For Jimmy Boegle, opportunity has come knocking again. After nearly 10 years as editor of the Tucson Weekly, Boegle has decided it’s time to pursue a venture of his own: He’s launching an alternative news source in Southern California’s Coachella Valley.
“There are more than 400,000 people in the Coachella Valley,” Boegle said. “There are seven, eight or nine different municipalities. It has this weird, segregated diversity, which isn’t unlike Tucson in some ways. Palm Springs is very gay. Cathedral City and Palm Desert are more working-class. Indio and Coachella have a lot of Hispanic folks. The area is urban; it’s a couple of hours from L.A. But the real attraction for me is, I’m a news guy. And when I look at the news products right now in the Coachella Valley-Palm Springs area, there’s really nothing in print or online I’ve found, outside of the not-very-good Gannett daily, doing honest-to-goodness ethical (journalism).
“(Some) other publications sell their coverage. You can pay to get a story done about you, and that’s wrong and unethical. I want to go in, and I want to do it right. I’ve seen what good, ethical publications can do for a community in terms of letting people know about the art and the food and culture, and the bad things going on as well. I can do that with the Coachella Valley Independent.”
Boegle, 37, has seen the impact of alt-weeklies, both while growing up and working in his hometown of Reno, Nev., and during his 10-year stint with the Weekly, a publication he argues has played a significant role in Tucson’s arts community since its launch in 1984. He hopes the Coachella Valley Independent will be the publication that helps spark a similar blossoming there.
“The area doesn’t have a true weekly like the Tucson Weekly,” said Boegle, who has been considering the venture for the past five years. He said he had been holding off largely because of the uncertain state of the industry and the economy.
“I’ve decided I’m going to jump and do my own thing. It’s online (cvindependent.com) in beta right now, but will be more ready to go in January when I’m doing it full time,” he said. “The goal is to do online, get an audience, show people what we can do, and eventually transition to a print product, hopefully in the fall of 2013.”
Boegle will stay at the Weekly until the end of the year to help ease the transition to a new editor. He said he picked this week to announce he was leaving because it is a comparatively quiet time at the paper.
“It’s after the election. It’s before Best of Tucson® (the Weekly’s signature publication which comes out in September, although preparations begin months in advance). We’re going into, editorial-wise, at least, our slowest period of the year,” Boegle said. “The Weekly and Wick (Communications, owner of the Weekly) have been great to me. It’s just time to move on. It’s very tough to leave. I put in 50 to 60 hours a week for 10 years, and so much of my time and identity have been wrapped up in the Tucson Weekly. Realizing it’s not going to be part of my life has been emotionally taxing for me at times.”
In a memo to staff members and contributors, Boegle called this the “toughest professional decision I’ve ever made.” There’s no denying he’s proud of the product—and he should be: He oversaw a paper that showed a willingness to embrace technological changes during a time when the very future of the industry was in doubt.
Boegle is quick to note that Weekly staff members played an enormous role in how the publication has evolved.
“I think the Weekly (became) a better paper over the last 10 years,” Boegle said. “I really think the Weekly has taken off with its online presence. We’re putting out basically the same print size we did 10 years ago, and I think we’ve improved the quality of that due to the work of Jim Nintzel and Irene Messina and Mari Herreras, (former web producer) Dan Gibson, David Mendez, Linda Ray, Tim Vanderpool and all these people. Online, we’re doing eight to 15 stories a day on The Range (the Weekly’s website publication). There’s a lot of political coverage you don’t get anywhere else. In terms of what we put out, and the amount of good content, it’s gone way up. The evolution of the Weekly as a print newspaper, an online presence and through social media has been one of the most gratifying things to see develop.”
Boegle is especially proud of how the Weekly’s staff dealt with the mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, which left six dead and 13 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“We ended up mobilizing and having some of the best day-of coverage,” Boegle said. “I still don’t know how, with the small staff we have—two staff writers, interns, readers sending in stuff—that we were able to get the great stuff we did. And our former Web guy, Dan Gibson, broke so much of the Jared Loughner stuff. He was the first I know of to find some of (Loughner’s) weird stuff online on YouTube and MySpace. That’s one of the most amazing stories we’ve done.
“I think the Weekly has a vibrant future,” Boegle said. “After 10 years, it’s time for me to move on to something else and pursue the opportunity I see in the Coachella Valley. The new editor will have one of the best jobs in journalism in terms of what we’re allowed to do, the staff, the city, the coverage we have. But it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m leaving because it’s a good time for the Weekly, and a good time for me.”