Jeb Bing, the founding editor of the Pleasanton Weekly, wrote the "Around Town" column that appeared on Page 3 of the publication every week for more than 17 years. Every week for 17 years ... that is not a typo!
When Jeb retired from writing with us, we asked the Pleasanton Weekly's founding managing editor, Dolores Fox Ciardelli, to share this space biweekly. She was the Pleasanton Weekly's lifestyles editor at the time. The name of Dolores' column was "Valley Views," a take off of the "Diablo Views" column she wrote in the Danville Weekly when she was the editor there.
In honor of two of the most professional, persistent, passionate and personable journalists I have ever had the good fortune to work with, I'm blending the names of the columns that graced this page for more than 20 years by calling it "Around the Valley."
Jeb and Dolores have retired, and I will now share this space with Jeremy Walsh, the division's editor for the past five years.
Let me introduce myself, or reintroduce myself as the case may be. I've been the president of Embarcadero Media Group's East Bay Division and publisher of its print and online publications for more than 15 years.
You might have seen my byline or my name on the masthead (aka, the staff box), but I've never had a column in the Weekly. That was always reserved for the editor, or editors.
I was once an editor, though, and a reporter before that. I always wanted to work in news. When I was 5 years old, my parents drove past the Beacon-News building in downtown Aurora, Ill., and I confidently announced I would work there someday.
And I did, for about nine years, at a time when most newspapers had 20% profit margins. It wasn't necessarily the heyday of newspapers, but it wasn't bad. The newsroom was packed with reporters and we had four staff photographers.
In my 30-plus years in news media, much has changed -- how news is gathered and delivered and the business model being the biggies. No more 20% profit margins. Or profit margins at all in many cases.
One thing that has not changed is what people want to read, whether they read it in the local paper or on a computer, tablet or phone.
People are interested in topics that directly affect them, like declining enrollment in the public school districts, election districting maps and police news.
But people also want to read about the things that connect them to others. These pieces are generally called human-interest stories, and they fall into a couple different categories.
For example, there are the genuine "feel-good" human interest stories, like hearing from a couple married more than 60 years on how to have a healthy relationship, or the mother and son who rescued ducklings from a storm drain.
Then there are the human interest stories that inspire us, like a young woman who created a nonprofit to fund research for a disease her mother suffers from, or a formerly unhoused and hungry man fighting his personal demons to eventually go on to help the unhoused and hungry.
Other human interest stories connect us because we have been where these neighbors are, or know someone who has or is going through similar challenges. We understand and feel for a person who is battling cancer ... maybe again ... or caring for a loved one with cancer. Or the widower trying to move on after the death of his wife of 50 years. Or the couple who suffers a stillbirth at 34 weeks of pregnancy.
We are human and as humans we feel. I'm not promising a "tug on the heart strings" human interest story with every column. But I do love writing these.
Some columns might fall in the "need to know" category and deal with more hard news. Some columns might fall into the "things that make you go hmmmm" category, answering long-asked questions around the Valley, like how "soon" is Cook's Seafood coming to the corner of Bernal and Valley?
I welcome your ideas and questions.
Editor's note: Gina Channell Wilcox has been the president and publisher of Embarcadero Media's East Bay Division since October 2006. Her "Around the Valley" column runs the first and third Fridays of the month.