stock market. All the other Alternative newspapers are gone, or have morphed into advertising vehicles like the L.A. Weekly, which is now owned by the New Times Corporation.
While most other newspapers are feeding their readers pabulum, the Beachhead has been informing the community about the issues that affect their lives. In the past year, we have advocated for the homeless, including those in vehicles, since they have no one else to speak up for them, and because it is the right thing to do.
We sounded the alarm on the plans of the city of Los Angeles to take the Vera Davis Center away from the community. Today, it remains a social service center serving the Oakwood section of Venice. We blew the whistle of the stealthy plans to erect a giant Ferris Wheel on the beach. The plan is still moving ahead, but most people know about it now.
We have enthusiastically supported the Occupy Movement. What other newspaper has devoted its entire front page to Occupy as we did last month?
And since April, we have been fighting, along with the rest of Venice, to save our historic post office on the Circle. The Beachhead has reached out to bring in all segments of the community (some of them kicking and screaming) in a wall-to-wall coalition that has the power to take on the U.S. Postal Service’s ill considered sale of our Post Office.
The Beachhead’s record in past years – going back to 1968 – is just as noteworthy. We believe it deserves support from the community. In fact, our support is all from the community. It is from local Sustainers who contribute $100 a year (or $8.33 a month) that allows us to publish, and from local merchants who take advantage of our low advertising rates to let the community know of their existence.
Here in the midst of a Depression that is driving much bigger newspapers out of business, we need your support more than ever. We have no high salaries to pay. In fact, we have no salaries at all, only volunteers. But we do have to pay our printer, who does a great job in turning our articles, photos, letters, poetry and cartoons into thousands of copies that are snatched up by Venetians at more than 100 locations. Let’s keep the presses rolling.
Please join us at our annual celebration on Dec. 17 at Beyond Baroque. See details on back page.