Days of Lore

“LIVING IN SIN AT THE HOLIDAY INN” My hotel room was just as I expected it might be—the stale odor of smoke (in a non-smoking room), a shiny red copy of Gideon’s Bible in the top drawer of the night stand and gaudy, orange floral-print comforters on two twin beds. There was even a continental breakfast menu with this disclaimer:

“Warning: Chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here.”

Yes indeed, my $99-a-night weekend palace was ready for action. I pulled back the stiff, brownish curtains in my 20th floor room at the Holiday Inn to unveil a beautiful and dizzying view of San Francisco. Damn, it was nice to get out of Chico for a couple of days—take in the city, see some old friends and eat at some of the best restaurants in the country. So why was I here, you ask? To do some learnin’, a little networkin’ and a whole lotta carousin’. At least that’s what I think you’re supposed to do at these things.

“HELLO, MY NAME IS MARK” The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies holds its regional AAN conferences every year in the city by the bay and Washington, D.C. And this being my first time attending, I didn’t know quite what to expect. After a little rest, I headed downstairs to the lobby which at this point was full of journalists, editors, designers and ad people from alt-weeklies all over the western United States. I wandered around awkwardly as people stood in clusters of three or four, staring down at each other’s nametags, laughing and trying to look inquisitive. OK, where’s the bar?

“SEMINAR” IS A SEXY WORD I didn’t actually go to the bar—like I said, I was there to take in the expertise of seasoned journalists (don’t let this bitchin’ exterior fool you; I’m pretty nerdy).

The first of three seminars I attended featured Nigel Jaquiss, a reporter from Willamette Week in Portland who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for uncovering well-respected Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl back in the 1970s. The process Jaquiss went through to uncover the secret Goldschmidt and other high-powered officials kept for over 20 years was impressive. But if I told you how he did it, I’d have to kill you—and then Josh Indar would probably write about it and win himself a Pulitzer.

THE WAY OF THE DODO Craig Newmark has been called a lot of things, but said he prefers the catchy “anti-Christ of print media” over anything else. Some may not know who Newmark is, but they’ve surely used his list to look for an apartment, a job or that “strictly platonic relationship.”

The founder of the now-indispensable Craigslist spoke at the AAN conference and is as modest as his appearance—short, balding with thick-rimmed glasses. He addressed some of the obvious concerns of those in the audience.

One guy sporting a gray ponytail asked Newmark why he felt compelled to continue expanding to smaller communities, ultimately killing their classifieds sections. To that, Newmark simply replied: “Those communities want us there.”

Newmark added that he’s done nothing but listen to the public’s suggestions for the past 11 years in improving the site, which now receives three billion visits each month nationwide. Chico finally jumped into the 21st century by becoming part of the site in July of last year.

We can try and deny it all we want, but print media will eventually go bye-bye—that’s just the way it is. When people can work, download music, pay bills, get their news, buy a new car and surf for porn all in one sitting, why would they need a newspaper? I like holding a paper as much as the next guy, but let’s be realistic. For those in the newspaper biz, I have this to say … you are obsolete! Get out while you can, all of you! Quick, before it’s too late!

BOTTOMS UP! As I finish up this column, I’m also filling out the AAN post-conference evaluation. And before even asking to rate the quality of the speakers or what we might have learned at the conference, they ask you to rate the cocktail reception. They know journalists all too well.

DIRTY PUNKS Check out the show Punkology on KZFR, which will look back at Britain in the mid-’70s including bands like The Clash, X-Ray Spex and Wire. The show airs Sat., Feb. 4 at 10 p.m.