Anyone who takes a job on a small-town newspaper, especially in West Marin, has to love the profession. Weekly newspaper people work long hours for low pay, but reader demand for their publications is reassuringly high — so high, in fact, that while daily newspapers in the United States are losing circulation, weeklies are gaining. Here’s a look at people from West Marin’s press, as well as an internationally acclaimed editor’s observations about this country’s weekly newspapers.

Tuesday evening, six of us past and present Point Reyes Light staff, along with a couple of other newsmen, got together at Mike and Sally Gale’s beef ranch in Chileno Valley to welcome back their son Ivan Gale. Ivan, a former Light reporter, now writes for The National, an English-language daily in Abu Dhabi.

For an account of his adventures in the Arab world, please see posting Number 121. Ivan is in town for a few days because sister Kate is getting married Saturday.

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Point Reyes Light staff and alumni (clockwise from bottom): Ivan Gale, a former Light reporter and now a business writer for The National in the United Arab Emirates; Jacoba Charles, a current Light reporter; Molly Birnbaum, a current Light reporter; Dave Mitchell, the previous editor and publisher of The Light; Andrea Blum, a former Light reporter and now a reporter for The West Marin Citizen; and Janine Warner, a former Light reporter and now a new-media consultant and author. (Photo by Josh Haner, a New York Times photographer)

Ivan, Andrea, Jacoba, and Molly all hold masters’ degrees from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
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A combined half century of newspaper experience: Missy Patterson, who has run the front office of The Point Reyes Light for 27 years, flanked by former Light reporter Janine Warner of Los Angeles and her husband Dave LaFontaine at Café Reyes Wednesday. Dave and Janine have been visiting in Point Reyes Station for the past week.

Janine, who worked at The Light from 1990 to 92, left to publish (with Light columnist Víctor Reyes) Visión Latina, a 20,000-circulation bilingual monthly for Marin and Sonoma counties. When it ceased publication after three years, Janine started her own web-design business and went on to become the online editor of The Miami Herald and teach at the University of Miami and at USC. She has written more than a dozen Internet books, such as Websites — Do It Yourself — for Dummies, which together have sold half a million copies. She is a regular contributor to Layers Magazine, a conference speaker, and an online-media consultant with Dave.

Dave likewise has wide experience as a reporter and editor — from The Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Leader-Telegram and The Arizona Republic to The Caracas (Venezuela) Daily Journal and Star magazine. In addition, he edited Single Parent magazine, as well as FilmsOn.com, and is a contributor to the Newspaper Association of America’s Growing Audiences publication. His blog is called Hard News, Inc., although he says a new and improved blog called “Sips from the Firehose” is being designed and prepared to launch.

Dave and Janine, who call their business Artesian Media, have spent months overseas (usually together) during the past year, consulting and giving talks in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine, in addition to working in various US cities.

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Linda Petersen of Inverness, ad manager of The West Marin Citizen, and her dog Sebastian shared Café Reyes’ garden two weeks ago with an unidentified couple. (Photo by Jasper Sanidad, photographic contributor to The Light)

100_0458.jpgHaving changed its fare in the past year, Café Reyes in Point Reyes Station on some days now resembles a newspaper hangout.

Offering beer and wine — plus pizza from a wood-fired oven — the café with its sunny garden and jovial staff provides a respite from the harried world of newspapering.

Seen here in the garden of Café Reyes two weeks ago, Light photo contributor Jasper Sanidad protests that he’d rather be on the other side of the camera.

During the 27 years I published The Light, I belonged to a number of journalism associations, each valuable in its own way. Although I’m now retired, I still belong to one of the organizations: the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE).

As you might expect, the majority of the editors are in the United States, but there’s also a number in Canada and England. Five years ago, our president was an editor in Ireland.

Like other newspaper organizations, ISWNE conducts annual contests to recognize excellence in journalism, and this year’s winner of the society’s Golden Quill award for editorial writing was Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor of The Altamont Enterprise in New York. In her acceptance speech, Hale-Spencer made some points worth repeating concerning weekly newspapers:

“We are all painfully aware that circulation for daily newspapers is falling. We wince each time we learn of another round of layoffs, another foreign bureau shut down, another paper closed…. While dailies are struggling, not everyone is aware that circulation for weekly newspapers in the United States is growing. A survey last year by the National Newspaper Association found that 83 percent of adults read a community newspaper each week, up from 81 percent in 2005.

100_0474.jpg“According to a 2007 survey, local community papers are the primary source of information by a two-to-one margin over the next most popular medium — television….

“I believe weekly newspapers are growing in readership because they offer news that can’t be found elsewhere.”

Another member of the West Marin press takes in sun (and pizza) a week ago in the café garden.

Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park is a driver for The Citizen, delivering bundles of newspapers to merchants and newsracks.