An old man babbles
about a newspaper

Nobody's going to give a damn about this, and that's OK. Nobody giving a damn about things I give a damn about is what usually happens, and I don't much give a damn when it does.

I've written a review of a newspaper. You're about to read it or, more likely, click away, because who cares enough to read a newspaper, let alone a review of a newspaper? People think of newspapers the same way they think of the sewer system or paved streets; they're there, they do what they do, and that's good — but so what? Newspapers are as quaint as knickerbockers and carbon paper, but I still read one newspaper on paper: the once-weekly Anderson Valley Advertiser.

With that name, it sounds like a shopping flier full of 10% off coupons and empty fluff, and that's what it was when it started. But then the AVA was purchased by a genuine journalist, and became something different.

Here's the publisher, Bruce Anderson, explaining:

"When I took over the AVA in January of '84, most of the advertisers fled, one guy in Ukiah even sending me an old-fashioned telegram that said only, "OUT NOW." I'd anticipated a certain amount of push-back, ha-ha, and knew my survival would depend on making the paper good enough, interesting enough to survive on subscriptions and newsstand sales. …"

It's good enough and interesting enough that it's survived, and it still doesn't have many ads.

I first found the AVA thirty years ago, on a rack in San Francisco's famous City Lights bookstore. I read an entire issue standing up in the store, then bought it even though I'd already read it, took it home and read it again, and the next day I subscribed. It's arrived in my mailbox every week, ever since.

The AVA is not an ordinary newspaper. The owner is a cranky old fart like me, only crankier, older, and maybe fartier. Their coverage is accurate but opinionated, frequently funny, occasionally profane, and largely concerned with local news from Mendocino County, California (population 86,749).

I'm far, far away with no personal connection to that place, so I shouldn't care about their local news. I care, though, because the AVA's writing is intelligent and passionate, always interesting, and sharp enough to draw blood.

It's not entirely local news. There's also an enjoyable mix of national news analysis, cultural observations, historical pieces, free-range letters-to-the-editor, and always half a dozen articles you didn't expect and wouldn't want to miss. My byline is occasionally in the AVA, but the paper is worth the price anyway.

They'll send a sample copy for $2 (The AVA, PO Box 459, Boonville, CA 95415), and these days the AVA is also available on the web. As previously disclosed, I'm old, so my preference is reading it on paper, usually on the toilet. It's text-heavy without many pictures, so it takes me a week to read it. Quicker if I'm constipated. And then the next week's AVA comes in the mail and goes into the bathroom, every week since the 1990s.


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