Friday, July 29, 2011

The Foothills Paper 'Goes Silently Into That Goodnight'

[EDIT: There has been a recent (tremendous) surge of new interest in this: the first article on Brock Ba'jer which launched the site. Please note the edits to the article now added: four months later...]

[On August 10, 2012 Terre Ashmore formally entered the debate as an opponent to the continued publication of The Foothills Paper and exercised her right to boycott the continued publication of The Foothills Paper.]

Where is The Foothills Paper?!

The Foothills Paper is no more...

The Foothills Paper claimed a readership of 4000 local residents (out of 65,000) in the twin cities of Sunland and Tujunga, two communities with a rural backdrop and residents boasting generations of residency in the outskirts of Los Angeles, California.

But in a dramatic gesture ‘Doc’ David DeMulle, editor of The Foothills Paper ceased publication of his rather famous (some would say infamous) newspaper July 22, 2011. [The Foothills Paper was not printed for four weeks then resumed following publication of this article on Brock Ba'jer. The Foothills Paper does not generate enough to pay for itself.] In a special staff meeting on July 25, Doc informed staff he could no longer afford to pay for the production of The Foothills Paper out of his own pocket, adding it cost him about $1000 per issue to produce.

In an email sent that evening to staff and columnists who missed the meeting, Doc made an appeal, “The Paper is the last bastion of information to rally the citizens” he wrote. “We're dead in the water. What this means to you, is this.  We are going to have to cut back on paid columns and ask every writer to come help us put out The Paper every other week.  If you can't or won't help, we will drop your column to save printing costs.  We need to fall back and re-form or we die.”

But few replied and only two showed up to work on Wednesday. Doc was packing to move. His advertising department (the lifeblood of a newspaper) had already departed weeks before. Efforts to send out billing by those unfamiliar with the task fell short and advertising customers simply failed to pay their bills. Monies that might have saved the publication went uncollected.

To aggravate a tense situation, The Paper’s phones and internet went down the entire week as well and all efforts and repairmen hired to reinstate the service met with escalating electrical and technical problems. Jokes about “the ghost in the machine” became prophetic as the bastion of communication became unreachable.

More than the aggravation of phone problems and the mismanagement of advertising dollars however, Doc cited the overwhelming numbers of news stories waiting to be researched and written by too few staff writers as his greatest concern: "The corruption we've uncovered is more than we can handle by ourselves. We have no salespeople. People in S-T are too poor to advertise and the surrounding communities look down on us as being crass, stupid and poor." 

In a lengthy list of the stories of local corruption and waste he had planned to publish, he gave priority to the proposal to amend Sunland Tujunga’s Specific Plan.

“The Foothill Blvd. Corridor Specific Plan will destroy the residents up to 4 blocks above and below Foothill Blvd.; The Ralph's Center is 90% vacant. The Commerce Center is 95% vacant. Commerce is 65% vacant... We're being set up for redevelopement!" Doc declared to staff. Doc himself is a stakeholder in the community who adamantly opposes the proposal. [The street of 'Historic Commerce' is a ghost town. Doc previously published a scathing expose' about the group called COBRA which collected monies to restore this original main street of Tujunga. Doc claimed COBRA drove business owners away with anonymous Building and Safety complaints and harassment. The improvements have all been allowed to decline; expensive planters are filled with dead plants, street trees are butchered by unskilled pruners, graffiti is left unchallenged, and the elaborate sign was stolen and never replaced.]

Interestingly, the most suspect of events expected to shut down The Foothills Paper, did not. Three months ago a group of local activists, enraged at Doc for the “slanderous lies” they were the subject of in The Foothills Paper, organized a boycott against the advertisers of The Paper to force them to drop their ads and cause The Paper to fold. Led by Joe Barrett and Robin Meares, the boycott had the opposite effect, polarizing the community and causing advertisers to dig their heels in. [In a surprise move the writer of this blog Terre Ashmore later supported efforts to shut down The Foothills Paper after previously defending it.]

The Foothills Paper has recently had a surge in readership after covering the opposing view to the hotly debated proposal made by The Sunland Tujunga Alliance, The Chamber of Commerce and partial board membership of the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council (STNC).

Their proposal to amend The Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan (FBCSP) is countered by members of the STNC Board who did not agree to the proposal. The opposing side is led by David Cain, 2nd Vice President of the STNC who wrote a counter letter to Councilman Krekorian which was published in the Foothills Paper. [Councilman Krekorian never publicly acknowledged or replied to David Cain's letter.] [Cain later resigned and disappeared into obscurity.]

The debate was played out on The Foothills Forum: a community forum where thousands of views and hundreds of posts kept moderators busy. Any inquiry related to either view became anathema and many secret meetings have been conducted by both sides in an effort to win the Councilman over. [ 'Secret meetings' was the original text now hi-lighted. This article alerted the public early to this but no one caught it.]

With so much happening in the community it seems tragic somehow that any voice is silenced, even one so controversial. Recently, Doc made several comments eliciting an outraged response from the subjects he targeted on the Street Hassle blog. He used the penname Devils Advocate. How apropos as he is certainly the "person who often argues the 'wrong' side, perversely or for arguments sake". Whatever your take on his style and character, Doc is a writer who is read and reread.

What more can a wordsmith ask?

[Doc continues to publish The Foothills Paper at his own expense...]

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