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JANUARY 15, 2022 - So it goes, so it goes

So it goes, so it goes
Jay Gamel, who founded Kenwood Pressin 1988, reads the paper in front of the newsroom.Photo by Melissa Dowling

JANUARY 15, 2022

By Jay Gamel

Retirement’s kind of like my house burning down. It was always a remote possibility, never an immediate concern. Well, the house is toast and I’m retired.

Starting the Kenwood Press back in 1988 was a pivot in my life that changed everything. Developing as a journalist and writer have been the best things I have ever had the privilege to do. I have never regretted the impulsive decision to live here for the rest of my life, made on the day I discovered Kenwood. I have enjoyed sharing my love of this valley, as well as growing and living here over the last 40-plus years.

Much as I like to think the Kenwood Press is mine, it is anything but. I revamped a newsletter long published by the Kenwood Improvement Club, later the Kenwood Community Club, then known as the Kenwood Express, complete with a charging steam locomotive on the masthead. I was 42, deep into my midlife blues, into my second year recovering from shattering my hip in a motorcycle accident not far from my Adobe Canyon forever home. Like most things that turned out to be really important in my life, I backed into local journalism while wandering about Northern California, pondering what I wanted to be in life. I had arrived in Chicago in 1967, fresh out of college with a blushing bride (we still said that, then) and a bottom-pay government job. I did odd jobs before landing a plum situation as an editor for a giant legal publisher that renewed a lifelong interest in writing. Moving on to California in 1972 led me to a lot of different livelihoods, including a stint at the Rolling Stone magazine, before moving to Sonoma County.

Having grown up with a family involved in national and world politics, and having been schooled in England and France (as a kid), I was focused on events at those levels. But I became entranced with the workings of local government from the day I walked into the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chambers at county center and met Chris Coursey, then the county beat reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and now a county supervisor himself. He graciously showed me the workings of county reporting and made me feel welcome to the brotherhood of journalists.

Thank you, Chris.

Bill Lynch was a mentor, too, as I freelanced for the Sonoma Index-Tribune, which had published the Kenwood Express a few years before I morphed it to the “ Press.” He taught me how to write a “lede” paragraph, and that took some work. Bill had assigned me to cover the board of supervisors and courts because of my legal background. Then he handed me the toughest assignment of my life — covering the awful tragedy of Ramon Salcido, which played out in Sonoma Valley and Petaluma. (He is absolutely no relation to our beloved Kenwood Press contributor Tracy Salcedo — yes, I’m sure.)

Thank you, Bill.

Chris Samson, long-time editor of the Petaluma Argus Courier, refined my skills and knowledge of local reporting, assigning me to cover Petaluma’s City Hall and business community. Petaluma is unique in many ways, and discovering its people and institutions was eye-opening.

Thank you, Chris.

Being invited by Supervisor Janet Nicholas to sit on the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space Advisory Board was another great lesson in local government. I participated with 17 other dedicated and professional people from all aspects of county life in the formation of the early policies and directions of the district.

Thank you, Janet.

Richard Wenn, my brilliant neighbor and computer sage, had been finagled into putting out the Kenwood Express by his wife, Donna Scornavacca, who managed the Kenwood Depot for the community club. He saw an opportunity to help us both when I asked him to help me learn how to use my new Apple computer in 1988, while my hip healed. He taught me how to use the computer, how to use PageMaker 2 to lay the Express out, how to use Microsoft Word to prepare the stories, how to prepare images with Photoshop, and all the general basics of desktop publishing. It was new and exciting, and I loved putting all I’d ever learned about writing and publishing together with this magic new box — my new Mac Plus.

Thank you, Richard.

Alec and Ann Peters arrived in time to save the paper, arriving from San Francisco with three small children and a desire to run a local newspaper. They bought a monthly publication with limited circulation and turned it into the robust, amazing paper it is today. They expanded advertising and coverage, and put the paper on a professional footing that I was not able to do. They brought me back into the fold and made it possible for me to focus on what I do best: dig into issues and try to present them fairly and comprehensively.

Thank you, Alec and Ann.

Melissa Dowling and Paul Goguen stepped up to buy the Press when Alec and Ann elected to take their well-earned retirement. Grounded in Glen Ellen with an eye to local issues and backgrounds in media, marketing, and just about everything it takes to run a paper, they are taking it into the next phase of journalism in the 21st century, no small task. They have allowed me to continue to do what I love best and have my full support for what they are accomplishing and have accomplished in the past year.

Thank you, Melissa and Paul.

But most of all, I thank every one of you who read the Kenwood Press. You have made it real, helped it thrive and become a part of the fabric of our lives here. I will continue to cover our local fire departments and write from time to time on topics close to us all.

Working on and for the Kenwood Press has provided me a good life in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I will try to keep it that way.