Readers have welcomed PW’s alternative voice over the past 35 years

By Kevin Uhrich, Pasadena Weekly, July 11, 2019

It was a whole different world in 1984, as America faced the waning days of the Cold War with Russia and Los Angeles played host to the entire planet as the home of the Summer Olympics. Pop culture had one of its greatest years ever with Bruce Springsteen and Prince delivering landmark albums and “Ghostbusters” and “The Karate Kid” leading a summer of enduring film favorites.   

Amid this cultural maelstrom the Pasadena Weekly was born, launching in January that year as a scrappy upstart seeking to provide a fresh, progressive perspective on the city’s news and arts scene. In the intervening 35 years, we’ve proudly earned a slew of awards, helped shine a spotlight on scandals that needed to be exposed and touted the good and even great among our citizenry and leadership.

And through it all, we’ve had the pleasure of covering and working with an esteemed and colorful cast of civic-minded characters who make the Crown City a royal pleasure to live and work in. So we’ve asked a few of our favorite folks for their thoughts on the long, strange trip it’s been in making it to 2019 and beyond.

“I was cofounder of the Weekly, and it was a time when weeklies were emerging all over the country as an alternative to the daily newspaper, usually with more in-depth coverage of issues and more on culture, entertainment and dining than the typical newspaper,” says Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole, who also served 12 years on the Pasadena City Council in the late ’80s and early ’90s, including a term as mayor from 1992 to 1994.

“I thought there was room for another voice in Pasadena and I think we found it,” Cole says. “I have a degree in journalism but hadn’t been a working journalist, since I was a young kid when we started.

“I found that I love Pasadena and one role that I felt I could play was creating a richer and more varied journalistic voice for the city,” he adds. “I was happy to see it go forward when I focused instead on serving the community in the role of an elected office. Given the titanic changes in journalism over the past 35 years, I think that the survival of an alternative community voice is something we can all take pride in.”

That opinion was echoed by another longtime beloved Pasadenan, former Mayor Bill Bogaard, the city’s first elected mayor in the modern era. Having served the city on its Board of City Directors, which is what the council was called up to 1993, from 1978-86, and again after being elected mayor in 1999, he has seen the city undergo plenty of changes that the Weekly has helped residents keep abreast of.

“The Pasadena Weekly and its predecessors created a whole new level of news coverage in the Pasadena area, and I am grateful for its current and complete reporting of local events,” says the four-term mayor.

“The city has changed significantly during 35 years and we are better informed about those changes because of the Pasadena Weekly,” Bogaard says

One famously feisty voice for justice in the Crown City is Bill Paparian, who served on the council from 1987-99 and continues to serve the city’s residents as a top defense attorney. He credits the Pasadena Weekly with keeping a sharp focus on some of the less positive aspects of the city scene.

“The Weekly has been a consistent voice of the community since the Star-News has become more of a regional paper and the Pasadena Now is so unreliable,” says Paparian. “The Weekly is the only source of good coverage in the community. It’s been fearless in its coverage of the demise of the Pasadena Police Department, consistently covers hard issues and literally on Thursday morning I’m online reading its news. I don’t wait for it on the street.”

One key player for most of the Weekly’s run has been Ellen Snortland, who has provided a valuable feminist perspective on life and a never-ending array of issues since launching her “Consider This” column near the dawn of the 1990s under former Weekly owner Jim Laris.

“’Consider This’ has been a huge blessing since it’s given me a public platform; it’s also been maddening to have a consistent voice and platform to ‘bite’ the hands that have squeezed us in the San Gabriel Valley,” says Snortland. “Thank goodness for Kevin Uhrich, Andre Coleman and [frequent contributor] Justin Chapman; male allies if ever there were any. I’m considered heretical in many circles.

“My editors and publishers have been anomalies and give a glimpse at the way it could be if the media world was more diverse and egalitarian,” she adds. “Generally, mainstream gatekeepers, editors and publishers, are mostly cis white men and they had to have some pretty secure sense of themselves to publish me, which apparently most of them didn’t.”

But perhaps the final word on this is best left to Ann Erdman, who served as the city’s beloved public information officer and director of public affairs over the course of a 21-year run from 1991 to 2012. While she wasn’t in Pasadena for the Weekly’s founding, she quickly realized that it was an indispensable source of news for all.

“I know from talking to various people at the time, it was a rebel newspaper when it was founded and when I did arrive in 1991, I familiarized myself with all the Pasadena-area media,” Erdman recalls. “I saw the Weekly evolve under different editors and one of my very favorite things about the Weekly was the long-running ‘Garfield Grapevine’ column, which had the best gossip on the government. It really was a must read for everybody.

“Later the Pasadena Star-News had some pretty drastic downsizing, but the Weekly is still covering City Hall better than anyone else,” she concludes. “Now the Weekly is the best-reported coverage of City Hall and midtown and in my opinion the only source in print media that is able to do that. For the future, I see the Pasadena Weekly proudly here and not going anywhere, certainly changing from time to time. The Pasadena Weekly is a critical source of Pasadena news.”