This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of “The Humboldt Independent” and brings back memories of the summer of ‘97, when a group of us got together to start it.
After the “Redwood Record” went out of business in ‘95 there was heard a murmur in the community about starting another paper, an alternative to Bill Roddy’s weekly “The Southern Humboldt Life and Times.” Karol had told me her friend Jerry was interested and a few weeks later she took me across town to meet him and talk about the idea. He showed me his template of the first page of his dream paper which he called “The Emerald City Gazette.”
A couple months later I visited Jerry again, we talked more about the paper idea, and a few days later I asked an aspiring writer, my neighbor Rosa, "Hey, you wanna start a weekly newspaper?"
"Yes!" she said.
The first meeting was just before “Reggae on the River” at Tooby Park where six of us sat around the picnic table talking about the idea, including our volunteer lawyer Eric Kirk. We shared our ideas and dreams about what we’d like in the proposed paper, that first meeting the most contentious issue was whether to allow anonymous articles and letters.
I donated $260, the little office in Garberville was rented, and some supplies were purchased. We had a few more weekly meetings at Little Tooby where a lot of time was spent on what the name should be. Driving up to Smith River Karol and I brainstormed possible names for a couple hours and she came up with “The Independent.” It wasn't too repugnant for Rosa or too kitschy for Sylvia, it was a compromise choice.
We started having weekly editorial meetings, roles emerged, and Jerry became our Editor-in-Chief and leader. Some dropped out of the organizing process, new ones came on board, and we had a lot of columnists but few reporters.
The business aspect of the paper was daunting: who would be responsible? Was it a collective? A partnership? Everyone wanted to do the creative part but no one really wanted to do the business. Jerry plunged ahead building the “Indie” as the editor, writing stories, and co-ordinating everything.
(It was a good time to start a paper as the first issue covered some hot local stories: the Bear Lincoln trial, the inflammable Health Center/Hospital negotiations, the first publicized Prop 215 garden, and the latest Headwaters rally.)
Jerry was overwhelmed, the publication deadline passed, and then Karol and Bridgette marched in and pushed it through a week late, which didn’t seem too bad considering the first organizational meeting had been just two months before.
We wondered if there would even be a second issue.
Congratulations to the Indie, 1750 issues later.