Hemet Valley Chronicle, we shall miss you

Written by Bob on September 13th, 2011

THE FIRST VALLEY CHRONICLE STAFF, MAY 2001: Jim Fredericks, president and publisher front. Front row from left, Lisa Sotelo, Ann Knickerbocker, Phoebe Ames, Londa Baeza and Donna Harrington. Second row from left, Kim Nichols, Phyliss Harte, Brenda Maher, Lynn Webb, Konnie Sloan and Craig Shultz. Back row from left, Louis Amestoy, Daniel Contreras, Gayle Hilpert, John Fredericks and Amado Gonzalez. The first edition was published on May 16, 2001. (From the original staff, Kim Nichols, advertising and Danny Contreras, design / composing supervisor, worked all ten years for the Valley Chronicle.)

HEMET, CA – Most people have vivid recall when some catastrophic event has happened. I was in Mrs. Pretzer’s eighth grade English class when she tearfully announced that President Kennedy had been shot.

And when the twin towers of the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground in the 9 / 11 terrorist attacks, I was returning from a photo assignment and walking into the newsroom of the Hemet Valley Chronicle newspaper.

Sept. 7, 2011 also sticks in my mind.

It was the day I found out the Valley Chronicle was shutting down. It’s final edition to be delivered on Friday, Sept. 16. The Valley Chronicle, as with many newspapers across the country, became a victim of low advertising revenue in a sluggish economy.

I was in Roseburg, Oregon visiting my son and daughter-in-law when I logged on to Facebook and Kari Helton, the Valley Chronicle Editor for nearly seven years, broke the news.

Of course, the closure of a small weekly newspaper isn’t nearly as tragic as an assassination or nearly 3,000 lives lost in a terrorist attack. But losing one’s job in a region of over 14-percent unemployment certainly qualifies as traumatic.

For me it’s not too bad. I’m retired and only worked one or two assignments a week at the “VC” as the Valley Chronicle came to be known to its employees and readers. So I won’t miss the income from working a couple of sports’ gigs each week.

But eight people I like will lose their jobs and income. I’m sure there’s been some sleepless nights, worrying over the prospects of a future paycheck.

My working life spans 48 years with some ups and downs, so my advice VC friends is to persevere. Times will get better. I promise.

I started at the VC 10 years a go when Jim Fredericks – a former Riverside Press Enterprise publisher – launched the paper to cover local news in Hemet and San Jacinto. I was hired as the VC’s first photographer.

One of my most memorable assignments was taking a group photo of the entire VC crew on the second day we were in business. I remember 16 energetic, eager faces smiling back at me as I stood on a stepladder above them, focusing my lens and capturing forever the people, the time, the place it all began for the VC.

Fredericks eventually retired and sold the VC to Jerry Bean, who owns the Century Group, a conglomerate of five weekly newspapers. Well actually four now that the VC is no more.

Valley Chronicle, we shall miss you.

Along with Helton, the current staff includes Charles Hand, Jessica Self, Kimberly Nichols, Sharon Thibodeau, Vickie Carson, Daniel Contreras, and Stephanie Wood.

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