From the Publishers

Happy anniversary to us!

by Chris Klein
his issue marks the beginning of our third year of publication. As the saying goes, "what a long strange trip its been."
The genesis of ET was actually a newspaper San Diego Earth Day published for Earth Day each year. Produced by volunteers under less than ideal conditions, each issue was warmly received and well regarded.
The time was mid-1993, and I was looking for a new endeavor. Twenty-five years in the computer industry was more than enough (I still depend on my Macintosh, but I'm glad I don't have to program it). My wife Carolyn and our friend Bobby, fresh from pushing the '93 edition out the door, decided it would be A Good Thing to do a regular newspaper which sought to build support for environmentally conscious products, businesses and consumers.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Really, what could be better? We would be working for ourselves, doing something of real social value that reflected our commitment to the environment. The 50 to 70 thousand people who attend the EarthFair each year supported our belief that the general public might be ready for it.
There were still big questions: Would advertisers support it? Would we be able to distribute it? Where would we get the articles? What works as a once-a-year venture by a volunteer-based non-profit doesn't necessarily translate into an ongoing success. But, I love new challenges and we had a little money in the bank, and there is only really one way to answer those questions, so ... Earth Media was incorporated and the Earth Times was born.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it still seems like a good idea, but there have been moments. It's been said that publishing is an expensive way to purchase an education. No argument here. Still, if one pays attention, it's a pretty good education. Like, for instance, the green sunflower incident.
Our color covers, for me, have always been a significant feature of the publication. We get to print some great nature shots, and it helps distinguish ET from the dozens of other free pubs. So, I always want the covers to be just right. I practically torture the printers to get the colors as accurate as possible.
The October '94 cover of ET was the image of a brilliant golden sunflower. However, when the edition came off the presses, I was in shock - the sunflower was a lime green color. I had bungled the color separations, and no amount of tweaking the press was going to help. Lesson one: get a whole lot better at making color separations.
Still, we had 30,000 lime green issues - now what? Well, we immediately sent out 10,000 to distribution, printed 20,000 new (golden) covers, and over the next four days an army of friends and other volunteers helped replace the 20,000 still in stock. With little delay, the issue was on the street. Lesson 2: when you really need help, people are willing to pitch in. Lesson 3: green printers ink is hard to get out from under your fingernails.
It was with some surprise and dismay that I later heard several readers comment, in effect, "Wow! I really liked that green sunflower." Oh well. Lesson 4: what I like and the readers like aren't necessarily the same.
Still, all in all, its been a wonderful experience. ET seems to have a growing, dedicated readership: over the last few months, we've increased the distribution to 36,000 copies and there are very few returns to be recycled at the end of the month. When we ask permission to distribute ET at a business, over half say yes. This reaffirms our belief that citizens have an abiding interest in and concern for the environment - a hopeful sign that the toxic sell-outs to big money and special interests haven't completely poisoned the grass roots.
Equally important, our readers are patronizing our advertisers (please continue!), which means they are getting results, keep advertising, and we can pay our bills. You can't get the word out if you can't afford the paper.
In closing, I want to acknowledge a few individuals for their extraordinary contributions. The first is Bonnie Eddlemon, our sales coordinator. I'm a lousy salesman, and she is single-handedly responsible for our economic viability. When we first met, she told me, "I knew there was a reason I moved out here from Michigan. This paper is it." Her commitment to ET and the environment are outstanding and we couldn't do it without her.
Next, I want to thank Susan Self. I first met Susan when working in the Technical Publications department at my old computer company. What most impressed me was her fierce commitment to quality in the face of a just-get-it-out-the-door attitude. Today she is an active volunteer with Zero Population Growth, and provides the final proofreading for ET because she believes in the cause. If you find grammatical errors in our articles, it means that Susan hasn't read it.
Finally, thank you - the reader - for making this dream come true.