Dec 27, 2019
by Vesta Copestakes
As long-time readers and advertisers know, the Gazette evolved over the last 18-plus years from a 12-page black and white newsletter published by the Forestville Chamber of Commerce to the current 72-page, full color magazine serving the entire county of Sonoma. It’s been an incredible journey for me, and for everyone who contributes to, and works for, the Gazette.
When I purchased the newsletter from the Chamber, it had already changed from a newsletter to a voice for the community. 9-11 opened our pages to people wanting to express their thoughts and feelings. The more material that came my way, the more pages I added until it was too thick to mail, so I started distributing through newsstands and stacks in coffee shops and restaurants.
The more copies I distributed the more advertisers I needed to support this free paper, so I went full color. I stopped cleaning houses and landscaping to support my family because I only had time for graphic design clients and the Gazette. This paper eventually became my life.
I’ve always felt that the Gazette is organic, a biological entity that has a life of its own. Because it started as a publication Written by Readers, it doesn’t fit into a standard journalism format. People tell me all the time that they feel it’s “our” paper. Readers are the people who write the articles and columns. When I want to educate people on a topic, I find experts in their field willing to write what they know. It’s rare when a “real journalist” writes for us.
At this point-in-time we print 35,000 copies of the Gazette, distribute to about 1,000 locations, and have a fully-developed website and some social media presence. We have almost 20 people producing and distributing this magazine each month, but it’s still mostly me, working out of my office in the back yard of my house.
The Gazette’s life-force is very much like raising a child who graduates from high school at 18 and goes out into the world to make a life independent of his/her parents. It needs more than I can give it to grow into a full adult. When I turned 70 last spring, I promised myself that I would find someone who could continue the Gazette’s journey, or if I could not, that I would simply have to stop. I’m tired.
I was afraid that finding someone to continue this community-generated publication would be impossible. ButSonoma Media Investments (SMI)and Kenwood Investments, local owners of The Press Democrat, Sonoma Index-Tribune, Petaluma Argus-Courier and several other publications appreciate its value to our home and want to continue what I started.
“The Gazette reaches deep into our local towns and neighborhoods. It creates a strong sense of community and will be a perfect fit with our daily and weekly publications. The Sonoma County Gazette will continue as a monthly publication written by readers and local residents. Vesta will continue as Publisher in 2020 to assure a seamless transition in ownership.”~ Steve Falk, CEO of SMI.
“We welcome the addition of the Sonoma County Gazette into our portfolio of local products,”said Darius Anderson, principal owner of SMI and CEO of Kenwood Investments. “And we will continue the fine tradition of local community content that Vesta has nurtured for many years.”
During this next year, 2020, I will work with SMI to support them as they put together a team to assume the responsibilities of our community-generated publication. My mission, to inspire people to participate in community life, to connect people through the pages of our paper and our website, will continue to grow with their support and resources. This union sets me free knowing that what I started will not end. I am grateful.
Onward and Upward was my high school motto and it’s what I hope this transition will be for the Gazette and for our home.
A little bit of Herstory about how it all started and what made it a success: https://www.707up.org/vesta-copestakes
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