Tuesday, June 07, 2011

It's Already Ruffled Feathers, But Will It Make A Splash?

On the morning that the Montecito Messenger was announced in a headline in the Daily Sound, Sam Tyler, one of the forces behind the creation of the new newspaper, dropped into Pierre LaFond in Montecito's Upper Village to have coffee. Sitting at a table was Jim Buckley, the owner and publisher of the well-established Montecito Journal and Richard Mineards, the Journal's plucky society columnist.

Although Tyler had met Buckley before it was long enough ago that Tyler felt that reintroducing himself was in order. He approached Buckley to do so, and then asked Buckley if he could take him aside for a moment. When they were out of earshot of Mineards, Tyler told Buckley of his plans to start a second newspaper in town but that despite being a competitor the new publication would be keeping things positive and down the middle.

Buckley grumbled, "Well, you wouldn't know it from your quote." Buckley evidently reads the Daily Sound too. What he apparently took exception to was Tyler's statement that, "When it comes to news, Montecito has been a one paper town for as long as I can remember. Now, for every person and every part of the community agenda, there will be another voice. The monopoly on Montecito's news has ended."

To hear Tyler describe the encounter it sounds like he had quickly gone from being a Montecito citizen to an enemy combatant. At least as far as Buckley was concerned.

The notion of offering Montecito's newspaper readers an alternative to the Journal had been simmering in Tyler's mind for at least a year. He counted himself among those who were unhappy with the Journal's stance on a number of Montecito issues, one example being the tree ordinance where, it seemed to Tyler, the Journal was putting property rights and wildfire concerns ahead of aesthetics and preservation.

A little over two months ago Tyler decided to put his money where his heart was and his idea of a second Montecito newspaper into action. He contacted Daily Sound publisher, Jeramy Gordon. Tyler was impressed that Gordon had a five-year track record of putting out an upstart daily in a town where a single daily paper, the News-Press, had long dominated. He pitched his idea to Gordon and the 28-year old publisher apparently liked it. It was Gordon who suggested that the paper would have a better chance of succeeding if it was distributed through home delivery in addition to being available on news racks.

Besides Gordon and Tyler, the other major force behind the paper, which will also have a web presence, is Judy Foreman. Up until last December, Foreman had written a lifestyle column for the Journal for 12 years. Foreman will be the managing editor of the Messenger and will focus on coverage of Montecito lifestyle and commerce. Joshua Molina, who is the editor of the Daily Sound will also serve as the Messenger's news editor.

The Montecito Messenger already has two columnists signed up to contribute on a regular basis: Jerry Roberts, who currently writes a weekly column for the
and some guy named Smith who writes a blog.

Roberts, a former editor of the News-Press, will continue to write for the Independent and for his blog that covers California politics, Calbuzz. "With an 'At Large' column, Sam, Judy, Jeramy and Josh have given me the freedom to tell stories about people, places and politics that are interesting, entertaining and affecting, wherever they may be found," Roberts said. "It’s a privilege to have the chance to write for perhaps the most intelligent, accomplished and influential local audience in the country." (I hope he isn't thinking that Oprah is going to be his only reader.)

Over coffee last week at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Coast Village road, Tyler, who has the title of Associate Publisher, told me he has no interest in imposing his point of view on others but rather plans to attract readers by winning their trust. His goal for the paper is for it to inform readers on the issues in the community and shed some light on how Montecito is governed, a subject which many residents are in the dark about. And he hopes there will be a lively letters to the editor section. One where it will be the reader and not the editor who has the last word.

The premiere edition of the Montecito Messenger hits the streets this Friday. May both the Messenger and the Journal be around for a long time to come.
© 2011 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com