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article imageOp-Ed: Neighborhood newspaper will celebrate 25 years in print Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 21, 2011 in Business
This coming January the Westside Observer will celebrate 25 years in print. On Sunday Nov. 6, the owners Mitch and Alice Bull hosted a gathering at Que Syrah wine bar on West Portal Ave in San Francisco.
“It is our way of thanking everyone who contributes to the Westside Observer,” said Mitch as he addressed the gathering of about 30 people that evening. "The party was nice," said freelance writer Tom Mayer, "hope we weren't too loud," he added as wine and cheese was graciously provided by Que Syrah proprietors Keith and Stephanie McCardell.
Bull explained that having a gathering is a good way to foster more community and give the writers and staff a chance to get better acquainted. He and Alice also own and manage The Castro Courier, which was owned by Andy Sywak. The Castro Courier is another neighborhood newspaper that serves to meet the community’s need for local news.
“The Examiner and the Chronicle, I have respect for them,” said Mitch. “But the City’s mainstream papers are not covering the real news of the local community,” he said.
In San Francisco there are over a dozen neighborhood newspapers, such as Noe Valley Voice, the Sunset Beacon, Richmond Review, The New Fillmore, The Marina Times, Nob Hill Gazette, etc.(Now referred to in some news circles as “hyper-local publications”) all of which have been reporting important local and citywide issues that impact residents. While the continued expansion of The Internet has presented a challenge for all print media, the local papers endure. According to the SF Neighborhood Newspaper Association, nearly 250,000 copies (of the various papers) hits the streets every month. And, this estimate does not include the recent rise in "Patch" news franchises.
There has been much debate in the reliability of new media sources that are blossoming on the Internet. Do blogs have as much credibility? Do those who post sites and join the ranks of "citizen journalists" have the same skills, training and commitment as seasoned professional journalists? These questions have stirred dialogue in many media circles
Serving local residents and merchants and their needs is the main goal of the papers and the Westside Observer strives to stand out among the best. In the past few years since Mitch and Alice have taken over as editors and publisher the Westside Observer has improved the design and production quality of the paper. The Westside Observer has since been transformed from a simple, flat design format, previously called “West of Twin Peaks Observer” with some spot color on the front page, to a full color, eye-catching 20 page issue each month.
Phyllis Sherman established the paper in the 1980’s much for the same reason all the neighborhood newspapers were established; to give residents a voice and to report about local events and concerns that The Chronicle & Examiner were not interested in.
Sherman continues to contribute to the paper with her column “Phyllis’ Findings.” Producing a paper every month is a collective effort. And, with the help of many people like Doug Comstock, the Westside Observer reaches a significant portion of the population of San Francisco, from the West Portal - St. Francis Wood area to the Forest Hill, Parkside and Sunset District residents.
“I am happy to say that our paper is doing well and not in debt,” said Mitch. He is looking forward to keeping the newspaper going and having it be “the paper” that residents go to first to get the news.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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