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August 27 - September 2, 2009
Boulder Weekly invites the community
to celebrate a milestone
by Gene Ira Katz
Late in the last century, a cosmic convergence of circumstances — including an automobile accident, a grandma with a generous spirit and a certain periodical being sold for a song — brought newly graduated UC-Santa Cruz sociology student, Stewart Sallo, into the wonderful world of publishing, beginning on the Coast, and then leading eventually to the creation of the Front Range’s award-winning alternative paper, Boulder Weekly.
In the early 1980s, while working in the Bay-area on his first newspaper job as an advertising sales rep, Sallo remembers, “In a classic case of ‘opportunity knocks,’ I had a chance to buy a quarterly paper called Student Guide that was in its infancy.”
Adding a small inheritance from his grandmother, along with a personal-injury settlement from a car crash, Sallo was able to put a down payment on the publication.
“Suddenly, I was a publisher less than one year after getting my start in the newspaper business, but I was determined to succeed,” says Sallo. “Within a few years, I had built Student Guide into a formidable publication, started an advertising and design agency, and launched another paper called Summer Santa Cruz, which was published monthly during the summer and delivered to tourists through hotels, motels, tourist attractions and other high-traffic locations.”
All was going well. Then Sallo’s life was shaken up, literally, after Santa Cruz was hit by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in 1989. At that point, he explains, “The seeds of the fulfillment of a longtime dream to publish a weekly newspaper were planted in the rubble of that devastating earthquake.”
Clearly, the universe was telling Sallo that it was a good time to move on. After discovering that Boulder had no weekly paper, he jumped on a plane and came out here to our fair city, a city that he had visited sometime earlier and one he remembered fondly.
“I spent countless hours conducting a viability study, including a complete review of the repeated attempts that had been made to start weeklies in Boulder. On my way back to Santa Cruz, my mission was clear.”
It took Sallo two-and-a-half years to divest himself from his interests in Santa Cruz, while developing a business plan for the launch of Boulder Weekly.
“All the time, I was living in fear that someone would start a weekly here before I could make my transition,” he says.
Finally, after relocating to Boulder in the autumn of ’92, Sallo began building the organization that would ultimately publish the first edition of the Weekly on Aug. 19, 1993. Facing what is considered to be a tough market for newspapers — already supporting a mainstream daily and an entrenched college paper — Boulder Weekly did not perish, as many observers predicted it would. The paper published its first profitable edition in May 1994 and survived stiff competition from Boulder Planet, a well-funded weekly paper that ran from 1996 until its demise in 2000.
Sallo originally envisioned BW as a business opportunity in a town that didn’t have a weekly newspaper. However, a story about pollution from a regional aircraft manufacturing company that ran in Boulder Weekly in September of 1994 changed Sallo’s perspective about the potential for a newspaper to create change in the world. After that, Boulder Weekly’s editorial direction shifted toward a more aggressive, alternative approach to news.
“We began publishing stories of a very serious, investigative nature, and the entire staff became infected with the idea that we could really change the world,” he says.
He says that from then on the Weekly took on the government, big business, correctional institutions, polluters, perpetrators of domestic violence, “and just about anyone else we caught doing something wrong.” Simply put, states the publisher, Boulder Weekly is about exposing injustice and lies and promoting fairness and truth.
“I [eventually] realized that the Weekly’s commitment to higher principles had taken precedence over making money. Or, put another way: We are beholden first to our readers and the Boulder community. This is probably the thing I am most proud of. We have created a successful business model without compromising our integrity. Fewer and fewer media organizations can say that these days.”
This is not the only source of Sallo’s pride. He counts prevailing over the heavily financed competition of the Boulder Planet as one of the BW’s most satisfying accomplishments. Another significant milestone was his paper’s role in reporting on the this country’s most devastating act of domestic terrorism.
“In April of 1995, Boulder Weekly scooped the entire world when we were the first media organization to identify the American Militia Movement as the perpetrator of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City… Suddenly, Boulder Weekly was being interviewed by national news sources as an authority on the subject. It was quite an exciting time for our organization, and, indeed, a watershed experience that propelled us forward with considerable momentum.”
