ADDRESS: PO Box 2700, Corvallis, OR, 97339
PUBLISHER: Steve Schultz
EDITOR: Genevieve Weber
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 9 months
WHAT THEY OFFER: In-depth, balanced reporting of local issues and features of interest to the citizens of Corvallis. Think Portland Mercury meets the New Yorker.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because you need to know this stuff.
Since February of this year, Steve Schultz has been publishing the Corvallis Advocate, an independent alternative weekly newspaper. Familiar to many residents as the publisher of Valley Parent Magazine, Schultz wanted to produce a local paper that could advocate for progress in all avenues of Corvallis society. By researching the facts and investigating different viewpoints, Advocate staffers seek to provide in-depth coverage of the issues important to the community.
How did you decide to start the Corvallis Advocate? (Steve) I have well over 20 years’ experience in publishing and journalism, 10 of them at Valley Parent. I had become acquainted with Noah Stroup, who was putting out the Alchemist (an earlier local alt weekly/arts and entertainment calendar). When Noah decided to shut his publication down, another local business owner approached me about producing our own alt weekly.
What does your paper do better than anyone else? Research. Daily papers cover commodity news, breaking news, but these days they don’t have the resources to really cover a story in any depth. Our staff writers are all employed in other fields in addition to being journalists. They are scientists, artists, and musicians. So they come at every story with a different viewpoint and are willing to do the research that producing a balanced feature requires.
I don’t believe it is the job of the media to create controversy in order to move newspapers, but we won’t back down from a topic just because it is controversial. After doing the research on a story we often will draw conclusions based on the facts, but we will also look for a better model and present that as well. For instance, we did an article about traffic fines a while back, and while we could conclude that they are not just a crass attempt to put money in city coffers, we learned that there is a better system of handling traffic infractions in Finland, so we presented that as a better model for maintaining public safety without assaulting people’s dignity – and that such a system would enhance public perception of the police.
(Genevieve) We get lots of feedback about our features, including both strong support and hate mail. We love it when instructors at the high schools and OSU tell us they are using an Advocate feature in their classrooms.
(Steve) All issues are not black or white, so we look for the nuances. In our feature on climate change we tried to cover the subject without hyperbole. This being Corvallis, many of our readers are scientists, and we have to get the facts straight or they will call us on it. We can’t get away with writing junk!
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business? (Genevieve) Hiring people who can get along is a challenge. We have 12 writers, 18 total staff. We work collaboratively, collectively deciding what is fair before we run a story. We all come from different backgrounds, and we are all opinionated. But we need to treat opposing views with respect and be kind to each other. Some people find this sort of collaboration difficult.
(Steve) The public deserves a publication that is more thoughtful than any one person’s viewpoint.
How important is sustainability to your business? (Steve) We have a waste not/want not policy. We audit so that we don’t print more papers than we need. We print on recycled/recyclable paper using a machine with UV processing that requires less energy and produces less heat. Our print costs are 10% higher (than conventional printing) but it’s worth it. I also feel that if we have the temerity to suck up natural resources printing a paper then we’d better generate some social good, have some social value to the paper we produce. I believe we have attained that.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent business on Corvallis? (Genevieve) Corvallis is unique in having a larger percentage of local businesses. Downtown flourishes because of the local businesses.
(Steve) The Advocate loves the locally-owned businesses and we want to showcase them. For instance, we did a locally-sourced Mother’s Day feature this spring. The challenge for local businesses is to support localism by buying local first themselves. They need to collaborate with each other and not just go for the lowest price – and that can be hard to do.
(Interview and article by Kate Lindburg – November 11, 2012)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).