In the wake of 9/11, Boulder Weekly once again moved ahead of the curve, after devoting the issue following the attacks to exploring the question: Why are we so hated?
“This was the overarching question we posed at a moment when such national self-inquiry was considered outrageously unpatriotic.
But we felt that this particular moment in history called for our country to take stock of its role in the world and how our departure from our founding principles had led us to be the subject of such intense international antipathy.”
Sallo felt that it was a courageous move, one that resulted in a significant backlash from those who took a how-dare-you position.
“Nevertheless,” he says, “we stood behind our position and had quite a proud moment when Newsweek came out with a cover a few weeks later that posed an almost identical question: Why do they hate us? Once again, Boulder Weekly had scooped the nation and come up with the right approach to a huge news event.”
Right around that time, Pamela White came to Boulder Weekly, first as a freelance journalist, and then joined the staff as managing editor. Within a year, she had taken the helm as the paper’s editor.
“I’ve always believed that independent journalism is the key to having a healthy democracy,” says White. “I think [the United State’s] intellectual inability to deal with issues like pre-emptive war, health care reform and economic struggle is a reflection of the fact that the citizens of this country are poorly informed.”
For White, one of the most important moments for Boulder Weekly came in the week prior to the March 2003 attack on Iraq.
“The mainstream media were reporting that Americans supported the attack and that there were no real objections to this war. So reporters from Boulder Weekly fanned out across the county and reported on every single anti-war event that occurred that week.
There were dozens and dozens. I felt we were able to create a historical record showing that there was, in fact, very articulate opposition to the war. We put everything we had into opposing the war. Even though ultimately it didn’t seem to matter, to me it did matter that we had been so vocally opposed to a war that, as we predicted, turned out to be disastrous for the United States.”
White is particularly proud of her 2006 series, “AIDS: 25 Years in Boulder County.”
“It felt very important to me to create an account of those years while people were still alive who’d been on the leading edge of the fight against AIDS in our community.” She adds, “For me, it’s a true blessing to do work that has the potential to make a real difference in the world.”
On Thursday, Aug. 27, Boulder Weekly celebrates a milestone with its Sweet 16 Anniversary Party. Following a private event, the public celebration starts at 8 p.m. at the Boulder Theater (2032 14th St., 303-786-7030). There will be food, drinks and prizes. Tickets are $5 to benefit Attention Homes (3080 Broadway, 303-245-7009, www.attentionhomes.org), which is an organization that provides emergency care services to troubled teens. Sponsors for the event include Upslope Brewing Company, VeloGear, Community Cycles, Juanita’s, Ras Kassa’s, European Flower Shop and Easton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Sallo’s classic-rock band Hindsight will provide the musical entertainment for the evening.
At 16 years old, this highly respected member of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has won numerous awards and considerable acclaim. And in these difficult times when there is so much buzz about the “new media,” Boulder Weekly looks to the future. Julia Sallo is the founder’s 20-year-old daughter, listed in the paper’s masthead as “Assistant to the Publisher & Heiress.”
She’s done just about every job at the BW since she was a little girl, including columnist, office management and promotions, among others.
“Everybody calls print a dying industry,” she says, “but I don’t think that applies to Boulder Weekly. We call ourselves ‘The Newspaper of the Future.’”
Indeed, the next endeavor is the launch of a new website offering daily news stories and other features. And she’s confident that the BW will continue to grow.
“We’re providing something for the community they can’t see anywhere else — honest reporting that enriches people’s lives, while promoting local business.”
Now, that’s something to celebrate.
For More Info:
Please join us to celebrate our Sweet 16 Anniversary Party, as we grab the car keys and fire up the engine of Boulder’s only independent newspaper. There will be food, drinks, music, dancing, prizes and more. Following a private event, the public celebration starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030. Tickets are $5 to benefit Attention Homes (3080 Broadway, 303-245-7009, www.attentionhomes.org
), which provides emergency care services to troubled teens. Sponsors include Upslope Brewing Company, VeloGear, Community Cycles, Juanita’s, Ras Kassa’s, Easton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and European Flower Shop.
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